Julia Arneri Borghese, Paradox Engineering
Since the world population is growing, with more migration to urban areas, contemporary cities are looking increasingly for smart solutions to reduce the consumption of energy and resources while improving livability and boosting economic growth. The path forward to develop truly sustainable cities includes understanding public administrations, businesses and citizen needs and evolving urban infrastructures and resources to successfully address those needs.
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) started researching on sustainable technologies back in the 1990s, when the city-state of Singapore began to express an urgent need for new and reclaimable sources of water. Though the ‘sustainable development’ philosophy was not as popular as nowadays, the vision of the government of Singapore was clearly headed towards making the most of limited natural and energy resources as the key to ensure a good quality of living in the long run.
With an investment worth more than S$1 billion in research in the area of sustainability, NTU is putting great effort on the development, among other fields, of smart building management solutions, exploring new and innovative ways to ensure energy efficiency and reduce overall use of limited resources. Among the different Smart City fields, energy efficiency is one of the most sensitive as almost 40% of overall energy is consumed in residential and working space. Within this framework, one of the most important aspects in delivering smart building management solutions is energy verification and measurement.
Leading the research field in sustainability, NTU took a holistic approach towards research and development in water issues, alternative energy sources, clean technologies, urban systems and geological concerns. Under the university’s Five Peaks of Excellence, areas of research focus which NTU is making its international mark on, “Sustainable Earth” is the most important peak, which has also contributed in driving Singapore’s national economy. This was evident in the world-leading research in energy, carried out by the Energy Research Institute at NTU (ERI@N) and in water at the Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute (NEWRI).
The test bed for many of such projects is in ERI@N, at Clean Tech One, one of Singapore’s most sustainable buildings located at JTC Corporation’s Clean Tech Park (see Figure 1). A six-story building with two towers, it has over 37,000 square meters of space, housing local and international organizations working on the development of clean technologies, which include NTU’s NEWRI and ERI@N, the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) and clean technology companies.
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Figure 1: Clean Tech One is one of Singapore’s most sustainable buildings
Completed in 2012, Clean Tech One adopted many smart technology solutions. Among them, a weather station installed to track temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction. The challenge is to collect information on all the energy supply and consumption throughout the building, so as to analyze them and provide effective energy efficiency guidelines.
This is why ERI@N is developing a comprehensive eco-building management system to be implemented at Clean Tech One. Within the framework of power grids evolving into smart power grids, the ability to verify energy efficiency and to have intelligent control for buildings will be a boon. The project constitutes one of the pioneering research efforts in the South-East Asia region, as it attempts to set a benchmark for smart building systems.
ERI@N’s intelligent eco-building management system will be based on PE.AMI and PE.WSNi, two highly innovative solutions by the Swiss tech company Paradox Engineering. With these advanced technologies, the building will be equipped with a reliable wireless sensor network, which can then be used to implement a flexible and scalable communication infrastructure as well as several control functions.
Within the wireless full mesh network, PE.AMI and PE.WSNi nodes will interface existing measurement and sub-metering instruments to collect data from weather station and socket electricity consumption measured by energy meters. These heterogeneous pieces of information will converge in a central analysis engine through PE.AMI and PE.WSNi gateways, where data will be homogenized for processing, trending and analysis.
This engine will operate as a sort of an intelligent database to elaborate data, generate real-time optimal resource and load planning schemes. The analysis will represent the basis to improve energy efficiency at ERI@N. The wireless sensor network may also enable basic control functions to carry out the dimming of light, temperature setting of air conditioning, with partial automatic adjustments depending on forecasted weather condition or building load profiles (see Figure 2). Moreover, the monitoring system will provide verification on the effectiveness of the system.
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Figure 2: Basic control functions can carry out the dimming of light and the temperature setting of air conditioning, with partial automatic adjustments depending on forecasted weather condition or building load profiles
Recently, a scientific paper entitled “Intelligent Eco-building Management System” by Vincent Sutedy, Peng Wang and Leong Hai Koh, all senior IEEE members, focusing on the implementation of sensors integration, wireless sensor networks and Internet of Things solutions to overcome challenges in verifying energy efficiency measures and buildings energy management, highlighted the technologies implemented at ERI@N as some of the most advanced solutions to overcome existing test and measurement challenges.
Beyond the Intelligent Eco-Building Management System for ERI@N, additional outputs of this research initiative include outlines for customized energy efficiency measures, showcase for advantage eco-building technologies and tools, as well as a valuable opportunity to improve ERI@N researchers’ competences and know-how thanks to cross-fertilization programs with Paradox Engineering’s engineers.
Leveraging PE.AMI’s and PE.WSNi’s unlimited extension nature, the system may be potentially extended to other buildings in the campus and beyond, and updated with applications that allow for extended functionalities at a comfortable pace for decision makers, paving the way to more research and projects and setting the direction for future green initiatives in Singapore.
This is made possible by the open standards of the technology, ensuring that future additional applications are possible and compatible, which is in line with the Internet of Things approach. As the cleantech industry has been identified as a key promising industry for Singapore, such sustainable technologies demonstrated in Clean Tech One and Clean Tech Park will stand as testament to NTU and Singapore being an innovative cleantech hub for global markets.