Delivering Energy Flexible Built Environments through digital twins

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Engineering


Problem or Challenge
In the third quarter of 2019, the UK generated more electricity from renewables than from fossil fuels for the first time. The sustenance and resilience of this welcome shift necessitates building in so-called energy flexibility into the national energy system. Hitherto managed from the supply side, energy flexibility is the ability to synchronise the production of electricity from power plants to match demand. The urgency of decarbonising heat and transport through greater degrees of electrification, along with managing the intermittent nature of supply from renewables will inevitably increase the pressure on the grid. Therefore,
there is a pressing need for new and adept mechanisms of synchronising energy demand to adapt to variations in electricity provision.
MRes/PhD project objectives
This project will build upon recent advancements in digital twinning and develop novel simulation capabilities that enable adept demand-side management of buildings at district scales. It will investigate methods that can quantify energy flexibility of buildings, and their resilience to future shocks and changes with quantification of uncertainties.
PhD project description
Flexibility in demand can be achieved through thermal and battery storage, or through time management of activities and processes within buildings. However, the full potential can only be accrued at district-scales where demand from various activities and processes across multiple buildings can be tracked and managed dynamically and collectively. This poses challenges, whereby (a) energy demand must be disaggregated by activities, and allocated spatially and temporally (b) energy consuming activities and processes in buildings must be quantified as a time-dependent flexibility index, (c) models of active demand-response and
control must be tested, which includes short term forecasting.
MRes component
- A thorough literature review of the state-of-the-art in the combined use of energy monitoring and simulation modelling of buildings
- A proof-of-concept study of a small set of university buildings, which develops one or two components of the methodology

Planned Impact

The primary impact of the FIBE2 CDT will be the benefit to society that will accrue from the transformative effect that FIBE2 graduates will have upon current and future infrastructure. The current FIBE CDT has already demonstrated significant impact and FIBE2 will extend this substantially and with particular focus on infrastructure resilience. There will be further impacts across academic research, postgraduate teaching, industry-academia partnering and wider society. Our CDT students are excellent ambassadors and their skills and career trajectories are inspirational. Their outputs so far include >40 journal and conference papers, contributions to a CIRIA report, a book chapter and >15 prizes (e.g. Cambridge Carbon Challenge, EPSRC Doctoral Prizes, best presentation awards). Our students' outreach activities have had far reaching impacts including: Science Festival activities and engineering workshops for school girls. Our innovative CDT training approaches have shifted the culture and priorities in academia and industry towards co-creation for innovation. Our FIBE CDT features in the EPSRC document 'Building Skills for a Prosperous Nation'. Our attention to E&D has resulted in 50% female students with the inspirational ethos attracting students from wide ranging educational backgrounds.

FIBE2 CDT will build on this momentum and expand the scope and reach of our impact. We will capitalise on our major research and training initiatives and strategic collaborations within academia, industry and government to train future infrastructure leaders to address UK and global challenges and this will have direct and significant technical, economic and social impacts for UK infrastructure, its associated stakeholders and civil society at large.

As well as the creation of cohorts of highly skilled research cohorts with cross-disciplinary technical skills, further specific impacts include:

-a transformational cross-disciplinary graduate training and research approach in infrastructure with depth and breadth.

-new forms of Industry-University partnerships. Co-creation with industry of our training and research initiatives has already led to new forms of partnerships such as the I+ scheme, and FIBE2 will further extend this with the 'employer model' variant and others.

-skilled research-minded challenge-focused graduates for UK employers who will derive significant benefit from employing them as catalysts for enterprise, knowledge exchange and innovation, and thus to business growth opportunities.

-enhanced global competitiveness for industrial partners. With our extensive network of 27 industry partners from across all infrastructure sectors who will actively shape the centre with us, we will deliver significant impact and will embrace the cross-disciplinary research emergeing from the CDT to gain competitive advantage.

-support for policy makers at the highest levels of national and local government. The research outcomes and graduates will contribute to an evidence-based foundation for improved decision-making for the efficient management, maintenance and design of infrastructure.

-world-class research outcomes that address national needs, via the direct engagement of our key industrial partners. Other academic institutions will benefit from working with the Centre to collectively advance knowledge.

-wider professional engagement via the creation of powerful informal professional networks between researchers, practitioners, CDT alumni and CDT students, working nationally and internationally, including some hosted by FIBE2 CDT industry partners.

-future generations of infrastructure professional inspired by the FIBE2 CDT's outreach activities whereby pupils, teachers and parents gain insight into the importance of infrastructure engineering.

-the generation of public awareness of the importance of a resilient infrastructure to address inevitable and often unexpected challenges.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S02302X/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2028
2439647 Studentship EP/S02302X/1 01/10/2020 30/03/2026 James Kinch