You are on page 1of 92

Smart Sustainability 2010

The first international symposium on best practices in sustainable innovation and clean technologies

with the support of

MIT Mobile Experience Lab Publishing

Smart Sustainability 2010

Best Practices in Sustainable Innovation and Clean Technologies

Copyright 2010 by Mobile Experience Lab All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. First printing 2011. ISBN-13: 9780982114438 ISBN-10: 0982114435 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

MIT Mobile Experience Lab Publishing /1st-annual-smart-sustainability-symposium Book designed by Pelin Arslan Edited by Michelle Dalton

// Index

Smart Sustainability Symposium. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Italian Commission Trade. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8-9

Chapter 1. Global Trends

Reinventing the Automobile . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Smart and Connected Communities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ICT-Based Urban Planning Initiatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . H2flOw Design for Increased Awareness of Smart Water Use . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12-20 21-24 25-27 28-34

Chapter 2. The Sustainable Connected Home

Energy Mobility Network. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36-39 Lighting: How the Electrochromic Faade Influences the Internal Lighting of the Sustainable Connected Home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40-47 Designing a Robust Energy Controller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48-51

Chapter 3. Building and Fabrication

The Three Autonomous Architectures of the Sustainable Connected Home. . . . . . . . . 53-69 MAI-IVALSA Modular House Meets MIT-Mobile Experience Lab . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70-75

Chapter 4. Energy Sustainability

FBKREET Energy Vision and the Positive Energy Building. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77-83 Toward Zero Energy Buildings: Optimized for Energy Use and Cost . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84-89

Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91

// Introduction

Smart Sustainability Symposium

The international symposium, Smart Sustainability 2010 was promoted by the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea, the Italian Trade Commission in New York, and the MIT Mobile Experience Laboratory. The event was organized at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, inspired by the notion of sustainability as developed by the United Nations World Summit in New York City in 2005. Among the declarations that the summit proclaimed was a recognition of the serious challenge posed by climate change and a commitment to take action through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The definition of sustainability has expanded embracing three requirements: that natural capital remains intact, defined as Environmental Sustainability, that development is financially feasible, defined as Economic Sustainability, and that the societal cohesion is maintained, defined as Social Sustainability. The three-pillar model places equal importance on environmental, social and economic considerations. By bringing together experts and scientists from different fields, the symposium provided a platform to discuss future opportunities for the creative use of information and communication technologies, as well as sustainable energy systems and sustainable architecture, with the aim of identifying new ways to improve the quality of interactions among people, architectural space and local environment.

Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea Italian Trade Commission
The Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea, and in particular the Department for Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Energy, together with the Italian Trade Commission, is pleased to be part of this important publication, which paves the way for exploring best practices in Sustainable Innovation and Clean Technologies. The Department for Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Energy at the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea promotes the protection of the environment thru the implementation of projects aimed at developing new technologies with high environmental efficiency, fostering collaborative initiatives around the world. The Italian Trade Commission is the official trade development and promotional agency for the Italian Government. Its mission is to support the internationalization of Italian firms and their consolidation in foreign markets. Together, the two aim to promote the use of Italian technologies and the involvement of Italian companies by encouraging scientific and commercial collaboration, and the exchange of best practices and know-how.

Our joint collaboration with MIT Mobile Experience Lab began in 2010 with the creation of Green Link, a networking platform aimed at exploring and promoting the use of green technologies and sustainable best practices via collaborative synergies between US and Italian companies, universities, and research centers to further develop advanced technologies for innovative energy systems. The positive and necessary role of public-private partnerships for economic growth and environmental protection is becoming ever more evident and accepted; this is particularly relevant when addressing urban sprawl and the integration of environmental strategies thru technology innovation and interaction between space and people. The urban environment as a critical component of the overall global environment, draws attention to climate change phenomena, and as we attempt to move forward we must focus on mitigation and adaptation solutions not in the limited sense of a reaction to a problem beyond our control, but rather as an evolutionary process that marries science and art. Science in the sense of technological advances as demonstrated by recent breakthroughs in energy innovation and Art in the sense of economic prosperity, environmental policy making, fiscal market mechanisms, social progress and interactions between individuals, businesses and the environment. It is with this expectation that we praise the work of MIT Mobile Experience Lab that has so diligently and vividly captured in this one volume the contributions of so many of experts. Corrado Clini Director General Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea Aniello Musella Executive Director for the USA Italian Trade Commission

