Digital Transformation of the Built Environment

October 26 & 28, 2021

Attend: Zoom Link (You may need to authenticate through your institution’s Zoom account before joining)

Watch: YouTube Channel (From our YouTube Channel select the “Live Now” stream)


The Built Environment includes our homes and places of work, and is where we spend most of our lives, most of our energy, and where we generate most of our greenhouse emissions. This impacts our wellbeing, productivity, and health, as well as the health of our entire ecosystem. With ubiquitous sensing, automation, control, huge data aggregations, and distributed intelligence, the Digital Transformation promises to make the Built Environment more efficient, healthy, safe, and productive. But how exactly is this happening, and what are the new vulnerabilities that may come up in this process? Will our privacy be protected? Will it help us fight the next pandemic? Will its benefits spread equitably around a world of diverse climates, cultures, and socioeconomic conditions? This workshop will explore these topics through a series of technical presentations and panel discussions by a diverse set of experts from academia and industry.


Costas Spanos (University of California, Berkeley)


Adrian Chong (National University of Singapore), Alejandro Dominguez-Garcia (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Carl Gunter (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Ruoxi Jia (Virginia Tech), Ming Jing (Virginia Tech), Varun Badrinath Krishna (C3 AI), Burt Mayer (C3 AI), Clayton Miller (National University of Singapore), Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli (University of California, Berkeley), Stefano Schiavon (University of California, Berkeley), Sascha von Meier (University of California, Berkeley)

(All times are Pacific Time)

Day 1 (Tuesday, October 26)

8 am – 8:10 am: Welcome and Workshop Goals, Costas Spanos (University of California, Berkeley)

Costas Spanos

Speaker: Costas Spanos is the Andrew S. Grove Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Berkeley and the Director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), an Information Technology Research Institute of the University of California campuses Berkeley, Davis, Merced and Santa Cruz. He is also the Founding Director and CEO of the Berkeley Education Alliance for Research in Singapore (BEARS), and the Lead Investigator of a large research program on smart buildings based in California and Singapore. Prior to that, he was Chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, Associate Dean for Research in the College of Engineering, and Director of the Microfabrication Laboratory, all at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on sensing, data analytics, modeling, and machine learning, with broad applications in semiconductor technologies and cyber-physical systems. He co-founded two successful companies in the semiconductor manufacturing space, has authored or co-authored more than 400 papers, 15 patents, and one textbook. He has supervised more than 45 Ph.D. recipients who now hold key positions in industry and academia. He has won several Best Paper Awards, has been recognized with the Distinguished Berkeley Faculty Mentor Award, and, in 2000, was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers for contributions and leadership in semiconductor manufacturing.

8:10 am – 8:45 am: How to Improve Well-being and Reduce the Environmental Impact of Buildings, Stefano Schiavon (University of California, Berkeley)

Abstract: We spend most of our time in built spaces that substantially affect our health, well-being, and productivity. Conditioning the built environment has a large influence on climate change, most of which comes from the energy used to create indoor comfort. In this presentation, I will discuss how we can enhance occupant satisfaction without increasing a building’s environmental impact even further. I will also discuss two major barriers that the digital transformation of buildings is facing: lack of granularity of actuation and lack of automatic interpretability of existing building monitoring systems.

Stefano Schiavon

Speaker: Stefano Schiavon is an Associate Professor of Architecture and Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley and Associate Director of the Center for Environmental Design Research (CEDR). Stefano’s research is focused on finding ways to reduce energy consumption in buildings while improving occupant health, well-being, and productivity. He received a PhD in Energy Engineering and an MS in Mechanical Engineering, both from the University of Padova, Italy.

8:45 am – 9:20 am: Digital Twins of Buildings: How Much Information Do We Need to Meet the Intended Purpose of These Models?, Adrian Chong (National University of Singapore)

Abstract: In recent years there has been increasing interest in integrating building energy simulation with operational data to create digital twins of buildings. However, these energy models are often overparameterized and require a comprehensive dataset to represent building systems accurately. In this presentation, I will discuss ongoing efforts to investigate fit-for-purpose modeling and the relationship between data requirements and model credibility.

Adrian Chong

Speaker: Adrian Chong is an Assistant Professor in the Department of the Built Environment at the National University of Singapore. His research interest is in building energy modeling and simulation, focusing on model calibration and uncertainty quantification. At NUS, he leads the Integrated Data, Energy Analysis + Simulation (IDEAS) lab, a multidisciplinary group researching the interaction between building performance simulation, measured data, and machine learning. He is also the subject editor (validation, calibration, and uncertainty) for the journal Building Simulation and an NUS principal investigator at the SinBerBEST program Theme E - Cyber-Physical Testbed.

