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Rijeka
As a key technology project partner on the iUrban project, we’re delighted and proud to announce that the city of Rijeka has received a Green Digital Charter award under the category ‘Promoting open and interoperable solutions’ for its implementation of iURBAN smart Decision Support System (DSS). This integrated, multilevel and scalable tool has been designed for cities’ administration to critically analyse energy consumption patterns and increase energy efficiency in public buildings.

The city of Rijeka was one of the two successful pilot projects for the project. Chosen for its strong history with ICT and its commitment to sustainability, the city is one of the first European cities that joined the European initiative “The Covenant of Mayors” in 2009. The initiative connects cities with goals to exchange experience in implementing effective measures to achieve sustainable development of the city through reduction greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

In 2010, among the first cities in Croatia, the City of Rijeka prepared its Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP), which anticipates 42 measures and activities aimed at reducing CO2 emission in three sectors: building, transport and public lighting. Pursuant to the analysis of the implementation of these measures we will achieve 32% reduction of CO2 till 2020.

To find out more about the city of Rijeka and the iURBAN project please visit http://www.iurban-project.eu/

Click here to read the news item on the iURBAN website.

earth
US President Barack Obama has hailed the COP21 agreement as “the best chance to save the one planet we have”.

Who am I to contradict the President of the USA, but I am delighted to tell you that you don’t have to worry about the planet – the Earth will survive global warming.

Why do I know this?  Well there is scientific evidence that shows that during the last few hundred million years the Earth has been both much warmer and much colder than it is today.  In both extreme cases Earth has survived.

Consequently, I do not think our 1.5⁰C or above increase in global temperature will damage Earth.

It will be 7.5 billion years before the Earth will be consumed by the sun which will have become a red giant.  This is so far in the future it is not a concern.  So what is the problem?

Loss of Life.

Five major mass extinctions have been identified over the last 500 million years or so.  In the most extreme cases almost 95% of life became extinct.

The most famous mass extinction killed off the dinosaurs.  This was extremely fortunate for humans as it created the opportunity for mammals to occupy the space vacated by the dinosaurs.  This obviously led to us – Homo sapiens – becoming the dominate species.

Homo sapiens have been around for a hundred thousand years.  In that time species such as the mammoth and the sabre-toothed tiger have been lost.  Whether that has been due to humans or not is questionable.  However, the same cannot be said for the Dodo and many recent species that have become extinct.

However, our interaction with the Earth is causing an increasing number of species to disappear.  Scientists believe that we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction.   Human activity such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, dams, over fishing, etc. demonstrate that we are the principal cause of this current mass extinction.  Scientists have estimated that by 2100 50% of current species will be extinct.

What about us?

Humans are highly resilient.  What happens to us depends upon what action we take to stop global warming.  We face droughts, floods, lost top soil, food and water shortages, wars over resources and mass migration, etc.  By 2100 will we have smart cities or no cities?  Will we be going forward to a much better global society or devolving back to the ‘Dark Ages’ e.g. post Roman Empire?

It is our choice.

One thing is for sure – The Earth will be OK.

Read more of Don’s views on the outcomes of COP21.

Making Smart Cities Affordable

Posted: October 28, 2015 by , Category:Smart City

Making-smart-cities-affordable

The challenge isn’t proving the benefits of a smart city. It’s making the concept affordable for cities to implement.

Affordable Sustainability Solutions
Who wouldn’t want to live in a city where low energy costs, sustainable ways of living and great transport systems attract the best businesses, people and jobs? A city where physically integrating buildings with one another and with utilities increases the sense of community and makes everyone feel proud of their sustainability credentials, giving the city a unique sense of identity?

There are many reasons to make your city smart, and only one reason not to: the cost. That’s why we’re investing a third of our turnover into researching and developing solutions that allow the journey towards becoming a smart city to be taken one affordable step at a time.

Masterplans that take the lifecycle of the urban environment into account can enable city planners to affordably create Smart Communities, scaling up to Smart Cities. They can do this by taking control and setting sustainability targets that embed robust energy and environmental analysis at the core of this continuous lifecycle. By creating a joined up process that goes from masterplanning, through building design and retrofit, to building operation and control, and finally into the operation of a Smart Community.

Smart City Building Blocks
Building Data – For too long the design and maintenance of buildings have been kept separate. After a few decades, you might not even be able to access the plans. So much information is lost. By creating a city database capable of pulling together different file formats and filling in the gaps, we’re making building data accessible so that the right decisions can be made to optimise the buildings in a city at every stage of their life.

