APERIO: LOW COST FAÇADE MANAGEMENT IN NATURALLY VENTILATED BUILDINGS

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment

Abstract

Even if opening a window has a limited impact on the environmental conditions in an office, it is often a desirable feature as users are typically more tolerant as they feel they have been able to take action to improve their space. The ability of a user to interact with a façade does not, however, come without risk to the energy performance of a building. In a domestic setting, a householder is directly responsible for the energy bills and would therefore not consciously leave a window open overnight in the winter. In an office environment however, there is no financial driver for the user to operate the façade in the same energy efficient manner. Whilst there may be a strong driver to open a window in an office (stuffiness, high temperature), the driver to close the window (energy awareness) may be very weak unless there is an additional driver such as external noise, rain or a security risk. This poses a real challenge to the facilities manager, 'happy productive users' prefer control of the façade, which is what well designed non-domestic building environments should provide, but providing this control introduces significant energy performance risk.
This study proposes to develop and test a low cost, non-invasive technique to assess the impact of poor facade control on energy performance and enable facilities managers to address this issue. We are looking to use external cameras to diagnose the status of a facade in terms of window opening, blind and internal lighting usage and to engage the Facilities Manager, security staff and building users to change the facade state. This approach can help address issues of (1) winter heating losses, (2) summer overheating and (3) poor internal lighting operation. Whilst security guards may provide an effective solution to the problem of energy waste, successful users' behavioural change in managing windows and blinds is very important in non-domestic buildings where there are no guards or where guards cannot intervene dto their narrow remit.
All interventions will be developed through a user-centred design approach. Workshops will be conducted at the start of the project, to make sure that the interventions fit both with the technical constraints and with the organisational culture of the buildings where they will be deployed. In particular we will focus on (1) the trade-offs between preserving privacy and sharing information and (2) on the balance between group-level and individual feedback. As far as point (1) is concerned, a privacy-preserving intervention would allow us to send email messages to individuals who left their windows open, in the hope that this will not be done in the future. In contrast, broadcasting to everyone on a given floor in which windows are currently open and need closing would allow users to take action here and now. This second approach may be considered more constructive (rather than reprimand), it would require everyone to know which windows were left open, and by inference who might have left them so. Regarding point (2), our aim is to test whether the effect of individual feedback (e.g. individual emails saying "you left your window open last weekend") can be reinforced by framing it in the context of the general performance of people occupying the same building (e.g. through a public display or an email that is sent to everyone).
Designing interfaces and systems which provide and maintain user engagement is the other key theme of this study. Decay in user engagement is a challenge for any behaviour change intervention and often not fully addressed in studies. Here we anticipate strong and sustained engagement with the facilities manager and security staff who are the primary path to energy savings in the building. Engagement with users of buildings such as offices is far more challenging where developed interfaces have to add value to the individual to ensure their sustained use beyond the initial 'novelty / honeymoon' period.

Planned Impact

The Aperio programme is looking to lead to management based energy savings in predominantly naturally ventilated buildings.

In this respect, we are looking to create beneficiaries at a number of levels:

1) at the government level:
- through demonstration of a new management approach, which if rolled out across the non-domestic building stock will impact on carbon targets, energy usage and national security of supply.

2) at the building user level:
- improved environmental conditions, most notably during prolonged warm periods in buildings through better use of blinds will lead to enhanced wellbeing and productivity amongst building users.

3) at the public sector and corporate level:
- delivering readily deployable solutions (we anticipate within 1-3 years of programme completion depending on progress of the Open Systems Solution programme to develop a low cost camera solution) to enable facilities managers to address the issue of facade management. This system will deliver energy savings to address rising energy costs, climate change (notably summer overheating) and deteriorating public sector finances (not possible to undertake major refurbishment).

4) at the academic level:
- new levels of understanding of the effectiveness of eco-feedbacks in non-domestic buildings will contribute to the literature in behavioural economics and psychology on peer effects and on the use of "nudges" to alter behaviour. Our findings will provide an important input to scholars, in both the social and the natural sciences, dealing with environmental sustainability, management and planning.

