Spring 2018

Sun Apr 08 2018 23:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Spring 2018

Its been a busy few months. Workload here at Ollio has been buoyant, and the level of inquiry particularly for Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) has been high.  BREEAM credits along with Universities' need to satisfy Hefce (or as of end March 2018 the new Office for Students) applications criteria is proving to be a big driver.  In between all of that, there are some other exciting things happening that I can tell you about. 

Designing Ducts wi' Darwin..duck

A few years ago now, I gave a presentation to show how we built a dynamic simulation model of a building to test how much energy it consumes when subjected to a virtual weather year. The model gave us the opportunity to test different interventions in a virtual world before we built the real thing.  We tested different types of glass, vary the thickness of the insulation, tested different types of heating and cooling system etc. All to to find the best solution, where the capital invested could be optimised with the amount of carbon saved, and level of comfort achieved internally.

Afterwards, Dr Jon Wright came up to me to have a word. He asked, "how do you know when when you have found the optimum solution"?  I replied. "I don't". All I know is that we have a better solution than the one we started off with. It might or might not be the best one possible.

Jon said he was working with an old algorithm, actually popularised by Plato’s Socratic dialogues published in 387 AD. Then Charles Darwin used the Socratic thesis as a basis for his "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" in 1859.  More recently mathematicians began finding uses for these mathematical trial and error based algorithms to solve engineering problems.  They called them evolutionary algorithms (EA) in reference to the work of Darwin.  As with Darwin's theory of evolution, EA works on the principle that if you have a solution and you want to develop a better stronger one, you need to make a copy of the solution by splitting it into two identical copies, then mutate one of them to be slightly different (forming a thesis and antithesis). Test both and keep the one that's best, and kill the weaker one. Repeat the process with the surviving solutions over and over and plot the results of the solutions on a Pareto graph against the two parameters that are being optimised, say carbon emissions against cost.

After a period, the algorithm will find a collection of solutions that will be better than anything that even the best and most experienced engineer could find. Needless to say the process demands immense computing power, which Moore's Law has only recently made accessible at reasonable cost. Within this new paradigm in solution building, there are already some software packages that allow us to use Evolutionary Algorithms on commercial basis to arrive at optimal building solutions. As yet not many engineers are aware of them or the advantages of their use.  The best has EA package to my mind has been developed by Yi Zhang at EnSims based in Loughborough University's Technology Centre.  YI and I have just deployed the J-Plus algorithm on our Healthy Home Project at Bedford.  Already our work is pointing to some solutions that are enabling us to deliver zero carbon in ways that we might not have thought of through conventional approaches.  We hope to publish a case study on the Bedford project soon.

Urban Flows Observatory 
I  am pleased to have been asked to be involved in the research being conducted by the Urban Flows Observatory at the University of Sheffield. The project will monitor how Sheffield as a city uses its energy. The thinking being that using some of our best University minds to understand how the city consumes its energy, we can learn how behaviors and infrastructure can be modified  over time to meet the needs of a more sustainable low carbon future. The project is split into three looking at Energy, Air and Water. I have been asked to look at air initially. Air or should we say the cleanliness and quality of it, which has a huge bearing in governing health and wellbeing.   We will be looking at how the quality of the internal environment of buildings is affected by pollution levels outside, as well as the pollution levels we all generate ourselves by our use of chemicals in everyday things from furniture to carpets to paints, and even personal care products such as perfumes and deodorants. I feel sure that this research will lead to better information on the health of our built environments in the City, as well as the changes in the ventilation standards in buildings, and in the levels of chemical load being permitted in the materials we use to construct our buildings. All of course feeding into our knowledge base for use in Ollio's Health and Wellbeing projects. If the research is of interest do reach out to me.

Making Literate Modellers

In my last news, I mentioned the difficulties of standardising modelling practice. I am pleased to announce that at our IBPSA England board meeting held in January we agreed that a session would be arranged at  BSO18  in September to discuss the issue, intending to put in train some actions to get develop principles for standard approaches to building simulation models across the built environment. Maybe then we can get some confidence in modelling and modellers which is sadly lacking at the moment.  Again if anyone is interested in contributing to this research do reach out.   The BSO18 conference website is already live at here

While I am giving a plug to a simulation and modelling conference, and promoting best practice in the education of modellers, I can add one for my colleague on the ASHRAE UK Midlands board Ljubomir Jankovic who has just published the second edition of his book Designing Zero Carbon Buildings Using Dynamic Simulation Methods. The book has excellent demonstrations of research experiments conducted to validate thermal modelling simulations. Thoroughly recommend it and available on Amazon.

ASHRAE Region XIV CRC comes to Loughborough 
Also in September, the new ASHRAE Region XIV (Europe) Chapter Regional Council (CRC) comes to Loughborough University. It's only the second ever CRC to be held in the UK, but the first to have UK Chapters in attendance. The CRC is bit like a "shareholders meetings" for  ASHRAE  Chapters from all over Europe.  It's where our big strategic lifting happens.  Given its importance, we will also be honored to host again the current 2017/18 President Bjarne Olesen, along with our next 2018/19 ASHRAE President Shelia J Hayter who join us from ASHRAE HQ in Atlanta.

In her day job, Sheila  is a senior research supervisor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).  Her work there has focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency applications for the buildings industry. Sheila is a seasoned author on topics relating to energy efficient design and renewable energy, particularly PV integration into buildings. 

Running in parallel to CRC business will be a two day technical conference with presentations given by international speakers.  Currently, ASHRAE UK Midlands Chapter is looking for major conference sponsors so do get in touch if you are interested in sponsoring or attending. The ASHRAE Europe website will have more details soon.

CIBSE Technical Symposium 2018

I am looking forward to presenting my paper "Reaching the Building Performance "Sweet Spot" with Certainty" at the CIBSE Technical Symposium being held at London SouthBank University between 12th and 13th April 2018. Details of the programme are here. My paper, one of 200 over the two days will outline the journey which led to the development of Agile for Buildings. Once the presentation is made I will post a copy here on this news bullitin.  I hope paper will spark some increased debate into how we as an industry address the concerns of our customers, and that we begin to develop the kind of buildings that have end users needs at heart so that we hit the performance sweet spot with certainty. The performance sweet spot being that place where value is realised for owners, occupiers and operators, as well as investors.   

GDPR Compliance

The new General data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into force on 25th May 2018. It means that we will have to be a bit more circumspect and transparent about how we hold others data and what we use it for.  The first step for Ollio is to have our client's permission to hold their details on our contact data base. I will be sending out an email shortly to ask all of our clients for this permission and to have them indicate their preference to stay on our contact data base so that we can keep them up to date with our story, and  the great things we are doing.  Meanwhile if you are not on our data base yet but would like to be, feel free to drop me a message through our Contact Us page. 

That's all for now. Hope you all had a good Easter break and looking forward to the summer.

Back to Main Menu