Brook Byers Professors Win $100K Planning Grant

<p>Portraits of Bert Bras and Marc Weissburg</p>

Portraits of Bert Bras and Marc Weissburg

Brook Byers Professors Bert Bras and Marc Weissburg have been awarded a $100K National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center (ERC) Planning Grant, along with their co-principal investigators Srinivas Garimella and Shannon Yee, also from Georgia Tech, and Scott Turner from The State University of New York. The ERC is a highly competitive, large, multi-year award centered on translating a research topic from the laboratory to commercialization. The ERC Planning Grant is intended to build capacity amongst a research community around a topic with the ultimate aim of elevating the quality of proposals submitted to the ERC program.

The title of this group’s proposed ERC is “Biologically Inspired Realizable Design for Building Energy Eco-Systems (BIRDBEES).” The Center’s focus will be to develop self-sustaining, carbon-neutral building energy systems. The BIRDBEES investigators aim to accomplish this by looking to nature for inspiration in a systematic and scientific way. From this perspective, buildings are framed as living, breathing organisms with coupled fluid flow, heat and mass transfer, water and moisture transfer, complex control systems, etc. This approach is known as Biologically-Inspired Design.

Biologically-Inspired Design (BID) is an innovation method that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature's time-tested patterns and strategies with the goal of creating products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on Earth over the long haul. BID employs life's principles, such as build from the bottom up, self-assembly, optimize rather than maximize, use free energy, cross-pollinate, embrace diversity, adapt and evolve, use life-friendly materials and processes, engage in symbiotic relationships, and enhance the biosphere.

Areas of research that the BIRDBEES team sees as promising are: fundamental energy systems technology components (such as heat exchangers, pumps, insulation, building skins, and energy storage); new building systems that integrate the various components with biologically inspired controls; leveraging the clustering of buildings as ecosystems that provide even larger energy reductions through interaction of mutually beneficial bio-inspired energy systems. The ultimate goal for the BIRDBEES ERC is to show the efficacy of such an approach with real test-beds at the building and community levels. It is then hoped that such validation will lead to the commercialization of BIRDBEES technologies.

Prof. Bert Bras has held various organizational leadership positions, including interim school chair and director of an interdisciplinary research center. Prof. Marc Weissburg is a world renowned biologically inspired design expert and co-director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Biologically-Inspired Design (CBID). Prof. J. Scott Turner studies heat flow and thermal management in species like alligators, black desert beetles, termite mounds, etc. Prof. Garimella holds a Hightower Chair in Engineering and is a leading expert in building energy systems and heat transfer.

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