// Global Trends


Reinventing the Automobile

by Ryan Chin, MIT Media Lab Smart Cities

The two biggest consumers of energy in urban areas are transportation and buildings. In 2007, the United Nations estimated that 60% of the population would be living in urban areas during the 21st century and would control more than 80% of the wealth. They would presumably also own, drive, or operate gasoline-consuming vehicles. Currently, as much as 40% of gasoline used by automobiles is expended while drivers look for parking spaces in congested urban areas, adding to already great urban energy demands. Transportation problems are rampant in cities. Personal vehicles are a major source of pollution and carbon emissions and contribute to growing congestion and noise pollution. Public transport does not cover the entire city, remains inconvenient, and does not address the first milelast mile problem of mass transit. In Taiwan, for example, there are 5.7 million cars (averaging 4 people per trip) and 13.6 million motorcycles and scooters (averaging 2 people per trip and accounting for 11% of the air pollution generated). Vehicle Sharing Vehicle sharing of all types is becoming more commonplace but the concept has not yet been fully embraced. In Paris, for example, 30,000 bicycles are rented daily. As of 2008, an additional 80 cities worldwide now offer bicycle sharing. The United States has plans for several cities to implement bicycle sharing, but work on those projects remains ongoing. The models are environmentally friendly and offer schemes similar to those for car rentals: a bicycle can be picked up from the closest rental rack and returned elsewhere. The one-way rental scheme is convenient and flexible, and complements the public transit model, while solving the first milelast mile problem. Twoway rental schemes require the return of the vehicle to the pick-up origin (this is useful for niche markets such as running errands); however, one-way rental schemes can dramatically affect how cities operate on an urban scale. Automobile sharing services are also becoming more convenient, with more than 600 cities worldwide offering some sort of car-sharing service. Currently, 5,000 automobiles in the United States are used in car-sharing programs.

global trends


Mobility-on-Demand Mobility-on-Demand (MoD) Systems is the MIT Media Labs newest design solution. It involves having a fleet of lightweight electric vehicles (scooters) scattered throughout a city at charging stations, where users can easily pick up a vehicle from one location and drop it off at another. For this program to succeed, the vehicles require batteries that can be rapidly charged at stations that have been integrated into a citys smart grid. Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers will allow users to locate the vehicles and navigate them to available charging stations. Battery management is essential to accommodate large peak loads because electrical demands may well overburden existing electric grids. A combination of rapid and slow charging battery systems will be an essential part of such a program. The core technology built for MITs three MoD vehicles involves in-wheel electric motors (Figure 1). Each wheel has an electric motor, integrated with suspension, steering, and braking, all inside what is called the Robot Wheel, an integral, self-contained module. Rather than placing the motor, suspension, steering, and braking systems throughout the platform of the vehicle, as in current vehicle design, these integral parts are contained within its four cornersthe wheels.

Figure 1. In-wheel electric motors are the core technology


The Robot Wheel permits a variety of different vehicle configurations, as it frees up the interior space of the vehicle. In essence, the wheel can be likened to a USB stick, an essential commodity product, with the vehicle taking the role of the finished element. By using the Robot Wheel, vehicles can be designed so that each wheel acts independently, controlled off one central processing unit. CityCar The CityCar is a two-passenger electric vehicle with in-wheel motors. One unique feature of this vehicle is its ability to turn on its own axis. Each wheel can turn approximately 50 degrees, thus enabling zero-radius turns. The CityCar can collapse and fold to about 40% of its footprint (Figure 2). When folded, three CityCars are able to fit into one traditional parking space. Because the CityCar can fit within the width of a parking space, a citys streetscape can be altered to accommodate significantly more vehicles, making better use of the space. Figure 2. The CityCar, fully expanded mode and collapsed.

The CityCar has been designed so that entry and exit is through the front of the vehicle. Reconfiguring the design of the car and entry and exit allows drivers to step out safely onto the street or sidewalk and increase pedestrian and bicycle safety (as this design will eliminate having to open doors out onto the street). Figure 2 also provides weight and size comparisons of the CityCar versus traditional cars. The prototype CityCar will weigh approximately 1,000 pounds. By comparison, a conventional 4-door sedan can weigh 3,500 pounds or more.

global trends


The CityCar is viable both for old-world cities (such as those in Europe that must decrease the amount of pollution cars generate) and for cities where car ownership is onerous (such as Hong Kong, where automobile costs are roughly three times that of the United States). In congested cities, pick-up and drop-off points can become social gathering places, with the potential to increase business for shops in the immediate vicinity. The MoD systems can function as networks, where the drop-off points are hot spots for transportation activity and energizers for neighborhoods. For example, a convenience store or coffee shop with a charging station out front could see an increase in the flow of foot traffic. CityCar networks can be developed relatively quickly, unlike traditional train stations, which might require a decade or more to build. Figure 3 shows how the concept would fit into a city such as Singapore, where public transit is used by a majority of residents, but where first milelast mile remains a challenge. Figure 3. Artists rendering of how the CityCar concept can be integrated into a cityscape.