Energy Models – By creating 3D graphical models of how energy is being used across the city, we make it easy to see how the energy is flowing to flag up areas where more efficient ways of meeting or reducing demand need to be applied. By generating models capable of simulating the impact of the various solutions available, we can also predict which measures will have the most positive impact on the city.

Engaging Citizens to Change
Cities can’t make this happen alone. It won’t work if the citizen doesn’t feel involved. Not least because there’s a huge gap between creating the strategies and using and applying them correctly. Even the smartest sustainability features will fail to generate any savings if someone leaves a window open while the heating is on.

Citizens need to be educated about the benefits they can personally experience by using the city at its maximum capability. Typically they want to be helped to spend less or else can see the benefit of doing something more expensive to generate better savings in the long-term.

Economies of Scale for Individuals
As well as creating energy analysis tools for city planners, we’re also creating applications for citizens to see the final estimated savings on their energy bill if they join various participation schemes.

Supplier discounts – By showing individuals how much they could be saving by making their home more sustainable and grouping those prepared to invest in energy efficient windows, or solar panels, together, the city can secure a much better rate for 500 windows, or panels, than the citizen could get, making it much more affordable for them to improve their home.

Reduced energy tariffs – Energy is at its most expensive when it’s in most demand. By getting all the citizens in an area to agree to leave their heating on low in the winter, the city can prevent demand for gas from peaking in the morning to secure a better energy tariff. Similar schemes could encourage the use of timed appliances to prevent other energy peaks.

As well as educating and motivating citizens to reduce their energy consumption, another major benefit of smart city participation schemes is that it also encourages citizens to share data about their energy use, so that a working model of how energy is being used across the city can be created to inform other smart city initiatives.

Read more in IES – The Future of Energy Reduction.

cars-blog


The average car makes thousands of decisions a second on our behalf. Buildings, our most expensive assets, need to catch up.

Cars in the 1970s had very little technology. Today, the average car uses lasers, radars, stereo cameras, satellites and even windshield wiper detectors, to constantly figure out the best next course of action, making thousands of decisions per second on our behalf.

Our buildings have yet to move on. If it’s warm and sunny and the rooms starting to overheat, it might take about  20 minutes before you start to feel uncomfortable enough to get up and open a window. If you lived in a hot climate the air conditioning would automatically kick in. Only you don’t need air conditioning yet, just a little ventilation would do. This overuse of air-conditioning is generating £3.6bn of energy waste a year in the Gulf area of the Middle East alone.

There’s no reason – with today’s technological advances – why our building’s couldn’t continually monitor the room and work out the most energy-efficient thing to do to maximise comfort levels.

This isn’t the stuff of Science Fiction
Today, if a room needs ventilated, buildings can automatically open the windows. If the building detected the room was getting cold too quickly, it could automatically reduce the size of the window opening. If the natural ventilation isn’t enough to restore comfort levels, the building can close the window and activate the air conditioning: automatically controlling the airflow in the most energy-efficient way possible.

This isn’t the stuff of science fiction. We’ve developed satellite navigation and cars that can drive themselves.  It’s time our buildings moved on.

A building isn’t a static object
Building’s are complex pieces of equipment. They have to keep us safe and secure, provide us with comfortable shelter from the elements, allow us to work, rest or play, keep ourselves clean and fed, and support our social interactions – all in ways that optimise our health and wellbeing.

One of the biggest misconceptions about buildings is the perception that they’re static objects. They might not move around like cars but they’re dynamic, ever-changing environments. Altering just one element, like the lighting, ventilation or use, can influence everything else. The sooner we recognise just how complex and dynamic our buildings are, the sooner we can justify utilising technology to make the best decisions about how to get the best out of them going forward.

Why we need Integrated Solutions
For too long, we’ve been looking at the different elements of a building: the energy, lighting, comfort and security, in isolation. Although it’s easier to look at things this way, the fact is the building works in a holistic way. To get the best out of it we have to look at it holistically, as well as in the context of its environment, neighbourhood and city. For example, more buildings are now designed with daylight dimming strategies that automatically dim artificial light whenever there’s enough natural light, reducing the energy needed to power the lights by as much as 70%. Although this is a worthwhile exercise, one thing that’s often overlooked is the extent to which the artificial lights might heat the building, prompting an increased need for heating on cooler days. If you’re only looking at the lighting, and not the impact of the lights on other elements, you might miss this other important energy factor.

To get the best out of our buildings, we have to look at them holistically. That’s why IES specialises in getting every element of the building to work together in an integrated way and is closely involved in research which looks at interactions  at the neighbourhood, city and stakeholder level.

