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Latest CAREER Award Funds Research into Building Climate Control

November 28, 2023
UC Merced Professor Wan Du
Du and his team will work on developing a framework that can significantly reduce the energy consumption of buildings.

UC Merced Professor Wan Du has received a CAREER award for his research on energy efficient building management.

He is the 36th researcher from UC Merced to earn a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

CAREER awards are among the NSF's most prestigious awards. They are given through the Faculty Early Career Development Program to recognize untenured faculty members as teacher-scholars. Early-career faculty members are selected based on three factors: the strength of their research proposals; their potential to serve as academic role models in research and education; and their leadership in their field and organizations.

Du will receive $560,000 over the next five years for the project, "A Networking and Learning Co-Design Framework for Data-Efficient Resource Management."

Due to climate change, optimizing building energy use becomes increasingly critical to a more environmentally responsible and sustainable society. Du and his team will work on developing a holistic networking and learning framework that can significantly reduce the energy consumption of buildings by controlling the building energy-related systems, including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, windows, and blinds. The research findings from this project will support the climate resilience of buildings and save energy resources for future generations. Du and his team will work on three design goals: maximizing energy saving while maintaining occupants' comfort, ability to be deployed in buildings of multiple systems and searching for the optimal control policy with data efficiency.

Controlling four in-building systems together requires comprehensive sensing of the building state from a variety of sensors, including the state of each system and environmental parameters in all rooms. Based on the collected sensor data, a decision-making agent configures the actuators to meet occupants' requirements, such as thermal comfort, visual comfort and air quality. To push the limit of energy saving in buildings, this project investigates a novel methodology: networking and learning co-design. Du and his team will design a networking and learning co-design scheme that considers a set of optimization goals in a unified framework, including building energy saving, occupants' comfort, data efficiency of reinforcement learning and wireless network lifetime.

Du has been with UC Merced since 2017. He is affiliated with the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Du and his lab focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) system development, wireless networking and sensing, data analytics, and reinforcement learning.This project will advance research at the intersection of computer networks and machine learning.

Each CAREER award proposal includes an educational outreach component. Du's project will be integrated with education activities at UC Merced, according to the abstract, including curriculum development, interdisciplinary education and engaging underrepresented groups. For example, course modules developed on Internet-of-Things, wireless networking and deep reinforcement learning will be used to train undergraduate and graduate students.

Du was honored to learn about the CAREER award.

"This CAREER award recognizes my five-year research plan," Du said. "It will support the team to develop new technologies to improve the resilience and sustainability of our buildings."