The next phase of this project will be commercialization. MIT has partnered with a Media Lab sponsor to make the CityCar commercially available within 3 years. The two groups will have a fully functional prototype by the summer of 2011 and will immediately build an additional 20 units for demonstration and testing.


Nearly four folded CityCars can fit in one traditional parking space (Figure 4), changing the entire urban landscape, particularly for on-street parking. A traditional parking lot typically accommodates 100 vehicles on the bottom and 100 vehicles on the top. The CityCar can reduce that footprint by almost four to one. If the vehicles become shared-use instead of single-owned and single-used, an aisle will no longer be necessary. In a shared-use scenario, the parking structure would function almost like a Pez dispenser. When a car is required, the next car in the queue will be pulled into use. By re-thinking the parking structure itself, developers can conserve space and save money.

Figure 4. Compared with traditional automobiles, the CityCar has a much smaller parking footprint.

RoboScooter MIT, Sanyang Motors (SYM), and Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan (ITRI) have collaborated in the design of a single-passenger vehicle that uses a scaled-down version of in-wheel motors (Figure 5). This vehicle, when folded, can fit into the closet of a small apartment. In some cities where parking is challenging, further compacting an already small vehicle could prove invaluable. The RoboScooter has a removable battery pack, which can be recharged at a users home or swapped at battery vending machines. The RoboScooter weighs approximately 45 kg but has about one-tenth the number of parts of a traditional scooter.

global trends


Figure 5. The fully expanded RoboScooter and a folded vehicle.

GreenWheel GreenWheel, developed by the MIT Media Lab Smart Cities, is a modular, in-wheel electric motor that transforms any pedal-powered bicycle into an electrically assisted hybrid bicycle (otherwise known as the E-bike). A joint workshop between the MIT Mobile Experience Lab and the Smart Cities Group has encouraged further innovation. GreenWheels was combined with mobile phone and sensors.1 The joint effort has encouraged exploration of a variety of topics, including social navigation, distributed data sensing, healthcare, optimization of bike-sharing racks, peer-to-peer freight, urban races, and civic engagement. The GreenWheel Smart Bicycle is an electric-assist bicycle: the motor and battery are integrated inside the hub space of the wheel, enabling electric power to be provided to the rear wheel whenever the rider desires. A pressure sensor embedded in the pedals activates the rear motor. Thus, when the rider exerts force during pedaling, the GreenWheel provides power to a level set by the rider. In turn, the rider can climb hills more efficiently and travel longer distances. Using a wireless throttle, the rider can release energy stored in the generator while braking to support pedaling during more difficult stretches. Creating bikes that can recycle their own energy and even make small contributions to the grid provides numerous opportunities.

GreenWheel Scenarios, accessed March 12, 2011.


The GreenWheel project is not limited to power microgeneration. Its combination of software and electronics creates a new platform for sustainable mobility, including having a battery that should extend for 30 km. Figures 6 and 7 illustrate the details and specifications of the technology. Figure 6. A cut-away detail of the GreenWheel technology used in the GreenWheel Smart Bicycle.

Figure 7. Performance specifications for the GreenWheel.

global trends


The GreenWheel uses a brushless DC motor; thus, only the outer casing rotates. Because there is no large rotational mass, as users slow the bicycle down, a reduced amount of energy is required compared with that required of vehicles with large engines. When the engine is engaged, the rider can continue pedaling, helping the battery achieve its 30 km range/charge. The motor and gearbox are configured to provide enough torque and power to overcome a 15-degree incline. The battery has been designed to quick charge as well (estimates predict 20 to 25 minutes to fully charge). The top speed is 20 miles per hour (30 km/hr). The MIT Mobile Experience Lab has also developed a mobile application for the GreenWheel bicycle that calculates performance, rider energy consumption, and environmental conditions while traveling. The application is designed to be mounted on the bicycles handlebars and provides a number of modes that aid the rider. It has been designed to minimize the complexity of the information and decrease the risk of accident associated with unnecessary distractions. The following issues have been addressed: Performance This mode allows the rider to compare the speed and effort being expended with the power assist that is created. The rider also can monitor the length of time for a trip and the distance traveled in real time. Health Monitoring This mode provides the total calories burned during the ride as well as the current calories (kcal) per minute. To burn more calories, the rider can optimize performance by adjusting the GreenWheels assist level. GreenWheel Status This mode shows the current status of the GreenWheel itself. In addition to showing the distance traveled, it shows how much farther the rider can go using the power assist.


