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Japanese Officials Visit SUNY Poly ZEN Building

This week, visiting Japanese officials toured SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s ZEN building in Albany. The innovative six-story structure will be home to education and business, while serving as a model for the U.S. construction industry.

Leaders of government and industry from both New York and Japan gathered on the CNSE campus Tuesday. Self-sufficient, "net zero" buildings have been going up in Japan for about five years now, design and construction efforts spurred on by the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

SUNY Poly says the “Zero Energy Nano” building is the culmination of a $25 million global partnership, first announced by Governor Cuomo in September 2014. The initiative saw SUNY Poly partner up with New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), which is operating through Shimizu Corporation; the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); and design firm EYP.

The U.S. Department of Energy defines a Zero Energy Building as "an energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy."

Tom Birdsey, President & CEO of EYP, lauds the $191 million ZEN superstructure as both a "demonstration facility and a living laboratory."   "ZEN is the epitome of what today's young professionals expect. Lots of daylight, great views, flexibility, a connection to the outdoors. In short, a healthy, fun and sustainable environment."

ZEN, which uses fuel cells and solar power with equipment provided by the Japanese government, houses the New York State Data Center.  David Margolit is COO for NYSERDA. "Right now, when it comes to deeper energy savings, it doesn't get much deeper than this, and we are extremely proud to have had the opportunity to support this work."

NEDO has an prominent role in Japan's economic and industrial policies as one of the largest public research and development management organizations.  Pradeep Haldar is vice president of entrepreneurship innovation and clean energy programs at SUNY Poly.  "The goals of the collaboration between SUNY Poly and NEDO is to contribute to the development of an international market for energy-efficient buildings as an effort to install, commission and provide a test bed for the latest and greatest in equipment that is being introduced by NEDO in our 365,000 square feet facility."

Haldar explained that NEDO entrusted civil engineering and general contracting firm Shimizu corporation to implement ZEN, which is now the signature building on the CNSE campus.  "Shimizu has introduced a smart building energy management system that it had originally incorporated in its headquarters building in Tokyo, and they're transferring that technologies to us that will us to control and monitor parts of the building."

Close to 15,000 solar panels were provided by Japanese manufacturing company Solar Frontier. Tachikawa Coroporation contributed 62 motorized automatic "gradation blinds" to help regulate temperature. Employees wear RFID tags that serve as occupancy sensors, which affects lighting. NEDO provided the LED lighting system. 

Koji Abe is Deputy Chief of Mission of the Japanese consulate general in New York City.    "We are grateful for Governor Cuomo’s dedication to these efforts and New York's accessibility and willingness to lead in the high-tech energy field, which, on behalf of the government of Japan, I pledge its enthusiastic support."

Abe noted that Japan has been working to develop renewable energy technologies to help mitigate greenhouse gases some say hasten climate change which triggers natural disasters like tsunamis.

“We are thrilled to commemorate this important collaboration, which is part of our international strategy to provide our partners with the ability to accelerate energy efficiency solutions,” said Ichiro Tsubota, Director General of the Energy Conservation Technology Department, NEDO. “Being able to make use of SUNY Poly’s ZEN building as a proving ground for innovative technologies will further enable NEDO’s state-of-the-art equipment to be deployed for the establishment of next-generation zero energy buildings for a more sustainable development path.”

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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