Fraunhofer CSE

Originally constructed in 1913, 5 Channel Center Street was one of many historic buildings designed and built by the Boston Wharf Company. When Fraunhofer CSE converted it into their living laboratory last year, they worked closely with the Fort Point Channel Landmark District Commission and National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Planning Program, developing a retrofit plan that will deliver energy savings while preserving the building’s historic architecture. Photo credit: Trent Bell

In the heart of Boston’s Innovation District, Germany-based Fraunhofer CSE has created a “living laboratory” to conduct research for the advancement of sustainable energy systems. The lab is located in a six-story, three-bay loft brick building with classical revival-style detailing. Originally constructed in 1913 for a wholesale leather merchant, the building underwent a $27-million energy retrofit last year featuring cutting-edge design concepts while maintaining its historic character.

“The Fraunhofer CSE Living Laboratory was developed to further the advancement of sustainable energy systems and nurture a thriving clean energy community,” said Fraunhofer CSE Director, Dr. Christian Hoepfner. Among the in-house research facilities are a pilot solar module fabrication line, dedicated thermal testing laboratory, and extensive characterization/environmental testing resources.

The retrofit of the building is supported by the Building Technology Showcase, a collaboration of partners from
leading building industry manufacturers who donated energy-efficient systems, materials and services. These technologies are incorporated into the building to provide an educational opportunity to the public with regard to energy-efficient technology, while also providing data about the real world deployment of the systems.

[pullquote]We see our partnership with the Fraunhofer Living Laboratory as an opportunity to help further our own sustainability goals related to product development.
Rich Hussey, president and CEO, ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas[/pullquote]LED lighting throughout the building was donated by Philips, while the lighting controllers were donated by OSRAM. A building management system (BMS) provided by Siemens monitors and controls all functional components of the Showcase to optimize efficiency. A continuous commissioning system from Cimetrics monitors performance and energy consumption, then uses this information to create recommendations for improvements.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator donated and installed a synergy machine room-less elevator to the project. The seven-stop lift has a 4,000-pound capacity cab and travels 200 feet per minute. In addition to being more efficient than a conventional model, regenerative braking technology allows the elevator to generate electricity. In conventional elevators, some of the power used to run the elevator is lost through waste heat during braking. ThyssenKrupp’s system recaptures much of this power and feeds it back into the electrical grid.

“We see our partnership with the Fraunhofer Living Laboratory as an opportunity to help further our own sustainability goals related to product development,” said Rich Hussey, president and CEO, ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas.

The synergy elevator offers a number of features to improve efficiency including lights and a fan that automatically shut off when not in use. A gearless motor reduces the number of mechanical parts used in the system to a minimum, eliminating the need for a dedicated machine room, reducing maintenance requirements, and lowering energy consumption.

According to Dr. Hoepfner, there are currently about 40 employees working in Fraunhofer’s living laboratory with plans to add several more in the coming months. The center hopes to play a central role in the clean energy ecosystem, developing innovative technologies for commercialization.