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Direction Project - Control systems: a new solution for low energy buildings

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Energy generation and management technologies are both essential to optimise energy efficiency when designing new buildings


CARTIF III is a new building that forms part of an applied research institute called the CARTIF Technology Centre based in Valladolid, Spain. This building is singular. In addition to displaying all of the characteristics of a highly energy efficient building, it has a system of data collection and monitoring for improving the optimal use of such facilities. Álvaro Corredera and Roberto Sanz, electronic industrial engineers from the energy division at the CARTIF Technology Centre, talk about how energy efficiency systems work and their applicability within the context of the European-funded project DIRECTION designed to study buildings with a low energy consumption.


Why is CARTIF III a model building of energy efficiency?

Roberto Sanz (RS): Cartif III was selected as a showcase for the European project called DIRECTION and was partially built with funds from this project. Different methodologies to improve energy efficiency were implemented along the construction of this building.

Álvaro Corredera (AC): This new building is innovative, both in terms of energy generation and energy management technologies. It features a 45-kilowatt photovoltaic system, a biomass boiler that caters to all areas of the building and a geothermal plant. Furthermore, it has an advanced and comprehensive control of all the systems of energy generation and distribution, such as lighting, occupancy and access control. It is also unique in that two-thirds of the building have an industrial use and the rest is devoted to office space;  therefore catering to multiple needs.


What is so innovative about the monitoring devices and databases used to optimise energy efficiency?

RS: Monitoring devices give us a comprehensive and global control. In addition, we can also collect all the data about generation and energy distribution within the building facilities. Such monitoring allows us to control energy generation from all sources, including geothermal, solar, biomass, while also monitoring their use through lighting and even room occupation. This means that if an area is not occupied, the system can be switched off.

Through these control systems we have generated a database which contains nearly 1,300 different variables. We can now make fairly accurate simulations of how the building works. We can also optimise its installations and working system to reduce energy consumption.


How does such monitoring approach contribute to the overall aim of this research?

AC: The aim of the project is to demonstrate that such kind of low energy buildings can become a reality. Therefore, we are collecting and processing data from these demonstrator buildings. We can then use this data to calculate the parameters of energy consumption, so-called key performance indicators (KPI), and check whether the buildings have reached specific energy consumption targets. Ultimately, it can help check whether the building is working as anticipated.


What are the opportunities for future low energy buildings similar to the CARTIF III showcase?

AC:  At first glance, a building like this seems pricey to any builder. But you have to consider the return you can make with savings in terms of building with these facilities, services and the level of control systems that we are developing.

RS: Having an industrial warehouse combined with office space is a fairly common construction. Future buildings of this type can have an energy-efficient building that allows big savings on the total energy consumption. In the case of the showcase, the expected energy consumption savings are around 84%.

The objective of the project is to make the primary energy consumption lower than 60 kWh/m2 per year. This, in turn, reduces CO2 emissions by 60 %. This approach may be applicable to other climates if the algorithms are tailored adequately.