Environment This mode shows riders how they are helping the environment and their wallet by calculating what an equivalent trip would cost by car. The monetary cost of fuel is shown as well as the environmental impact in grams of CO2. The rider can set the characteristics of the vehicle in the preferences.2 When the production of MoD systems is fully implemented, the cumulative battery storage that can be provided from the 4,000 vehicles becomes part of an operator network. In a city such as Boston (where approximately 300,000 private vehicles exist), the MoD vehicle fleet represents just over 1% of the total. These vehicles could be charged overnight, when electricity use is lower. In the daytime, the MoD vehicles could absorb energy from solar, wind, or any other kind of intermittent renewable power. Simultaneously, these vehicles can return power back to the grid. Vehicle-to-grid power return is now in experimental form in several locations. Questions being addressed include how a large fleet of vehicles can act as additional energy storage for the utility grid and whether the vehicle can be combined into a mobility device and an energy device to reduce the need for backup power plants (spinning reserves) in cities. Challenges such as pricing structures, safety issues (such as how to incorporate the use of baby seats), remain. MIT is in the early stages of designing a four-passenger vehicle and is considering developing a six-passenger minivan that would incorporate the concepts of MoD.

GreenWheel Scenarios, accessed March 12, 2011.

global trends


Smart and Connected Communities

Notes based on the presentation made by Relina Bulchandani, Global Lead Connected Real Estate, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG)

Using advanced technology and design practices, the Mobile Experience Lab is devising sustainable solutions for transportation and real estate development. Through prototypes and proofs of concept, the Connected Urban Development project can help mayors around the world promote sustainable policies and practices as they move toward an integrated vision of the city of the future. The Mobile Experience Lab and Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) envision four areas of opportunity: First, people will be able to move around and interact with their city through citizen engagement points, a seamless integration of physical and virtual environments, through ad-hoc car and bike sharing. Second, the smart city will embrace the energy contributions of its citizens by taking advantage of opportunities for microgeneration, such as regenerative brakes on bicycles, or the use of piezoelectric generators on dance floors. Third, existing buildings will be retrofitted to be sustainable, configurable, and flexible to allow the hyper-efficient use of energy and space. Finally, cities and citizens will be able to collaborate on the efficient use of resources by using new technologies such as open-source eco-maps that monitor land use and environmental effects (Figure 1). Figure 1. Smart+Connected Communities.


Compared with agricultural regions, cities use significantly more energy. According to an IBSG study, within 20 years, a city of 5 million people networked with information and communications technologies can increase city revenues by $15 billion, increase GDP growth by about 9.5%, create approximately 375,000 new jobs, and become more energy efficient, while consuming 30% less energy than a city without such a network (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Interconnecting information services and building services.

Intelligent Buildings IBSG is devising intelligent buildings, where information technology and building management can be merged by inputting data onto an IP network. For example, floor monitors can automatically turn lights off if no people are on a floor at a given time. IBSG implemented this concept in Bangalore, India, at its globalization campus. The company took 9,000 points and converged them over the IP network. By monitoring and managing their own energy usage, people are becoming more conscientious about their energy choices. The i-Waterfront IBSG is now working on revitalizing the Toronto, Canada, waterfront. Currently the largest urban renewal project in North America, the area encompasses about 800 hectares of land.

global trends


City planners are working with building developers to ensure that sustainability features are incorporated into the vision. A key component for the Toronto project is i-Waterfront Toronto, which combines a physical environment that enables community members to congregate and develop their own applications over a base platform. The project, based on an operational prototype in Vsters, Sweden, links the online world to the offline world. Smart Work Centers As part of the Clinton Global Initiative, IBSG and MIT collaborated on Smart Work Centers. In Amsterdam, for example, the amount of time and energy people used to commute to work was unacceptable. Smart Work Centers reduce carbon footprints by reducing the amount of traffic and emissions by allowing people to shorten their commutes. Workplace costs are also decreased, and the concept facilitates an environment for communities, employers, and employees. The traditional office has been disrupted with this concept. Technology is, in essence, creating another subgroup of people who tend to congregate at the same work centers, even if they are not coworkers. In Korea, there are now 500 national smart work centers planned as part of the current governments Green Growth Committee of the Presidential House. IBSG and MIT are further collaborating on an Urban EcoMap, where an individual can determine transportation options, waste data, and energy costs for those options, by zip code. The Urban EcoMap is an interactive decision space that empowers individual citizens to make informed decisions about their daily lives, along with how to participate in the vitality of their communities. [The projects] aim to build awareness, foster a sense of community, and provide actions for citizens to take to enable the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in cities. Although both Amsterdam and San Francisco have approximately the same number of residents, Amsterdam produces less than half the residential CO2 emissions per capita than San Francisco does (Figure 3). In San Francisco, transportation is responsible for 78.1% of residential CO2 emissions; however, in Amsterdam, energy consumption is the culprit, accounting for 63.7% of emissions.