Read more in IES – The Future of Energy Reduction

Imagine a City where no energy is wasted

Posted: April 29, 2015 by , Category:Smart City

smart-city-blog
By 2050, 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in a city. Demand for energy, water and other services will reach potentially unsustainable levels. Unless we use the economies of scale presented by people living in such close proximity to cluster energy needs together in ways that actually reduce energy consumption, resource use and costs.

The Cluster Principle in Action
Consider a row of four houses. Each house has its own boiler, requiring lots of energy to heat the water from cold, every morning and every evening, when the residents want their hot water. This isn’t a very good use of energy. Not only does it require the maximum amount of energy to heat the water from cold, there are four boilers in close proximity, all doing the same thing.

What if instead, you were to replace the four individual boilers with just one slightly larger boiler and leave it to run at optimal efficiency, just below its maximum load all day every day?

You could dramatically reduce the energy costs for the residents, while also increasing their access to hot water. Now this isn’t new, District Heating has been around in social housing contexts for decades, but we can now take this principle further to include community energy generation and sharing, national grid interaction, and connections to electric cars, transport and retrofitting, for example.

Making Cities Smart
Our vision is that by taking a smart approach to a communities’ development you can deliver a city which operates in an integrated fashion. One which uses digital technologies to enhance performance and wellbeing, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and also to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens. A Smart City.

Buildings; the main connectors between transport, energy, health, water and waste in a community, need to be at the core of this approach.  Our belief is that by taking the lifecycle of the urban environment into account city planners can affordably start to create Smart Communities, scaling up to Smart Cities.

Imagine a series of smart neighbourhoods, made up of smart buildings capable of integrating with one another and the utilities to conserve energy. Each home is also capable of generating solar energy. The only problem is the residents are mostly out at work during the day, so they can’t use all the energy generated.

Instead of attempting to use harmful chemicals to store the energy, in a process that typically results in much of the energy being lost, a smart city would redirect the excess solar energy to a nearby business – as it’s being generated – eliminating waste and reducing costs.

Read more in IES – The Future of Energy Reduction.

GCC-case-study
We’ve recently had the pleasure of being involved with the creation of the latest IET (Institute of Engineering Technology) technical briefing. Covering the “Challenges and Opportunities of Data-Driven Systems for Building, Community and City-Scale Applications”, it was right up our street.

Our R&D department invests a third of our turnover in looking to the future: on how digital technology can be used within a Smart Built Environment. Our belief is that Buildings, the main connectors between citizens, transport, energy, health, water and waste in a community, need to be at the core of a Smart City approach.

The Urban Lifecycle is critical to reducing energy costs and tackling climate change.

  • Smart Cities – clustering energy needs to create smart communities
  • Master Planning – driving a smart urban lifecycle
  • Building Control – making buildings as smart as our cars
  • Building Design – ensuring sustainable designs live up to expectation
  • Building Operation and Retrofit – getting existing buildings to stop wasting energy

Today, outcomes from our R&D department are already starting to make a difference. We’re using operational data and our unique SCAN technology to bridge the performance gap between design and operation; helping facilities managers reduce energy consumption. You can read the case study we produced for IET on the Proof of Concept study we did with Glasgow City Council here: http://www.theiet.org/sectors/built-environment/files/glasgow-cc-casestudy.cfm.

Data has always played a profound role in the decision-making and engineering management processes within the built environment, whether at building, community or city-scale. The IET Briefing which this case study is part of reviews the key challenges and opportunities for the application of digital technologies in the smart built environment – view it here: http://www.theiet.org/sectors/built-environment/resources/digital-technology.cfm.

We look forward to continuing to engage and raise awareness in this important field.

brochure-image-1Our wasteful use of energy is catching up with us. Environmental disasters which usually happen once every hundred years are happening every year. And climate change, once considered an issue for future generations, has moved firmly into the present.

The simple fact is: if we continue to emit heat-trapping gases from the burning of fossil fuels at the current rate, we will force temperatures to rise above the level our eco-system can cope with. All in less time than it takes for today’s preschoolers to finish high school.

Today, most countries have “Brown Economies” that are dependent on fossil fuels. We need to move as quickly as possible to “Green Economies” that have little need for fossil fuels and are resource efficient. Our ever increasing migration to cities and their growth presents us with a unique opportunity to drive this change through our approach to city infrastructure.

We need to stop wasting energy
As governments across the world respond by introducing carbon reduction targets, many people would argue the solution is to stop burning gas, oil and coal altogether and start generating all our energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar power.

