Showing off: A year after opening, Syracuse Center of Excellence showcases SU environmental research

Ed Bogucz, executive director of the Syracuse Center of Excellence, finds the location of his office ‘sacred.’

Looking out from the third floor of the CoE building onto Almond Street and Erie Boulevard East, the property doesn’t appear spectacular, surrounded by dirt, construction fences and work trucks.

But more than 100 years ago — when Erie Boulevard was Erie Canal and Syracuse was the typewriter manufacturing capital of the world — Lyman Smith owned and ran the Smith-Corona Typewriter Factory on that corner. And in 1901, when Smith needed mechanical engineers for his factory, he donated $75,000 to Syracuse University to create what is now known as the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science — the former home of the CoE.

Bogucz, who served as the dean of the engineering school from 1995 to 2003, said the location is special because the technologies of the engineering school are coming back to their original home.

Last March, the CoE opened its doors with a two-day long celebration ceremony featuring more than 1,400 guests. But the dedication didn’t mark the start of research and advancement — the center had existed without a permanent home for nearly a decade. Only a year ago did it finally get the $41 million home to display the research that hundreds have worked on for years.

The CoE develops some of New York state’s most innovative prototypes and research of better and more efficient energy and environmental systems. 

In June 2002, then-New York State Gov. George Pataki named the city of Syracuse one of six state ‘centers of excellence.’ During the past nine years, SU has worked in collaboration with the city to advance innovation in environmental and energy systems. 

And since March 2010, the CoE building has served as a headquarters for staff members and a showroom for the technologies developed by students and faculty related to environmental and energy technology.

‘The building has certain facilities in it, but the activities of the Center of Excellence are broader than what happens in this building,’ Bogucz said. ‘The building is the headquarters, is the showroom. The majority of work is happening in labs at SU and in the field.’

The CoE serves as an expansion of the university’s reach. But about eight minutes away from campus, the location is not necessarily accessible — except by Connective Corridor buses. 

Bogucz envisions a transformation of development in the area similar to the creation of Armory Square. When Bogucz first came to Syracuse 26 years ago, he said most of Armory Square was a surface parking lot. Bogucz doesn’t doubt the area around the CoE could someday see a transformation like that, he said. 

Bogucz finds the Hill to be ‘densely developed’ and thinks the campus needs to expand more into the city. To him, the perfect expansion would be toward the CoE.

‘And there’s a lot of open space,’ he said. ‘And the open space is sort of begging for development.’ 

Before development begins, the intermodal transportation center, the final building project, must be finished. Construction on the transportation center is likely to begin this summer, Bogucz said. The center will feature the Connective Corridor bus stop, recharging centers for electric cars and hopefully bike rentals, he said.

Although the actual center might not draw in students, those who work with the CoE have seen the results of their research.

Ezzat Khalifa, director of the Environmental Quality Systems STAR Center at the CoE, led the team that developed the Green Data Center on South Campus. It is one of the most energy-efficient data centers in the world.

Khalifa’s research resulted in the development and construction of the data center in just more than a year. After his team began planning in 2008, their concentrated efforts allowed the center to be researched, built and dedicated by December 2009.

To Khalifa, the development of the Green Data Center exemplifies the type of research done by the CoE program and showcased at the CoE building. 

‘When we proceeded to build the headquarters of the Center of Excellence, we would not accept anything less than what would be exemplary of the high quality of research being done,’ Khalifa said.

Data centers around the country are increasingly taking up more and more energy, Khalifa said — up to 2 percent of the country’s energy is going toward data centers. 

Khalifa’s team recognized the need to lower the energy usage of a data center and thus created the technology on South Campus, something that could prove to be vital as the data technology industry expands. 

George Segre, a senior civil engineering major, only heads downtown to the CoE once a week. But Segre has been working since last summer, researching how to ensure cleaner watersheds as part of the Save the Rain project. Save the Rain features technology developed by the CoE and is funded by Onondaga County.

For Segre, the result of the research he’s done has paid off — he presented his research to two separate conferences, winning third place in one. He said he hopes to see his research used to ensure water quality in the county and beyond in the long run.

Today, a year after the opening, the CoE stands alone, facing that historic corner of Almond and Erie. But the building is simply a symbol of the research the program has facilitated for years.

Said Bogucz, director of the CoE: ‘It’s helping the city and the county and the region develop branding and recognition as a hotbed for innovation.’


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