Sector - Energy, Fuel & Utilities

Taking control of building energy use

Innovative solutions for more efficient energy usage in commercial and domestic buildings have become a necessity. Not only is the Government’s net zero by 2050 target nearing, but the rise in the number of people working from home during the pandemic has significantly increased domestic energy consumption.

Recent increases in energy costs, combined with the building industry’s commitment to sustainability, are encouraging innovators to focus on optimising usage and driving efficiency.

In the UK, buildings are responsible for large amounts of CO2 emissions. To reduce their environmental impact, a solution is needed which improves the sustainability of both new and existing commercial and domestic buildings.

Current systems facilitate comparisons of energy consumption by using parameters such as building dimensions, material types, surface types, insulation properties and age. However, these simulations can take hours to complete for larger, more complex buildings and specialist knowledge is needed to analyse the data.

Arbnco, which focuses on intelligent green building innovation, has recently been granted a UK Patent GB2584614 for a technology that aims to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. The patented technology consists of a control system, which uses an energy-estimation model to obtain building data and predict its operational consumption. Through an iterative process, the control system is able to take this information and use it to inform modifications to drive the building’s energy efficiency. The iterative process is also able to suggest modifications that could be made to properties of the building, in order to improve its overall energy efficiency. For example, modifications could be made to the dimensions of the building, or the materials used in its construction. Installations such as insulation, HVAC systems, lightings and electrical supply systems can also be added or tweaked to improve energy efficiency. Environmental parameters, such as average temperature, rainfall and sunlight, can also be taken into account.

When using the control system, the fixed properties of the building are input so that changes can be made if there is space to do so. For example, the dimensions of the building could be constrained by architectural requirements, or the control system might be retrofitted to an existing building. Practical examples of modifications that can be made during the design and build phase or as a retrofit to an existing building include LED lighting, a replacement boiler or heat pump, double glazing and insulation for walls and roofs. The control system can even recommend where these modifications should be made for optimal benefit.

Arbnco has trialled its patented technology at a university research department in order to help the organisation to achieve net zero by2050 target. The energy-estimation model was able to identify a potential energy carbon saving of around 31%, without the need for capital works or significant structural modifications. This proves the technology can be scaled up for larger buildings and property portfolios.

In the UK, buildings are responsible for large amounts of CO2 emissions

Mark Sugden

With patent protection secured, Arbnco will benefit from an exclusive right to bring its invention to market and, potentially, license it to third parties for a fee. This period of exclusivity extends for up to 20 years, preventing competitors from copying its invention during this time, and enabling it to reap the full commercial rewards of its highly innovative solution.

Mark Sugden, senior associate and patent attorney in the Advanced Engineering group at European intellectual property firm, Withers & Rogers