I used to be one of those people. It was only after I completed my PhD, in the generation and use of solar energy, that I realised renewable energy isn’t the solution. It certainly has a role to play – but when I tell people how much space they’ll need for all the solarflex required to power just one building, they quickly agree we need to stop wasting energy and reduce our overall energy consumption first.

When I created the Virtual Environment (VE), to enable architects and engineers to predict the impact of making changes to buildings on their energy consumption, little did I realise just how powerful the technology would become. Today, we’re not only helping facilities managers to reduce energy consumption and creating some of the world’s most sustainable buildings, but we’re also working with city planners to create smart cities where no energy is wasted.

Our buildings need to get smarter
It’s simply unacceptable that in a society capable of understanding the laws of the universe, cloning life and travelling through space, we still allow our buildings to waste a quarter of their energy.

As the Earth’s population continues to expand and more people migrate into cities, we need to look at how to not only make new buildings more sustainable, but also leverage the opportunities for economies of scale this presents. That way, we can we make our existing buildings and cities as energy-efficient as possible.

Only by looking at buildings and cities as the integrated environments that they are – instead of parts of the problem in isolation – can we ensure everyone involved in the conception, design or management of a building gets to leave our world in a much better state than we inherited it.

Thank you for playing your part.

Read more in IES – The Future of Energy Reduction.

Glasgow Future City

Posted: February 21, 2014 by , Category:Research & Development, Smart City

glasgow-future-cities

There’s no doubt 2014 is going to be a big year for Glasgow; the Commonwealth Games, the MTV Europe Awards, the Ryder Cup and the Independence Referendum.

But 2014 is also the year that Glasgow gets ‘smart’…

At the start of 2013, Glasgow City Council won the Future Cities Demonstrator competition, securing a £24 million fund from the Technology Strategy Board to spend on projects and technologies to help “make life in Glasgow smarter, safer and more sustainable”. With the IES headquarters based in Glasgow, we were keen to be involved in this Future City project.

IES is now working with Glasgow City Council to develop an online system which will enable citizens to evaluate the energy efficiency of their dwellings and get recommendations of possible improvements, including retrofit solutions, renewables and other energy conservation measures.

We will develop a 3D web portal that will allow users to view the city’s energy performance at both district and building level. A mobile app will also be created for building and home owners to understand their energy use, examine simple energy conservation measures to help them reduce their consumption and provide them with potential retrofit solutions that will be applicable to their buildings.

The app will act as a gateway between users and technology suppliers and will ultimately facilitate city-scale assessments of energy use. The importance of providing a means to conduct the latter cannot be overstated, in terms of the associated potential economic and environmental benefits for Glasgow.

This is an exciting project for IES and Glasgow, and one that continues to move the focus from the building to the city. You can visit the R & D section of our website to find out about our other research projects that are exploring how cities can operate intelligently; in order to benefit its inhabitants and our environment.

2014 – let’s make it a smart one.

scotland_america_flagScotland has given the world many things – the telephone, the television, Scotch whisky, Irn Bru, tartan, and of course; Integrated Environmental Solutions. Our CEO Don will be flying the Scottish flag this week as he has been invited to New York to participate in a panel debate on sustainable cities with the American-Scottish Foundation on April 5th. Celebrating Scotland-Tartan week, the event is to showcase Our Energy Future: The Power of Partnerships in America and Scotland.

IES was formed in Scotland by Managing Director Dr Don Mclean in June 1994. The roots of the company go back to 1979 when the 1973 energy crisis, the three-day week, power cuts and predictions that oil would run out by 2000 were all high in the public’s consciousness. Against this backdrop, Don started his PHD work in detailed simulation of renewable energy devices at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.  Don’s time at Strathclyde, along with subsequent research and commercial activity consolidated three fundamental observations that IES is built on:

  • Buildings are major consumers of energy and they have to be made more efficient to cut CO2 emissions, conserve fossil fuels and preserve the environment for future generations.
  • Buildings are generally designed on experience and simplistic performance calculations even though it has been proven that the use of performance based building simulation can achieve much better performing buildings that consume significantly less energy.
  • Pre-IES building performance tools were too complex to use and remained in the hands of academics making very little impact on mainstream commercial design.

Although our roots are Scottish, the outlook at IES has always been global. We understand that the problem of increasing C02 emissions is a global problem; not a local one. And that’s why we now have offices across the world in Glasgow, Dublin, Atlanta, Vancouver, Melbourne and Pune {India}. Our ties with America have always been strong – we opened a Boston office in 2004 and have had an office in San Francisco and IES consultants in Minnesota and north of the border in Vancouver.

