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The University of Southampton
Energy at Southampton

Success for the University of Southampton

Published: 7 August 2014
building facade

A top ranked proposal by researchers at the University of Southampton, will be funded by EPSRC as part of their Energy Management in Non-Domestic Buildings call.

The project,  called Aperio; which was awarded £493,000 of funding and involves low cost façade management in naturally ventilated buildings; will examine how external digital cameras can be used to monitor how window blinds and lighting are used and how occupants' needs, such as privacy, comfort and security can be balanced with energy management.

Project leader Professor Patrick James, a Senior Lecturer in Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton, says: “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 people to behave in the same energy efficient manner. While there may be a strong reason 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.”

Non-domestic buildings such as offices, supermarkets, hospitals and factories account for approximately 18 per cent of UK carbon emissions and 13 per cent of final energy consumption.

By 2050, the total UK's non-domestic floor area is expected to increase by 35 per cent, while 60 per cent of existing buildings will still be in use. This means that substantial retro-fitting is likely and planning what techniques to use to save energy, as well as how to implement change with the cooperation of building occupants, is going to be essential.

Professor Philip Nelson EPSRC's Chief Executive said: “Improving energy efficiency is an important piece of the energy puzzle. Worldwide energy demand is rising, as are global temperatures and sea levels. We need to find smart solutions to how we use energy while improving the environment in which people have to work, rest or play. These projects will go a long way to help improve our understanding of what goes on in non-domestic buildings and add to the armoury at the disposal of those managing these facilities.”

In addition to the Southampton project, projects will  run at Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Oxford and the University of Strathclyde.

The Research Councils UK Energy Programme led by EPSRC aims to position the UK to meet its energy and environmental targets and policy goals through world-class research and training. The Energy programme is investing more than £625 million in research and skills to pioneer a low carbon future. This builds on an investment of £839 million over the past eight years.

The Energy Programme brings together the work of EPSRC and that of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

Open System Solutions

Instrumenting existing buildings with additional physical sensors to monitor this user behaviour is often prohibitively expensive. We hope to be able to provide useful feedback to a building's occupants through webpages, ambient displays and smartphones, using a small number of low-cost visible and thermal cameras monitoring the exterior of the building.

Professor Alex Rogers - project co-investigator based in Electronics and Computer Sciences.
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