Learning Energy Systems : A dynamic innovative solution to reducing energy demand

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Edinburgh College of Art

Abstract

Summary

Beyond our homes, schools are the buildings that all society, primarily young people, engages with. The potential for embedding principles of low energy behaviour through the use of school buildings is present across all school aged children, but they are rarely involved in decisions on how energy is used. Pupils, teachers, janitors and building managers will participate in this "research in the wild" in order to understand how and why energy is used in their school building, learn how to control and manage it, and ultimately take responsibility for reducing energy use.

This project will develop a collective 'Learning Energy System' involving people, objects, data and machines. Central to this is a digital system designed to align human needs and comfort with building energy systems, with the aim of to reducing overall energy demand. This project differs from many energy reduction projects. The building user; as a sensor of conditions; as a driver of energy demand; as an individual; and as a collective, is at the heart of the 'Learning Energy System'. Dynamic interactions between people and technology will be set up using innovative mobile applications.

The research team will work with a Facilities Management company responsible for 32 schools across Scotland. Digital data representing energy use is available and will be used to develop a system to enable building users to more effectively manage and control how energy is used in their school buildings. The concept of a 'Living Lab' will be used which involved the user community in the co-creation of a solution to an identified problem. The facilities manager has already worked closely with the schools to reduce energy, but they have identified a need to develop a system to sustain energy reductions and involve builder users more actively in the energy management strategy. This will emerge as the 'Learning Energy System', a web based approach designed to be adaptive, interactive and easy to use.

Pupils, teachers and janitors will work together using a range of low cost technology to co-create scenarios that connect with existing Building Management Systems, sensors and control systems. Innovative representation of energy will be used to explore ideas of motivation and desire to change behaviour to how and when energy is used. Overall the aim is to reduce energy use in the schools, and recognise the importance of the building user in achieving this goal.

The 'Learning Energy System' will provide real time reductions in energy use for the schools, and a positive engagement with a wide range of building users. The whole process will offer thought provoking and compelling arguments for taking responsibility for efficient use of energy, and an exciting opportunity to use state of the art equipment to visualise, interpret, and control previously out of reach and often invisible energy streams.

The system will be made available to all schools across the UK providing potential for transforming behaviour relative to energy use in a large number of communities. Cost savings, engagement with communities and carbon reductions associated with this project offer economic, social and environmental impact.

Planned Impact

Beneficiaries of the Research

The research will benefit the school communities where the 'Research in the Wild' will take place. Initially the project will work in six schools. The project aims to involve all building users, including pupils, teachers, and building managers from the Project Partner, FES FM Ltd., the facilities managers. Council representatives liaising with the schools from a range of departments (Eco Schools; Computing; Sustainability) will extend the reach of the project into Local Government and contribute to meeting policy requirements in carbon reduction.
The aim of the project is to work across year groups and subject areas, in order to generate an approach that is inclusive, and widens participation. Some of the schools operate as community schools, which mean that the buildings are used outside of normal school hours by members of the public. Groups using the school will be invited to participate in the Living Labs providing an opportunity for routes to impact behaviour outside of the school environment.

There are 19,500 pupils registered in the schools operated by the Project Partner, and the 'Learning Energy System' created by this project will be rolled out to all 32 schools. These schools are in the council areas of East Lothian, Stirling, Falkirk, Clydebank, Moray and Fife and represent an extensive geographic coverage. The launch of a web based portal will enable the project output to be available to schools across the UK.

The Project Partner, FES FM Ltd is working with the schools through PPP Contractual arrangements. As a company they are working towards delivering better value to their clients. This involves working to annually agreed energy benchmarks. This project will help them work to and potentially exceed these targets. This has economic benefit, but also offers commercial advantage in their wider facilities management business.

How will they benefit from this research?

The schools involved will have reduced energy bills. One school has experienced savings of £85k in one year alone. The aim is sustain and increase these savings, not just in one school, but across all 32 schools. The project will introduce participants to adaptive ways of working with energy in buildings. They will understand how control of energy is related to issues of comfort and need in the context of the wider environment.

The reduction of energy use has obvious economic benefits to the public sector. The councils and the Project Partner are committed to reducing the costs associated with energy use, and this project has the potential to deliver some economic benefit within the timescales of the work programme. The project is aiming to produce a 'Learning Energy System' that will be designed to sustain energy reduction, by creating an adaptive system that integrates people, objects, data and machines. This will work by adapting to the specific characteristics of the building and the people using it.

Social benefits are sought by engaging participants through the whole life of this project. The integrative approach that will be adopted, aims to discover positive action and behaviours towards energy, which have the potential to extend beyond the scope of this project. Participants are pupils, teachers, janitors, managers, council representatives and so the social benefit is potentially cross-organisational and cross-generational, increasing the audience and the subsequent number of people affected by this project.
The longer term benefit of this project will be tangible in years to come. The potential to transform behaviour towards energy use will be realised over years and decades. This will offer economic, environmental and health benefits to individuals and wider communities, as behaviour learnt in the school environment is passed on to homes, and other buildings.

