Researchers at University of Alberta hope to make a century-old building on campus much smarter by reducing energy consumption, emissions and operating costs.
A project is underway at University towns building to create a “living laboratory”. Existing hardware will be upgraded and additional sensors and smart devices will be added to the building.
The objective of the research team is to determine how to optimize all building control systems in order to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, while increasing the comfort of those who use the building. and reducing operating costs.
“We have a much clearer view of how the building is used, how many occupants there are and what they are doing,” said Eleni Stroulia, project manager and professor in the computer science department.
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Previously the Center for Dentistry/Pharmacy, University Commons was located at the north end of campus. It serves as a student services center with spaces for gatherings, events, and ceremonies. It is also home to several academic and administrative activities.
Stroulia said that although many modern buildings are equipped with “smart” technology, they are generally not fully optimized. She said a building may have motion sensors that turn lights on and off, but the sensors don’t pick up natural light levels in the space, leading to lights being turned on at times when artificial light is not necessary. This leads to a waste of energy.
The project will also include an app that people who use the building can download. It will provide real-time feedback to the research team.
“When they’re in the building, the app will know roughly where they are and we’ll ask them questions: ‘How are you feeling right now? What is the temperature? What’s going on? Said Stroulia. “It’s the truth on the ground that will tell us if we are doing well.”
A computer model – or “digital twin” – of the building, its infrastructure, spaces and devices will be created. All of the data collected from the hardware and software will allow the team to refine the real-time virtual model of the building.
“Once the model becomes very accurate, everything you do in the model will actually predict phenomena in the real world,” Stroulia explained. “We can use this information to better control the building’s heating, lighting and ventilation systems.”
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The team believes the results of this project could be transferred to other buildings, finding more energy-efficient ways to control lights than the standard motion-sensing methods currently installed in many buildings.
“The improved control will be optimized to save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve comfort and hopefully reduce building operating costs,” said Stroulia said.
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The research team is also collaborating with Omid Ardakanian, whose research focuses on optimizing battery usage. A collaboration is also underway with Petr Musilek, whose work focuses on smart grids.
Other aspects of the project will look at data privacy and use, heat exchange between the building and the outside, and how occupants can more actively engage with the building.
The university recently received funding of $649,570 from the John R. Evans Leader Fund of the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
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