 9:20 am – 9:25 am: Break

9:25 am – 10 am: The Role of Machine Learning Skills and Crowdsourced Models for the Built Environment, Clayton Miller (National University of Singapore)

Abstract: In this talk, I will cover efforts to improve basic programming skills of professionals in Architecture, Construction, and Engineering through the lens of an edX Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). I will also discuss innovative ways to create crowd-sourced machine learning workflows and innovation using methods like the ASHRAE Great Energy Predictor III competition.

Clayton Miller

Speaker: Clayton Miller is an Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore in the Building and Urban Data Science (BUDS) Lab. He is the Co-Leader of Theme D - Data Analytics at the University of California, Berkeley SinBerBEST2 Lab and the Co-Leader of Subtask 4 of the IEA Annex 79 Occupant-Centric Building Design and Operation (ResearchGate). He holds a Dr. sc. from the ETH Zürich, an MSc. (Building) from the National University of Singapore, and a BSc./Masters of Architectural Engineering (MAE) from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. He is the former CTO of Optiras Pte. Ltd, a Singapore NRF-funded startup, a former Fulbright Scholar to Singapore at NUS, and a Walter Scott Jr. Scholar at UNL.

10 am – 10:35 am: Towards Cost-Effective Deployment of AI Systems, Ruoxi Jia (Virginia Tech)

Abstract: The quality of training data is a fundamental ingredient toward high-quality models, and ultimately toward useful and reliable machine learning-based applications. However, it is costly to acquire high-quality data and annotate them with accurate labels. In this talk, I will present techniques to reduce annotation cost and improve data quality.

Ruoxi Jia

Speaker: Ruoxi Jia is an Assistant Professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech. She earned her PhD in the EECS Department from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018 and a B.S. from Peking University in 2013. Her research interest lies broadly in the span of machine learning, security, privacy, and cyber-physical systems. Her recent work focuses on building algorithmic foundations for data markets and developing trustworthy machine learning methods. She is the recipient of the Chiang Fellowship for Graduate Scholars in Manufacturing and Engineering, the 8108 Alumni Fellowship, the Okamatsu Fellowship, and Virginia’s Commonwealth Cyber Initiative award. She was selected for the Rising Stars in the EECS program in 2017 and her work has been featured in multiple media outlets.

 10:35 am – 10:40 am: Closing Remarks

Day 2 (Thursday, October 28)

 8 am – 8:10 am: Welcome and Summary of Day 1, Costas Spanos (University of California, Berkeley)

8:10 am – 8:45 am: Resilience at Scale: Granularity, Aggregation, and the EcoBlock Model, Sascha von Meier (University of California, Berkeley)

Abstract: Referring to lessons learned from recent power outages, this presentation will discuss novel strategies for managing electric loads and distributed resources – to act as good citizens on the grid, and to ensure public health and safety in emergencies. It will highlight one approach in particular: the Oakland EcoBlock, an urban community microgrid powered by shared solar and battery storage resources that uses existing utility infrastructure. Beyond a technical proof of concept, this interdisciplinary project aims to create a legal, financial, and social roadmap for simultaneously addressing climate, resilience, and equity.

Alexandra von Meier

Speaker: Alexandra “Sascha” von Meier is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley and directs the Electric Grid Research program at the California Institute for Energy and Environment (CIEE). She is also a faculty scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Her research focuses on power distribution systems, including the application of novel sensing, analytics, and control strategies to facilitate the integration of distributed energy resources. She is the author of a textbook, Electric Power Systems: A Conceptual Introduction. She was previously a Professor of Energy Management & Design in the Department of Environmental Studies and Planning at Sonoma State University. She holds a B.A. in Physics and a Ph.D. in Energy and Resources, both from the University of California, Berkeley.

8:45 am – 9:20 am: Assured Learning-Based Control for Energy Systems, Ming Jin (Virginia Tech)

Abstract: Assurance is integral to trust and conducive to widespread adoption in energy infrastructures. However, such safety and performance guarantees are currently lacking for learning-based control methods, especially when high-capacity models such as deep neural networks are involved. In this talk, I will discuss some recent works towards addressing this challenge.

Ming Jin

Speaker: Ming Jin is an Assistant Professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech. He received the B.Eng. degree with honor from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2012 and the Ph.D. degree from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at University of California, Berkeley in 2017. Before joining Virginia Tech, he was a postdoctoral scholar at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at the University of California, Berkeley from 2018 to 2020. His research interests include trustworthy artificial intelligence, control theory, optimization, and cyber-physical systems.