Publications

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Title Kilowatt Clock 
Description The Kilowatt Clock is designed to offer a way of visualizing energy use within the classroom. It is a digital device linking energy data with a physical artifact that resides within the classroom, resembling a clock. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact The social benefit of making energy data available to building users is generally recognized. The ubiquity of the Kilowatt Clock enables it to become part of the classroom life and prompt action or discussion around energy use. Teachers can use it to open up dialogue with a broad range of curriculum topics like energy, maths, science, geography 
 
Description Energy used in public buildings is 'invisible' to most building users. In schools, young people are learning about energy and environmental issues through the curriculum. This project has developed an approach that connects learning about energy use to the real world of the school. The Kilowatt Clock was designed to make energy use more visible in the classroom, responding to the digital data generated by the pupils.
Exploitation Route This project works in the important area of human behaviour and its relationship to energy use. Evidence shows the importance of social interactions with energy systems that are far more complex than technology alone can address. The idea of Human Computer Interactions becomes embedded in every day activities and provides a engaging example of how social interactions with energy can be successful.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy

 
Description Kilowatt Clock and Energy Diary App have raised awareness of energy use in schools. Impact on energy behaviours was evident in the design workshops used to co-design these devices with the school pupils and teachers. Individual acts to reduce energy have a very small effect on the total energy use of the whole school. The Energy Diary App links these acts together and lets individuals track their individual energy use, and the dashboard link these small energy behaviours to the potential large energy reduction when these are repeated by individuals across the school community, and across the school year. Further development of the app with school children will be used to help them understand what the data is telling them, and explore responses to the data in an educational context
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal

 
Description EPSRC Impact Acceleration Grant
Amount £20,510 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2015 
End 09/2015
 
Description Impact Booster
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Edinburgh 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 07/2018
 
Description City of Edinburgh Council 
Organisation City of Edinburgh Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research workshops and development of an Energy Diary to be used within the Small Steps Energy Awareness campaign in Schools.
Collaborator Contribution Involvement in development of the workshops, access to energy data, facilitation of access to schools.
Impact Energy Diary and Kilowatt Clock - devices for energy visualization in schools.
Start Year 2014
 
Description FES FM Ltd 
Organisation FES FM Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Delivery of research in the estate of schools managed by the partner. The project developed an understanding of how the user community were using energy, and identified methods of engaging them in user demand reduction.
Collaborator Contribution Access to the school buildings, and communities. Provision of energy data, information on energy infrastructure and management. Provision of meeting facilities, and expertise on the energy systems currently in place.
Impact Energy Diary and Kilowatt Clock - devices for energy visualization in schools.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Portobello High School 
Organisation Portobello High School
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Research workshops with classes over a two year period. Sharing and dissemination of our research and development of new ways of working with energy visualization. Development of the Energy Diary App and Kilowatt Clock for use in the classroom, combined with teaching material to embed in the curriculum.
Collaborator Contribution Access to classes to run workshops, teacher involvement in development of the activities, support in running activities within class time.
Impact Kilowatt Clock and Energy Diary App - devices for energy visualization
Start Year 2013
 
Description Stirling High School 
Organisation University of Stirling
Department Stirling Management School
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Research workshops with classes over a two year period. Sharing and dissemination of our research and development of new ways of working with energy visualization. Development of the Energy Diary App and Kilowatt Clock for use in the classroom, combined with teaching material to embed in the curriculum.
Collaborator Contribution Access to classes to run workshops, teacher involvement in development of the activities, support in running activities within class time.
Impact Kilowatt Clock and Energy Diary App - devices for energy visualisation
Start Year 2013
 
Title Learning Energy Systems Diary App 
Description Energy use is recorded by pupils in a diary format. A tab can be created for each learning block, and then energy use from commonly used devices is logged for each block during the school week. As energy use is logged the app generates visualizations of the overall energy use during the week. The app can be used by individuals to compare energy use they see 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact School pupils and teachers gain an understanding of how much and where energy is being used in their school over a week. Data allows comparison between school days, and subject areas. This is supported by teaching material that encourages further discovery and discussion around the value of energy. The app will be rolled out to 20 schools in Edinburgh as part of an energy awareness campaign. 
URL https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/learning-energy-systems-diary/id1057533819?mt=8
 
Description Edinburgh International Science Festival 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A five day drop-in workshop as part of the University of Edinburgh Families Activities taking place in the National Museum of Scotland - part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, Easter 2015. Visitors were able to test a game being developed as part of our project to understand how energy use in the class room adds up to the massive energy load of a whole school.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Scottish Learning Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Two day interactive exhibition to launch the Energy Diary App and the Kilowatt Clock to the education community. Testing and feedback by teachers gave us some great insights on ways to integrate with the curriculum, and some very positive comments. Follow up requests provide a network for further dissemination.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/slf/slf2015/index.asp