January 15th 2021

Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

IES partnered with Heriot-Watt University on a pilot project to investigate the potential Energy, Carbon and Cost savings that could be achieved for the Edinburgh campus, using the IES Intelligent Communities Lifecycle (ICL), Digital Twin technology.

The project set out to create a Command Centre, initially focussing in on three buildings on the Edinburgh campus, with the aim to roll this out to include the entire campus. At the highest level, the ICL Command Centre dashboard would show the entire campus, and the intention was to populate each building model within the campus with real-world data so that there would be a dashboard for each building, allowing the university’s Facilities Management team to visualise performance at campus level and also individual building level.

The three buildings of initial focus for this pilot project were:
•The Global, Research, Innovation and Discovery building (GRID) – built in 2019, mixed use, VRV heating/cooling. 
• Edwin Chadwick building – built in 1987, mixed use but with more cellular offices, seminar rooms, lecture rooms and workshop spaces, gas heating.
• Robert Bryson Hall – built in 1992, halls of residence, gas heating. 

A model of the campus was created using IES’ intelligent Community Design tool (iCD), which is part of the ICL Digital Twin suite of technology. This model was built initially from available data on Open Street Map and further edited based on knowledge of the campus. The model is editable, so additional available data could be entered or imported from different sources throughout this pilot project.

The three buildings of focus were all data rich in terms of real-world information, therefore the models were able to be refined and detailed in the VE to allow for better calibration of systems performance and options analysis for energy improvement. Using this model IES conducted early stage analysis, simulating and comparing multiple scenarios.

The campus level iCD model was also exported to create an intelligent Campus Information Model (iCIM), an online version of the iCD model to visualize and share any available information from the site. The iCIM is a centralized, cloud-based repository for the community data, including all 3D buildings and landscape objects. That data and those models can be accessed by any stakeholder via browser, providing an ideal external platform for engagement and internal platform for data-driven visualization and decision making.

In the context of this pilot project, the iCIM was used as a mechanism to visualise which buildings have undergone calibration and monitoring and track the performance of the buildings live.

The project consisted of three phases; A, B, and C. Phase A focussed on data collection, model population and an assessment of the current performance of the buildings. In this phase Heriot-Watt University provided IES with more detailed information on the buildings for the model so that more visualisations and metrics could be available within the iCIM. IES then evaluated the current performance of the buildings based on monthly bills, data from sensors and metered live data available from the three buildings, including BMS data and Automated Meter Reading (AMR) data.

As the GRID building included extensive use of intelligent sensors and meters, IES created a connection with its innovative iSCAN tool to allow import of data streams and their visualisation on the iCIM, including the implementation of customisable widgets (i.e. actual weather data from weather stations to support the ‘meteorology portal’) as well as customised dashboards, showing specific performance indicators for the building. This helped the university clearly identify data availability and completeness from the various sensors and meters installed, and review the efficacy of the PV installation etc. For the other two buildings, the data collection resulted in a digital model that better represents the geometry, thermal and functional behaviour of these buildings.

Phase B focussed on operational performance optimisation. This phase of activities aimed at ensuring that the buildings performed at their best, identifying any inefficiencies and opportunities for operational savings.

For the GRID building, IES used the available metered data from the buildings, imported in the previous phase, to identify faults, gaps and carried out advanced analysis of the data, enabling continuous monitoring of the buildings’ performance.

For the Edwin Chadwick Building and Robert Bryson Hall; the operational performance was reviewed through the creation of a ‘hybrid’ VE model that was calibrated by combining monthly electricity and gas totals with simulated data. For all three buildings, IES then used the VE models created and linked the operational data collected through iSCAN to create and fine-tune the models, so that they could act as “Digital Twins” of the buildings, better reflecting the actual performance. 

IES then virtually tested multiple forecast scenarios/strategies and Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) in order to determine the optimal configuration for the building control to achieve the projects goals. The impact of each ECM/scenario was assessed in terms of energy/cost savings and effect on user comfort in the building. 

The ECM’s tested for the two older buildings; the Edwin Chadwick Building and Robert Bryson Hall, included analysing how to reduce the infiltration levels, improving insulation, and the use of air-source heat pumps to improve the heating system and replace the older style boilers. The implementation of these ECM’s would provide potential energy savings of 43% for the Edwin Chadwick building and 44% for the Robert Bryson Hall, and also carbon savings of 36% and 39% respectively. 

For Phase C, IES created a Command centre for live data analysis via the ICL iSCAN tool. This enabled a deeper operational analysis of the buildings, and provided a single web portal for the FM team at Heriot-Watt University to visualise general information on each of the three buildings as well as all the data available from BMS systems, AMRs and renewables. IES developed dashboards where operators could see indicators or aggregated values at a glance without looking at actual time series data. 

The final outcome of this pilot project will be calibrated digital twins and a set of recommended ECMs for two of the three buildings analysed (Edwin Chadwick and Robert Bryson), with associated estimated savings and return on investments, together with a first version of a command centre to allow facility managers at the university to easily review issues with operational performance and undertake predictive rather than reactive maintenance.

“Planning for net zero will encourage organisations to use new approaches and tools to characterise the energy performance of their estate, helping them to determine the most cost-effective decarbonisation route for existing buildings. Working with IES under the Intelligent Communities Lifecycle (ICL) Digital Twin programme has demonstrated the potential power of digital twins as a tool to help us chart a course to net zero, and is an approach we aim to develop further.”
Chris Larkins, Operations Manager (Energy, Environment & Sustainability), Heriot-Watt University