Professor Costas Spanos
Welcome to BEARS, the Berkeley Education Alliance for Research in Singapore, a multi-disciplinary, multi-national, non-profit, University of California-based company dedicated to facilitating progress in Singapore’s energy and building sectors.
Initially funded in 2011 by the Singapore National Research Foundation’s Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE), BEARS programs pursue research, graduate education, and technological innovation in the areas of power generation and the efficiency of buildings. The alliance encompasses approximately six government agencies, three universities, and several industries in Singapore and beyond. Focused on information technology, sensors, solar energy technologies, engineering, and construction, the multi-disciplinary approach characteristic of BEARS also embraces research in economics, architecture, and human behavior.
In its four years of operation, BEARS has launched two primary programs, dividing work roughly between 1) improving the way power is generated for tropical cities such as Singapore and 2) optimizing the ways we deploy that power in the built environment. The Singapore-Berkeley Research Initiative for Sustainable Energy, or SinBeRISE, focuses on the former, and Singapore-Berkeley Building Efficiency and Sustainability in the Tropics, or SinBerBEST focuses on the latter.
Like other tropical cities, Singapore is rich in solar energy. Much work needs to be done, however, before urban citizens of the region can rely on it for a continuous and secure supply of electricity. Developing methods to efficiently collect, store, and distribute such renewable energy sources is the primary bailiwick of SinBeRISE.
SinBerBEST, on the other hand, is concerned primarily with the demand side of the energy equation. Deploying new materials, information technology, new types of sensors, innovative control and operating systems, and novel testing methodologies, SinBerBEST is forging progress in the built environment. The intelligent integration of all these components is a key to the success of SinBerBEST’s approach. As building systems begin to share data and work together intelligently, both energy efficiency and occupant satisfaction can be improved. And as smart buildings begin to collaborate with each other, and as they communicate and cooperate with the wider utility grid and its suppliers, we expect the benefits to transform the way Singapore, and the rest of the tropical world, uses energy.
SinBerBEST has research facilities in both Berkeley and Singapore with approximately 110 faculty, post-docs, undergraduate, and graduate students working in each location.
A jewel in the SinBerBEST crown is the unique 100 meter2 Cyber-Physical Test Bed completed in Singapore in 2015. Located in the CREATE Tower on the campus of the National University of Singapore, the testbed, a building-within-a-building, is an essential tool for testing and coordinating the dozens of innovations SinBerBEST researchers have developed over the past four years.
With the kinds of research SinBerBEST investigators are pursuing in materials science, building control and operating systems, sensors, and data mining, it may be possible to radically reduce energy now expended on lighting, cooling, and running both commercial and residential buildings. Combine that progress with SinBeRISE research on the supply-side and a picture of a quiet energy revolution begins to emerge. The benefits, for both Singapore and the wider world, will accrue not only in currencies of fuel and dollars saved, but also in a significant shrinking of the built environment’s carbon footprint and the betterment of city-dwellers’ health and wellbeing. The innovations my colleagues from around the world are pursuing are not only brilliant, they will also be essential parts of a bright and sustainable urban future.