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Center for High Performance Buildings Dedication at Ray W. Herrick Laboratories
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
November 8, 2013
Howard Harary, Acting Director, Engineering Laboratory


As Delivered

Thank you, President Daniels.

It's a real pleasure to be here today, representing the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Department of Commerce, to help dedicate this new research facility.

This new Center for High Performance Buildings is, well to state the obvious, an amazing facility, and we at NIST are very proud to have been able to help make it possible.

I'm particularly impressed with the "living laboratory" feature. It's designed to produce the kind of hard, on-the-ground data used to connect theory with reality that is so difficult to find and is, thus, extremely valuable.

This facility will result in innovations that will have a tremendous impact on our country. Buildings are responsible for approximately 40 percent of the Nation's energy usage. The ability of Purdue's Center for High Performance Buildings to evaluate the energy impact and indoor air implications of various reconfigurable building systems and concepts is truly unique, and will provide the information needed to move the Nation towards low-energy buildings.

In the longer term, concepts developed here will lead to net-zero energy buildings, buildings that produce as much energy as they consume on an annual basis. Our own Net-Zero Energy Residential Facility at NIST has shown this to be possible with virtual occupants. I am sure that your facility, in time, will show it is possible with human occupants.

I thought I'd give you a little background on how NIST came to be involved. A couple of years ago, Congress gave NIST some money for a very small grants program. We were directed to issue construction grants to universities in the United States to build research infrastructure in areas that overlapped the Department of Commerce mission.

So, we followed through, and we designed a program, ran a competition, and gave out three awards totaling about $24 million, using up all the money.

One year later, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—ARRA—came along, and our modest program was in the position of being at the right place at the right time; it was a useful, up and running tool.

So, we got more funding, launched a bigger competition, and the grant to fund this building came out of that call.

What you need to understand is that this kind of grant program is actually very unusual. There are very few programs, if any, that provide construction grants for research infrastructure like this. And as a result, the competition was fierce.

Over 160 proposals for this one call were received, and only 12 were awarded. The proposals that were funded were truly the "best of the best." The building expansion we are dedicating today is truly a testament to the vision of your scientific leadership in terms of what can be done.

Of course, this is only the latest chapter in the long history of interactions between NIST and Purdue. In fact, we're old colleagues. Just to cite some examples:

  • There have been 36 guest researchers at NIST from Purdue since 2003.
  • In the last 5 years alone, Purdue and NIST researchers have published at least 65 co-authored papers—papers that that have been cited 1,217 times.
  • And of course, we borrowed a recent NIST director from your faculty. I had the privilege of working on Arden Bement's staff while he was NIST Director from 2001 to 2004. It's a time that I recall with great pleasure. I understand that Arden is in Mexico today delivering a keynote on the future of nuclear energy. Will he ever slow down?

And, I imagine this facility will enable many more opportunities for us to work together in this area that is so vital to our nation.

But today, we're celebrating more than just a new measurement science facility, no matter how nice. We are celebrating the public good that can be done with investments in science and technology.

During its span, the NIST Research Construction Grants program helped to fund new construction or expansions at 24 research facilities across the country, mostly at universities. These awards—large and small—have touched research fields that run the gamut, from marine ecology to quantum physics, and from earthquake simulation to sustainability research.

What all these projects had in common was the creation of modern, state-of-the-art lab space—practical research facilities to do the work of science.

Our overarching goal in this program was to help the United States produce world-leading research in science and technology to advance economic growth, our nation's international competitiveness, and the public good.

I firmly believe that it was money well spent. As I stand here today, I'm more convinced of that than ever.

Thank you.