University of Salford Manchester

Self-learning buildings will increase their energy efficiency

Monday 20 August 2012
Madrid office block
One of the test buildings in Madrid.
The University of Salford is part of a Europe-wide project to develop technologies which will allow buildings to optimise how they consume energy and resources, using wireless sensor technology and data mining methods that learn to optimise energy consumption, but maintain user comfort.

The technology being developed by the European consortium will apply equally to new and existing buildings and will help to reduce the estimated 35% of the continent’s carbon emissions that come from the built environment.

At Salford, computer scientists will have responsibility for applying self-learning software to the system which will allow the buildings to become more efficient over time as data is gathered by sensors. The University will also lead on work to encourage uptake of the new technology using knowledge developed at its Energy Hub to change people’s poor environmental behaviours.

Called SEEDS, the project’s first demonstration sites are part of the University of Stavanger campus in Norway and an office block in Madrid. They were chosen because of their high levels of energy use and contrasting local lifestyles and weather conditions.

In practice this will involve collecting various data, such as temperature, humidity, luminance, and occupancy via wireless sensors. The software then learns to optimise heating and ventilation so that user comfort is satisfied but energy consumption is minimised.

Energy savings should follow since the heating or air conditioning will be controlled more closely to actual requirements such as avoiding being on when there are no people in rooms.

Professor Sunil Vadera from the School of Computing, Science & Engineering is leading Salford’s £299,000 section which forms part of an overall £2.2m three-year project. He said: “This is a project of major importance as it brings together scientists from different specialisms and locations.

“Using software in this way has the potential to make our buildings much more energy efficient without having to rely on every single person using them in the correct manner.”

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