New research to help hospitals reduce carbon emissions

The potential of ‘big data’ to support carbon reduction efforts, better data on the energy performance of buildings, and the impact of sensor technology will all be the subject of new research projects announced this week.

Against a world backdrop of increased concerns about energy security, price fluctuations and, of course, the need to address climate change, the six new projects aim to gain a fuller understanding of how energy is managed in the country’s non-domestic buildings.

Funded with £3m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and carried out on behalf of the Research Councils UK Energy Programme (RCUKEP), the research will address how to use technology, data and information, mathematics, law and sociology to create better energy strategies and behaviours in public buildings, including hospitals and health centres.

Non-domestic buildings currently account for approximately 18% of UK carbon emissions and 13% of final energy consumption, with the NHS being the biggest contributor overall.

By 2050, the total UK’s non-domestic floor area is expected to increase by 35%, while 60% of existing buildings will still be in use. This means that substantial retro fitting is likely and planning what techniques to use to save energy, as well as how to implement change with the cooperation of building occupants, is going to be essential.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s chief executive, said: “Improving energy efficiency is an important piece of the energy puzzle. Worldwide energy demand is rising, as are global temperatures and sea levels. We need to find smart solutions to how we use energy while improving the environment in which people have to work, rest or play.

“These projects will go a long way to help improve our understanding of what goes on in non-domestic buildings and add to the armoury at the disposal of those managing these facilities.”

The new projects will be run at Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Oxford, University of Southampton and the University of Strathclyde.

The projects are:

  • The University of Oxford – Working with information, creation of knowledge, and energy strategy deployment (WICKED) in non-domestic buildings. This project will aim to provide insight into the inter-relationship between the technical, legal, and organisational challenges involved in improving energy performance in the retail sector, for both small and large organisations
  • Imperial College London – Future-proofing facilities management. This project will address how big data can help facilities managers deliver future proofed energy efficiency improvements
  • The University of Cambridge – B-bem: The Bayesian building energy management portal. This project will develop and recommend a new approach to performing uncertainty analysis as well as the display and interpretation of uncertainty in energy management of non-domestic buildings
  • The University of Edinburgh – Data-driven sociotechnical energy management in public sector buildings. This project aims to construct a feedback loop to give information to building managers and occupants on their energy consumption, the activities using energy, and how much for each one, with suggestions on how to reduce energy expenditure and use
  • The University of Strathclyde – Pervasive sensing for collaborative management. This project will explore the use of sensors to capture data on environmental conditions, occupant behaviour and personalised energy use and map this information to support negotiations between occupants and facilities managers
  • University of Southampton – Aperio: Low-cost façade management in naturally-ventilated buildings. This project will examine how external digital cameras can be used to monitor how windows, blinds and lighting are used and how occupants’ needs, such as privacy, comfort and security, can be balanced with energy management