 9:20 am – 9:25 am: Break

9:25 am – 10 am: Using AI to Improve Energy Efficiency in University Campus Buildings, Varun Badrinath Krishna (C3 AI)

Abstract: Public and private institutions are awakening to the value of advanced analytics solutions as part of their broader initiatives for minimizing energy consumption, utilities costs, and carbon emissions. In this talk, I will provide an overview of AI use cases in campus settings as part of an implementation of the C3 AI Energy Management solution. I will also describe practical challenges relating to deploying those AI models in production.

Varun Badrinath Krishna

Speaker: Varun Badrinath Krishna is a Lead Data Scientist at C3 AI, where he leads the design, development, and integration of machine learning and deep learning models for projects relating to CRM, energy management, fraud detection, and industrial systems reliability. Those models run in large-scale production AI applications that are used by Fortune 500 enterprises. He works in a team of intelligent and motivated data scientists who are all helping large enterprises solve business problems using the latest developments in machine learning and deep learning research. His role interfaces directly with clients, and he converts their business requirements into machine learning objectives that are incorporated into high-value products developed on the C3 AI Suite. He received his M.S. and Ph.D in Computer Engineering, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his B.Eng. from the National University of Singapore.

10 am – 10:35 am: Market Demand and Value Creation from Digital Transformation of the Built Environment, Burt Mayer (C3 AI)

Abstract: As public and private-sector organizations commit to ambitious cost and carbon-reduction initiatives, digital transformation of the built environment offers a diversity of high-value, cost-effective, and scalable tools. This session will explore ML use cases for energy efficiency and demand management in the commercial sector – including optimization of HVAC systems, electricity peak prediction, virtual building audits, and district heating and cooling optimization - with a focus on the status of the market today and emerging business requirements.

Burt Mayer

Speaker: Burt Mayer is Lead Product Manager at C3 AI, responsible for energy and sustainability analytics applications. He works closely with C3 AI’s customers as well as data scientists and developers to continuously improve the company’s software products and ensure that energy and sustainability teams maximize value from their use. Prior to C3 AI, he worked at the grid technology provider Utilidata, where he led strategy and partnerships, and the Boston Consulting Group, where he supported energy efficiency and utilities strategy projects. He received an AB in Chemistry and Physics from Harvard College.

 10:35 am – 10:45 am: Break

10:45 am – 11:35 am: Panel Discussion

Alejandro D. Dominquez-Garcia

Alejandro D. Dominquez-Garcia (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is a Professor, William L Everitt Scholar, and Grainger Associate in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research program aims to develop technologies for providing a reliable and efficient supply of electricity — a key to ensuring societal welfare and sustainable economic growth. He received the NSF CAREER Award in 2010, and the Young Engineer Award from the IEEE Power and Energy Society in 2012. He was selected by the UIUC Provost to receive a Distinguished Promotion Award in 2014, and he received the UIUC College of Engineering Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research in 2015.

Carl Gunter

Carl Gunter (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is the George and Ann Fisher Distinguished Professor in Engineering in the Computer Science Department of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He teaches and conducts research on security and privacy for computer systems. His current primary projects relate to security and privacy in the healthcare and electric power sectors and for networking. He is the director of the Illinois Security Lab (ISL), where he works with a talented group of students, postdoctoral researchers, and research staff. He also teaches courses in the area of security and privacy. In 2018 he initiated a course on social impacts of computer technology titled, “Cyber Dystopia Analyzing the Adverse Impacts of Advances in Computer Technology.”

Burt Mayer

Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli (University of California, Berkeley) is the Edgar L. and Harold H. Buttner Chair of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has served on the faculty since 1975. He is Special Advisor to the Dean of Engineering for Entrepreneurship and Chair of the Faculty Advisors to Berkeley’s accelerator, SkyDeck. His many honors include the IEEE-EDAA Kaufman Award for pioneering contributions to electronic design automation (EDA) and the IEEE/RSE Maxwell Medal “for groundbreaking contributions that have had an exceptional impact on the development of electronics and electrical engineering or related fields.” He co-founded Cadence and Synopsys, two leading EDA companies with a combined NASDAQ valuation of close to $60 billion. He is a board member of Cadence, KPIT, ISEO, ExpertSystem, Cogisen, Cy4gate; has consulted for companies worldwide, including Intel, IBM, ST, Mercedes, BMW, UTC, GM; and is International Advisory Council Chair of the Milano Innovation District. He is a member of the NAE, a IEEE and ACM Fellow, and holds an Honorary Doctorate from Aalborg University and KTH. He has published over 1,000 papers and 19 books with an h-index of 117 (Google Scholar) and graduated over 100 doctorate students.

 11:35 am – 11:40 am: Summary and Closing Remarks