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1 March, 2019

Researchers at the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong (UOW) have partnered with industry leaders and a government agency to complete a project that is set to revolutionise building efficiency by keeping temperatures consistent within a set comfort zone.

Funded by Grosvenor Engineering Group (Grosvenor), Enviro Building Services (Enviro) and the NSW Government (through the Department of Industry), the project is part of SMART’s Digital Living Lab, which provides an Internet of Things (IoT) Network to create smarter living in buildings.

Senior research fellow Dr Rohan Wickramasuriya is leading the team which is looking at ways of optimising the heating, ventilation and cooling of buildings under the Building Energy Monitoring project.

Anonymised real building data is collected from equipment maintained by Grosvenor, while Enviro’s office spaces are providing image data. This data will be used to train deep neural networks to predict outcomes.

Dr Wickramasuriya said, “Both Grosvenor and Enviro are leading building services providers that were open to innovate and collaborate with the university’s research facilities for our latest project.”

“The project’s focus is to increase the efficiency of building environments. For instance, by forecasting room temperatures as a function of external and internal conditions, we expect to find that it is more efficient to pump cool night air into a building, rather than turning off the system at 6pm and allowing rooms to heat up due to lack of ventilation.”

Grosvenor maintains over 17,000 facilities across Australia and oversees $2.2 billion worth of assets under management for large corporate companies.

Rod Kington, National Sustainability Manager for Grosvenor comments, “Grosvenor is focused on making buildings smarter and more productive. We were drawn to the UOW’s Smart Infrastructure facility as our business goals are aligned. We regularly partner with customers and thought leaders to drive innovation that meets the needs of the built environment. The UOW partnership will enable us to incorporate the knowledge gained across our vast building network.”

The research will investigate image recognition-based room occupation detection; application of deep learning neural networks for room temperature forecasting; vibration sensor fault diagnosis prototype and visualising results using an online dashboard.

It aims to solve three key practical problems in building management. These include accurate counting of building/room occupation; accurate forecasting of indoor temperature to help assess the impact of different power regimes and mode of operations for the HVAC system and build a smart sensor that can detect issues in rotating equipment such as fans before they become problems.

“The SMART Infrastructure Facility focuses on solving applied research problems, because we believe that scientific research which is undertaken should have a real impact. Outcomes expected from this project include a readily deployable, accurate and IoT compliant people counter; accurate indoor temperature forecasting algorithm and a prototype vibration sensor,” added Dr Wickramasuriya.

Accurate estimation of building occupancy is a pre-requisite to optimising both HVAC systems and space utlisation. Current systems used for this purpose are about 66 per cent accurate, while the new image-recognition based system developed in this research is about 93 per cent accurate.

A room temperature forecasting model allows building managers to test various power regimes and their impact on keeping a room’s temperate within the comfort zone.

Mr Kington added, “We are expecting to further enhance and innovate within the built environment from the insights gained from this research. Our main purpose is to make buildings operate more efficiently by driving down inputs from labour, energy, water and carbon dioxide. The research into deep neural networks moves us down the pathway toward machine learning and artificial intelligence which will be significant future drivers of value when maintaining building assets.”

Project results are expected to be delivered mid-year.

About Grosvenor Engineering Group

Founded in 1994, Grosvenor Engineering Group is a leading building services provider that provides intelligent building services, design and construction solutions. The company’s revenue exceeds $175 million and employs more than 700 people across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. Grosvenor maintains over 17,000 facilities and oversees $2.2 billion worth of assets under management for large corporate companies.

About the SMART Infrastructure facility

Established in 2011 by the University of Wollongong, the SMART Infrastructure Facility brings together experts from fields such as economics, modelling, data analytics and system engineering. This expertise is applied to various domains including energy, water, transport and cities. The dedicated team of researchers tackle infrastructure issues from an integrated and multi-disciplinary perspective, with a focus on how infrastructure and social behaviour intersect to ensure more liveable cities and regions.

An international leader in applied infrastructure research, the SMART Infrastructure Facility is helping to address the challenges of infrastructure planning and management both now and into the future.