Rensselaer Launches New Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems

April 23, 2021

Rensselaer Launches New Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems

President Jackson announces launch at White House climate summit

In remarks at the Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by President Joe Biden on Friday, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson announced the launch of the new Rensselaer Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems (EBESS).

Formed in partnership with Siemens, Lutron Electronics, Brooklyn Law School, the building engineering consulting firm Thornton Tomasetti, and the international architecture firms HKS, OBMI, and Perkins&Will, the New York City-based institute will use the most advanced digital technologies to drive decarbonization of urban environments at the systems level.

“Universities are the crossroads for collaboration across disciplines, sectors, geographies, and generations,” President Jackson said. “An integrative approach is required to decarbonize the many interconnected systems of our daily lives.”

EBESS will model integrated transportation, communications, and supply chain networks. It will link architectural design and engineering to create infrastructure that is both net-zero in energy use and climate resilient. It will also use new materials, renewable energy systems, and sentient building platforms to maximize human health and well-being.

The new institute will integrate research across centers and schools at Rensselaer, including the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) and the Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) Center. From its primary location in New York City, CASE has driven collaborative innovation in sustainable architecture and the built environment for more than a decade. LESA is a graduated National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center dedicated to developing autonomous intelligent systems to address modern challenges in the connected environment.

President Biden invited more than 40 world leaders to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate held on April 22 and 23. The summit underscored the urgency – and the economic benefits – of stronger climate action, and it served as a key milestone on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow.

As the only university leader to speak at the Summit, President Jackson emphasized the crucial role higher education will play in global efforts to address the climate crisis.

“Universities, such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, are crucial in developing and incubating new technologies required for a net-zero world,” she said.


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Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit