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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.

Today, 52 percent of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, estimates push that number up to 70 percent. If that’s not incentive enough to make our cities smarter, we aren’t sure what is!

An article published on GreenBiz.com points out that this percentage is going to put more demand on our buildings and infrastructure than ever before — demands that far outweigh anything our cities are currently capable of. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever that sustainable building technology and energy modeling software continue to advance with the changing urban landscape.

According to the article — “Technology will play a central role in determining whether future cities are harmonious, vibrant and sustainable or discontented, wasteful and unsustainable,” says a recent report from Lux Research. “Efficient future cities will integrate technologies to reduce their environmental impacts while sustainably coping with growing populations.

The good news is that there are already cities that are

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paving the way for future urban living. The Lux report highlights eight cities that are heading in the right direction and laying the groundwork for future city life. Among them are Singapore, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Masdar. All of these cities, while seemingly extremely different, have one thing in common: technology.

With technology being key to the success of tomorrow’s cities, “technology companies need to understand the variety of models under which future cities develop so they can tap the widest channel to market in each case, and should understand the pros and cons of each model to find their fit in this daunting and confusing space,” wrote Lux Research Analyst Ryan Castilloux, the report’s lead author.

That’s where IES comes in. With the ability to see how an urban building will perform before ever laying the foundation, designers can push the envelope and test energy-saving theories that will be the standard 40 years from now.

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