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Digital Energy Twins

- BIM+

  Award Winner is also Research Innovation

Stephen Cousins reports that researchers at Newcastle University are studying energy use by creating a 'Digital Twin' of a new Urban Sciences Building (USB) to monitor and tweak performance and test future operational scenarios.  The 12,500 sq m building is the centrepiece of a new development called the Helix, being built in the city centre, and won Project of the Year - Public Use at the CIBSE Building Performance Awards last month.

  Urban Sustainability 'Test Bed'

Designed as a "Living Laboratory", a testbed for urban sustainability the building is embedded with 4,000 devices, including micro meters and sensors that record granular data on heating and cooling, energy use, CO2 levels, solar energy production and more.

  Siemens & BuroHapold Partners

The data is fed to an open protocol BMS and displayed in real-time in a 3D digital twin developed by a PhD researcher at the university, with input from the university estates team and industry partners including Siemens and BuroHappold.

  Browser Based Real Time Model

The digital twin is based on a Level 2 BIM Asset Information Model created during construction by main contractor Bowmer & Kirkland. It enables users to zoom in and out, isolate individual floors and click on each of the sensors to view data as it is recorded, some of it in up to one-second resolution. The browser-based model and can be accessed via this link. A live data stream of the BMS data can be seen here.

   Cutting edge Engineering

Researchers are analysing BMS data in the digital twin as part of the cutting-edge Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)-funded project Building as a Power Station. The digital twin is helping researchers forecast what would happen when non-critical loads are switched off to provide rapid response to the grid if it is under the strain. Big companies like Tesco already do this kind of thing on a mass scale, but it has not yet been done on a single building.- Mark Dowson, BuroHappold Engineering

   Managing Grid Constraints

The project aims to evaluate the potential for buildings to provide demand response to electrical networks as a means of managing grid constraints. Demand response programs typically involve very large demand centres, coordinated by National Grid, but the focus here is on smaller loads from individual buildings that could be grouped together. A 30kW vanadium redox flow battery, due to be installed by the university this year, will turn the USB and other buildings on the Helix into the UK's first electrical smart grid storage demonstrator project.

   Rapid Response Analysis

Mark Dowson, associate at BuroHappold Engineering, a partner in the project alongside B&K, Keepmoat, Northern Powergrid, Siemens and others, told BIM+: "The digital twin is helping researchers forecast what would happen when non-critical loads are switched off to provide rapid response to the grid if it is under the strain.

   'Comfort' Factored In

"Big companies like Tesco already do this kind of thing on a mass scale, but it has not yet been done on a single building. Part of it involves looking at systems that provide comfort, like heating and cooling, and gauging at which point occupants start to complain they are uncomfortable. Researchers have been assessing our operational energy data, dashboarding consumption and setting target lines."

   Auditable BREEAM

The Urban Sciences Building achieved a BREEAM "Excellent" score of 78.1%, and bespoke and auditable sustainability targets developed by BuroHappold (sustainability consultant on the build) helped drive down its energy use in operation.
 
"At the very start of the project we convinced the client that BREEAM was not going to guarantee a low energy building. A bespoke sustainability framework was developed to include numerous process-based targets to perform uplifted analysis," says Dowson.

   24 hour Monitoring

An operational energy model was developed to surpass standard compliance modelling required under Building Regulations and predict actual energy use in operation. The model took into account factors such as out of hours energy use, 24-hour operational areas and plug loads.

   +/- 3% of Predicted Performance

After 12 months of monitoring the building's actual energy use, it was found to be performing within 3% of the prediction.
 
"The construction industry often talks about the energy performance gap, which is the difference between compliance and reality, we have managed to bridge that gap to produce a very accurate operational prediction. We've closed the loop and provided the data to prove the principle," says Dowson.

   Further Fine Tuning

With two years of soft landings still to run, the university is expected to further fine tune the USB's systems to optimise energy performance.

   Importance for Resi-Development

While this may seem to be directed more at commercial & industrial development, it holds major importance for residential development. Smart buildings and IoT are already influencing the way new homes are designed and built. Home buyer and renter awareness of what is becoming available is beginning to drive their expectations and demands. It may not be long before changing material science and technology combines to bring AI right into the way your business designs and delivers projects.

   DfMA at the forefront

As Off-Site construction matures into Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) it is clearly at the forefront as an enabler for such delivery. New homes will very soon be 'Smart' in numerous ways, including full incorporation of energy saving and TIoT (the internet of things) to deliver major components. This is something that 'Off-Site'. DfMA (Design for Manufacture & Assembly) will need to seriously consider as the industry moves forward.

   Collaborative Partnering

Greater collaborative 'partnering' between architects, builders and manufacturers is needed to accomplish this The greater speed, accuracy and quality that can result from manufacturing components in a dry, controlled factory environment, together with the ability to incorporate (yet to be invented) 'Smart Ware' gives home builders perhaps the only way of achieving this, together with improved on-site build quality AND controlling costs.

   Resistance Disappearing

While resistance to the change to DfMA has been the norm, the wish of most UK Builders to deliver excellent customer service and top notch homes is now driving an increasing number to choose Off-Site for their developments. Also, as 'OffSite Hub' note, architects and designers are moving toward DfMA, something w have been encouraging for over 20 years. The emergence of LA Developers will only speed up this process.

   Easy Timber Frame

To assist them in doing so our "Easy Timber Frame" now offers standard size modular timber frame elements for them to use as a design base, cutting down on technical design and engineering to produce win-win results.

   Better all-round Savings

Our specialist services and CUSTOM homes division deliver best value and  protect the interests of land owners, house-builder developers, professionals and private individuals seeking to build their dream home. Our off-site construction systems also reduce the amount of material that gets wasted on site, helping to avoid land fill, hazardous waste separation and handling, They also deliver better value for you and your customers.
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