Knauf Insulation with more than 30 years of experience in the insulation industry represents one of the fastest growing and most respected names in insulation worldwide. The company is part of the Knauf Group, a family-owned multi-national manufacturer of building materials and construction systems, established in 1932. The Knauf Group with a group turnover of € 6.6 billion in 2015 has more than 26,500 employees worldwide with more than 220 factories in more than 70 countries.
Knauf Insulation is committed to meeting the increasing demand for energy efficiency in new and existing homes, non-residential buildings and industrial applications. This is why, in August 2014, the company launched the Energy Performance Challenge – one of, if not the largest in-depth studies of “before and after energy improvement measures” ever undertaken in the UK.
The collaborative project (whose main stakeholders are Knauf Insulation, the Building Research Establishment – BRE, Leeds Becket University, University of Salford, BBA, Tensor, ForViva and Gentoo) focused on delivering real-time live data around the energy performance of domestic buildings.
The project’s premise was the study of the ENERGY PERFORMANCE GAP between Designed vs As Built (“DvAB”) for new build properties or Built vs As Predicted (“BvAP”) for existing homes, which can be as high as 120% variation. The results significantly impact the costs of running a home and the CO2 emissions on the environment as a result of poorly built, designed or managed properties.
The Energy Performance Challenge project involved the extensive energy & environmental monitoring of 83 test properties before and after energy improvement measures were retrofitted in order to determine the efficiency of the measures on building performance using real data. The monitoring process included multiple parameters (internal and external temperatures, humidity, CO2 concentration, Volatile Organic Substances), occupancy, boiler efficiency (flow and return temperatures), internal space heating, as well as gas and electricity consumption.
The project aims to influence Government policy and help provide the industry an extensive range of benefits, including new / improved policy tools, increased funding for energy efficiency schemes, an improvement on the current RdSAP approach and the nature of the actual property assessment, as well as investigation on whether the energy & environmental monitoring system (or a part there of) should be part of a wider policy ‘roll out’.
It will also allow differentiation among competitors by using more favourable in-use factors for a certain set of properties utilising in-use performance evidence based predictions.
In order to achieve the aforementioned goals, the Energy Performance Challenge project needed, first and foremost, a state-of-the-art Energy & Environmental Monitoring System capable of delivering high-quality, accurate data and an excellent uptime – and HeatingSave was the only system of this type to rise to the challenge and meet Knauf Insulation’s and the BRE’s very strict requirements.
Iain Macmillan, Technical Development Manager, Knauf Insulation, explains why the HeatingSave Energy & Environmental Monitoring System was the best solution for this mission-critical task: “In terms of building energy and environmental monitoring, HeatingSave was (and still is) the most reliable and advanced system of its kind on the market.”
The HeatingSave Energy Monitor wireless management system collects information from 2.4 Mhz wireless mesh network sensors located in the living rooms, main bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms of the 4 test buildings. This data can be analysed for an indication of energy use (Gas and electricity meter) and thermal comfort within monitored zones.
The system collects internal and external temperature data, along with information on how the heating system works and details of energy use. It also monitors air quality including carbon dioxide, relative humidity, volatile organic compound levels and the way a building is used in terms of its occupancy, light and sound levels and the occupants’ activities and lifestyles
Using a password protected standard internet connection, sensors can quickly be set up to review and quantitatively analyse the data with user-friendly software graphics, via a laptop, PC, mobile phone or tablet-based device.
But system performance and reliability were just one of the reasons why HeatingSave was selected. Explains Iain: “Another factor that weighed heavily in our decision to choose HeatingSave was that this was a system and a company we could trust. For a research program the scale of the Energy Performance Challenge to be successful, it is vital to assure the security, credibility and integrity of the data at each stage of the collection and analysis processes, for all stakeholders.”
Because Tensor Plc, HeatingSave’s parent company, is National Security Inspectorate (NSI) NACOSS GOLD accredited, as well as a member of the BSIA (British Security Industry Association), we were could rest assured in the knowledge that the vast amounts of data collected as part of the project would be stored in a secured, tamper-proof location, with very clear and transparent access control vetting processes in place.”
The energy monitoring equipment was installed by a joint team of HeatingSave and Knauf Insulation engineers throughout 2014 and 2015. Asked for an overview of the install process, Iain told the HeatingSave reporter: “Installing environmental monitoring systems in over 60 houses and working around the occupants’ lifestyles and schedules was certainly challenging at times. However, I will have to say that, for the first project of this size, it all went very well”.
Knauf Insulation staff involved in the project received full training on using the system at HeatingSave’s dedicated training facility in Hail Weston, Cambridgeshire. ”Very good and informative” is how Iain described his introductory experience to the HeatingSave Energy & Environmental Monitoring system.
When asked what he likes most about the HeatingSave Energy & Environmental Monitoring System, Iain’s answer was: “I would say that the way this project has evolved with the help of the HeatingSave system – and indeed the support delivered by the entire HeatingSave team.”
“I also think that the system itself is very easy to use, while the online remote management and data visualization platform is really good – especially since it was custom-built for the Energy Performance Challenge project.” he added.
The HeatingSave R&D team developed a customized version of the HeatingSave Energy Dashboard online data management, visualization and analysis platform to meet the specific requirements of the Energy Performance Challenge set by Knauf Insulation.
The Energy Performance Challenge Dashboard enables stakeholders to benefit from an at-a-glance view of the over the large transactions collected over the course of the project, the status of monitoring systems and quality of data, as well as the status of the most important measurable project outputs.
The Dashboard also offers extensive management tools, the most important one being a property database that enables users to view and access data for each separate property and drill down to monitor level for detailed information (specific data supplied by each of the 2,728 sensors installed) or for remote maintenance.
A dedicated tool enables the export of consolidated, “big” data from the Dashboard, which will be then input to a series of models developed by research partners, such as the Leeds Becket University. With minimal data input, these models will be able to establish and disaggregate; the effect of occupancy, the dwelling heat loss coefficient, the dwelling space eating demand and the energy consumption of space heating. The data analysis will also identify weightings for variables affecting efficiency – workmanship, occupancy, services, air leakage, exposure and archetype.
Asked about the role of the dedicated HeatingSave Helpdesk analysts in the Energy Performance Challenge project and their performance, Iain revealed that occupant management has been perhaps the most challenging part of the project and HeatingSave’s Helpdesk support has proved invaluable:
“Having a single point of contact for all occupants has proved to be the best solution in terms of occupant management. Engaging and communicating with people living in the test houses and working around their schedules in order to book appointments, check systems, etc. has been extremely challenging. However, HeatingSave’s Helpdesk personnel have managed to build up a relationship of trust with all the occupants, which has significantly streamlined this particular aspect of the project” Iain concluded.
Would Knauff Insulation recommend HeatingSave for similar building energy performance monitoring projects? “Yes, we certainly would” was Iain’s answer.
Summing up the HeatingSave Energy & Environmental Monitoring system, Iain told our reporter: “HeatingSave is the best monitoring system currently available on the market for wide-scale building performance research. It’s scalable, expandable and delivers the level of data collection integrity required for this type of projects.”
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