The EPLACE project in the magazine ‘Projects’

Introducing energy saving technologies and practices to optimise efficiences of public buildings.

eplaceBuildings are responsible for around 40 per cent of the EU’s total energy consumption, and a similar proportion of its carbon emissions. As part of measures to reduce these detrimental outputs and conserve resources, these buildings command intelligent metering, alongside systems that can improve energy performance. However, in a landscape of fiscal austerity, the concept of investing to save can often prove a hard sell to policymakers and public alike.

To challenge such perceptions, the EPLACE project, launched in 2013, aims to test and validate ICT solutions designed to implement energy savings in public buildings. “Each civic building is very different. Yet financial reasons are often cited as to why these savings cannot be implemented,” explains Alicia Jiménez González, EPLACE’s R&D&I project manager. To rebut these arguments, EPLACE has launched a comprehensive online knowledge hub. Targeting building energy managers and occupants, the platform intends to improve their awareness of energy consumption, and offers various tools to facilitate metering and intelligent control of resources. If adopted, EPLACE’s designers believe they could ultimately achieve a reduction of 15 per cent in a building’s total consumption.

Comprised of ten partners from Spain, Bulgaria, Ireland and Germany, the project consolidates the expertise of digital specialists, energy service companies, energy agencies, and local authorities, in addition to building managers. The group includes Spain’s Wellness Telecom, Bulgaria’s ERATO Plc. and the Dublin’s energy agency Codema. Seven buildings in three of the contributing nations, including council headquarters, swimming pools and a library, will act as pilots for EPLACE’s blueprint. “Our intent was first to deliver a complete analysis of each building’s status,” says Jiménez González. “The next step is to perform an energy audit and install monitoring tools onsite. Ultimately, we hope that this will provide decision makers with sufficient justification to confidently sign up to an ESCO, which could considerably enhance the infrastructure of their premises.” Timetabled to conclude in July 2015, the group’s work will be disseminated at local, national and European level.

Accommodating the needs of various end users, EPLACE offers both free and premium services to meet its energy saving objectives. To illustrate patterns in energy usage, and pinpoint opportunities for economies, all users can access an Interactive Energy Savings account (iESA) hosted online by German partner SEnerCon. This can monitor and analyse data that can be entered manually. Its functionality can be broadened through utilising the platform’s specialised tools, which scrutinise different facets of infrastructural performance. Amongst these considerations are the viability of enhanced air conditioning, the suitability of the premises for solar panels, and an assessment of cooling and heating pump performance. In tandem with these tools, a variety of information is provided about energy schemes and funding, which are complemented by an online forum, WeTalk, allowing best practice to be shared and opinions to be publicised.

Premium users of EPLACE can subscribe to two solutions devised by Wellness Telecom: WeSave and WeLight, which will both be trialled by the project. “These systems allow data about electricity usage to be collected directly, rather than manually,” explains Jiménez González.

“Also, they allow users to isolate and analyse specific functions or circuits in their premises, such as lighting or computers.” WeSave, supported by IP communications-based architecture, permits users to monitor and manage consumption from a single point and, based on its analysis, to implement saving solutions. It also provides a bespoke service to users of buildings, offering a ‘consciousness raising’ component by sending them information about usage via email. WeLight is optimised for public street lighting and, via open architecture, provides a telemanagement platform that enables authorities to intelligently manage these assets.

This adds an extra dimension to the consortium’s work that could be extremely valuable, according to Jiménez. “When EPLACE was funded, the focus was on public entities. But we observed that nonemployees frequently visit these buildings,” she relates. “We therefore decided that EPLACE could become an exemplar, and showcase technologies and methods which people could use effectively in their own homes.” EPLACE’s iESA tools are also applicable to domestic settings, and therefore may appeal to homeowners who are directly responsible for their bills. “In public buildings, as employees are not directly accountable for the energy costs, it may be harder to incentivise them, for example, to turn off their computers,” elaborates Jiménez González. “But by raising awareness of their behaviour through social media and poster campaigns, and illustrating what can be achieved at work, then linking this to their domestic habits, EPLACE can compellingly demonstrate what can be achieved through change. If even five to ten per cent of staff become involved in the initiative, they can help deliver measurable and significant savings.”

This article was published in the maganize Projects.