5) at the building services industry level:
- enabling the building services industry to see and apply new approaches to energy management beyond traditional hard wired control systems.

6) to the wider public in general:
- better performing building create the spaces in which people wish to live and work. This in turn creates productive spaces and enhanced wellbeing.

7) at the asset manager level:
The 'tail' in the current building stock portfolio of many asset managers will be significantly reduced if Aperio proves successful. The economic life of many buildings will be extended as heating and cooling loads are reduced to financially viable levels.
 
Description There is often a strong driver to open a window in a naturally ventilated office building (overheating, stuffiness etc). However, the driver to close a window (energy, noise, rain, security) is often very weak in an office building where there is no financial implication to the occupant. This can lead to poor user behavior in terms of energy, carbon and cost during the heating season in particular.
The majority of office buildings in the UK have very poor environmental / energy sensor coverage. Within APERIO we have successfully demonstrated that a single digital camera mounted external to the facade of a building can automatically determine window open status. A comparison between automated window opening estimation and manual visual checking of images showed an agreement level of around ninety percent.
Exploitation Route The use of external cameras for facade diagnostics can be applied not only to naturally ventilated buildings but also mixed mode. Mixed mode buildings are seen as good compromise giving users control but also addressing summer overheating risk. The APERIO system will enable the performance gap of a semi-automated building to be determined and addressed.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy,Environment,Security and Diplomacy
URL https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/404841/
 
Description Working with a partner SME to develop a commercial camera system.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Energy
Impact Types Societal,Economic
 
Description Platform Grants
Amount £1,431,420 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P010164/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2017
 
Description User Interaction with ICT
Amount £806,241 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N014243/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 04/2016 
End 03/2019
 
Title digital camera based determinant of window opening status in a facade 
Description Externally mounted digital cameras capture facade images which automatically determine the status of each window. The window status (open,closed, not-determined) and the level of opening (angle) is returned. This dataset can then be used to engage with users, inform the facilities managers etc. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Test facade summer and winter accuracy in excess of 90% against manual ground truth analysis. Subsequent field deployment of this approach across six buildings at the University of Southampton from March 2016 
 
Description Open System Solutions Limited - APERIO 
Organisation Open System Solutions Limited
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Proof of concept and scale of market for facade camera diagnostic tool - building confidence in the scale of the market for this product.
Collaborator Contribution Attendance of APERIO meetings, sourcing of infra red camera components through company supply chain.
Impact acceleration of development of camera facade system
Start Year 2015
 
Description Conference presentation: Understanding window behaviour in a mixed-mode buildings and the impact on energy performance 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact MSc conference for students involved in energy research. 6th Masters Conference: People and Buildings London Metropolitan University. see http://nceub.org.uk/ocs/index.php/mc/MC2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://nceub.org.uk/ocs/index.php/mc/MC2016
 
Description RICS CPD DAY - INVITED SPEAKER 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact RICS CPD conferences enable industry professionals to keep updated on the latest standards and practices. PAB JAMES was invited to present '5b: Towards sustainability in commercial buildings' which focusses on facades of buildings and the potential for behaviour change amongst building users.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.rics.org/uk/training-events/conferences-seminars
 
Description Survey and debate 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact A survey (questionnaire) was conducted on public common perception of energy waste in the workplace. Interestingly, it was found that most of the participants they do not associate the heat losses through windows left open with energy waste. Members of the APERIO team have discussed the results of the survey and the methodology used for the detection of the open windows with colleagues, building managers, organisational partners and members of the public. A leaflet/summary has been circulated to attract attention on the issue of heat waste and on the aims of the APERIO project. In some cases the leaflet had the from of "Participant information sheet". The response has been encouraging with more than 100 people including administrative staff, postgraduate students and academics agreeing to participate in the APERIO study and learn more information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016