After 50% cut in federal funding, what's next for Navy Yard building-tech research? - Technical.ly Philly

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Apr. 8, 2014 8:30 am

After 50% cut in federal funding, what’s next for Navy Yard building-tech research?

The Penn State-led initiative, which recently changed its name from the Energy Efficient Buildings (EEB) Hub to the Consortium for Building Energy Innovation (CBEI), received approximately $10 million in funding for 2014, said CBEI deputy director Laurie Actman. Since 2011, CBEI has received about $25 million each year in federal funding to conduct research on how to make buildings more energy efficient, Actman said.

Inside the Center for Building Energy Science and Engineering's forthcoming Navy Yard headquarters, which is still a work in progress. Photo courtesy of CBEI.

The federal government cut funding in half this year for Philadelphia’s Navy Yard-based building technology research initiative.

The Penn State-led initiative, which recently (again) changed its name, from the Energy Efficient Buildings (EEB) Hub to the Consortium for Building Energy Innovation (CBEI), received approximately $10 million in funding for 2014, said CBEI deputy director Laurie Actman. Since 2011, CBEI has received about $25 million each year in federal funding to conduct research on how to make buildings more energy efficient, Actman said.

Next year is the last year that CBEI will receive federal funding, at least as part of the initial five-year effort. Actman hopes to get about $10 million next year as well.

That funding goes toward paying CBEI’s staff, as well as backing research projects done by CBEI partners like Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center.

The cuts are due to “a lack of alignment” between CBEI’s former leadership, the Department of Energy and Congress, Actman said.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) proposed defunding the effort altogether last summer, citing “poor management and failure to meet technical milestones.” Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), however, have remained supportive of the effort.

CBEI has cut staff and partners, going from about 25 organizational partners to 14.

Still, Actman is optimistic about CBEI’s future.

  • It has narrowed its focus to developing energy efficient solutions for small and medium-size buildings and will work closely with the Department of Energy’s Building Technology Office.
  • It plans on moving into its new 36,500 square foot headquarters at the Navy Yard by the end of the summer. See more photos and info on Kieran Timberlake’s blog.
  • The research effort also appointed a new leader: Martha Krebs, the former executive director of University of California-Davis’s Office of Research. Some said that a new leader, among other things, could save the research effort.

“We’re expecting to be part of the community here for a long time,” Actman said.

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