Our ambition to collaborate within America took another step forward last year when IES acquired North American consulting firm BVM Engineering (BVME), who now act as our South Atlantic Division in Atlanta.

So as far as IES are concerned, partnerships between America and Scotland have never been stronger, with the future looking particularly bright…

We’ll toast a dram to that!

Written by Ruth Kerrigan, our Associate Director of R & D, the following blog post was first published by Building 4 Change. Ruth uses the article to explain that the industry must use virtual testing and performance analysis to cut through greenwash to create truly integrated sustainable eco-cities…

The blame for a major proportion of pollution and waste in our society can justly be laid at the door of cities. However, high density populations also means that energy, water and other services can be provided more efficiently, while minimising the infrastructure associated with modern living.

The design of ‘eco-cities’ – those with sustainable smart buildings that integrate with each other and the grid itself to conserve resources – is becoming increasingly important.  The world’s population is projected to keep rising for at least the next century, and by 2050, 70 percent of people will live in cities, so addressing efficiency is essential. Controlling our use of energy, water and other resources will no longer be an option, but a necessity.

The IES research and development concept is based on smart eco-cities which use information and communication technology (ICT) to incorporate real-time dynamic control. Performance analysis and predictive interrogation of data will play a key part in this.

Emerging vision
IES Smart CIty ImageOur emerging concept is for each building to be designed or refurbished using state-of-the-art 3D simulation to quantify, optimise and verify its performance. The building simulation model would then be used to commission and subsequently control it. However, a true eco-city would require more than independently efficient buildings. It would need a master system that could optimise city-wide energy and water consumption in co-ordination with the relevant utilities.

IES invests over a quarter of its turnover in research and development, and is actively involved in a number of Scottish, UK and European funded projects across all areas of such an eco-city lifecycle. We are also actively involved in key sustainable building/community test sites considered to be at the forefront of global research.

Across these projects we are both providing the underlying technology and acting as a hub to connect many different organisations and stakeholders in the eco-city lifecycle. Our concept maps the entire process, from masterplanning through to simulation-based control of eco-communities and links with smart grids.

We played a part in the £24 million Future City Demonstrator grant recently won by Glasgow – which saw off competition from London, Peterborough, Bristol and 30 other UK cities. IES contributed on the use of a communications hub to inform buildings how to improve energy efficiency.

The company is in negotiation for a number of larger projects due to start in later 2013 and is involved in the following smart city related R&D projects.

  • People Friendly Cities in A Data Rich World – EU COST Action
  • Interactive Decision Support Platform for the Creation of the Eco-City through the Integration of Sustainable Urban Metrics and a Common City Index (CitySUMS) – SMART: Scotland
  • Indicator-based Interactive Decision Support and Information Exchange

INDICATE ImagePlatform for Smart Cities (INDICATE) – EU FP7

  • Intelligent Urban Energy Tool (iUrban) – EU FP7
  • Friendly and Affordable Sustainable Urban Districts Retrofitting (FASUDIR) – EU FP7


Overcoming barriers

A major challenge is the discontinuity between actual utilities consumption and design/simulated data. Buildings rarely perform as predicted, and building energy management systems (BEMS) only monitor and report in a descriptive, ad-hoc way. Vast amounts of data are collected but not fully utilised to inform decisions. These conventional management methods are laborious and make it difficult to maintain optimal control. Post-design, BEMS monitor only the individual building and rely on facility managers to interpret the data and act accordingly. This creates a lot of data but doesn’t produce viable smart buildings.

Until now, technology didn’t exist to simulate and test optimisation hypotheses based on real operational data. There was a reliance on design simulation technology that could point out flaws and optimise performance virtually before the building was constructed, and BEMS systems which monitor usage after the fact. However, new software and computer modelling capabilities has made creating smarter, more efficient buildings easier than it has ever been. IES believes that performance analysis can truly drive eco-communities, districts and cities.

Building design using 3D models is already the norm and it can deliver a model suitable for operational activities.  Connecting the dots by incorporating real operational data into the model is the next step, and one that we have already successfully taken, through our Scottish Enterprise funded VE-SCAN research project and resulting product.

The application of 3D building performance simulation on new-build, refurbishment and operation optimisation projects facilitates a greatly improved integrated and sustainable design process. It paves the way for smart interaction between buildings in a community or city to optimise efficiency at the next level.

Through virtual testing and performance analysis the industry is able to cut through greenwash and deliver measurable results. These are what will drive eco-cities.

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