Figure 3. Urban EcoMaps of Amsterdam and San Francisco.

Citizens can consult the network to make informed decisions about their consumption of energy based on their personal EcoMaps, their personal carbon footprints, and their personal workplace locators. A similar idea is being developed in Seoul, Korea, where a personal travel assistant will enable users to opt for the greenest route when commuting somewhere. The local government is incentivizing people to become more ecologically conscious by offering green frequent flyer rewards that can be redeemed for groceries or used for drivers license renewals. There are multiple approaches to achieving sustainability. These are but a few that MIT and IBSG are jointly developing.

global trends


ICT-Based Urban Planning Initiatives: Facilitators of Movement, Communication, and Opportunity

Abby Spinak, MIT Mobile Experience Lab

Although information and communication technologies (ICT) might help build a more sustainable world, social connectivity and environmental sustainability must be a primary concern when implementing these technologies. Discussions of future communities should emphasize residents continued access to information and opportunities, greater civic engagement, and more efficient coordination of local resources for all residents (Figure 1). Integrating ICT into the design of future communities can help achieve those goals, as outlined below. Figure 1. Information and communication technologies and socially sustainable cities.

There are several key areas in which ICT should be used to design socially sustainable cities, including improved public information and public Internet access, dependable transportation, increased opportunities for public engagement, flexible work and commuting options, and mixed-use neighborhoods that encourage sustainability.


Public Information and Internet Access In urban areas, public services can be improved through widespread public Internet access. For residents without access to smart phones or other Internet-enabled mobile devices, publicly accessible Internet terminals (woven into public transportation [similar to the IBSG/San Francisco Connected Bus initiative] or into other public spaces such as libraries or government buildings) can make a city more accessible for a wider variety of residents. Where Internet connectivity is not possible or feasible, cities have a responsibility to their residents to make services responsive to a variety of communications technologies to improve accessibility and dependability. Cities can, for example, take advantage of the widespread use of mobile phones (non-smart phones) by setting up systems that use text messaging to distribute information about public transit schedules or that allow residents to report a problem with public amenities in real time. Flexible, Affordable, and Dependable Transportation A more accessible city is a more equitable, healthy, and vibrant city. Recent demand-based multimodal transit models that rely on ICT promise to make public transportation as convenient as, and more pleasant than, private automobiles. These models enhance urban access by connecting poorly served geographic areas of variable density into a metropolitan network and by extending the functionalities of more personalized transit to residents without their own transportation. Additionally, such transit models have been shown to strengthen neighborhoods by increasing street traffic and local business demand. This model of public transportation is exemplified by such initiatives as: 1. Demand Responsive Transit (DRT) systemsA user-oriented form of public transport characterized by flexible routing and scheduling of small to medium vehicles operating in shared-ride mode between pick-up and drop-off locations according to passengers needs3; 2. Employee shuttlesSimilar to DRT systems, these shuttle services offer commuting options to employees in geographically spread-out communities. By including onboard Wi-Fi or other services, these shuttles make commuting a productive and pleasant experience and help employees achieve a better work/life balance. In addition to the more traditional single-company

European Commission, ManagEnergy, 2011, accessed March 13, 2011, <>

global trends


shuttles, some shuttle services are starting to serve business districts, where many companies have employees with similar residential distributions; and 3. Personal transit options, such as car-sharing or bike-sharing programs These shared-use small vehicles reduce the need for private personal vehicles, while providing the flexible capabilities of a personal vehicle accessible on an as-needed basis. Opportunities for Public Engagement Public participation in community planning, city service provision, and local cultural development can dramatically increase the effectiveness of public programs and create more vibrant, inclusive communities. New technological tools that connect citizens and collect or disseminate information make participation in local government or citizen group activities more convenient, accessible, and easy to use. Such tools can facilitate civic participation. Examples of recent ICT-enabled community participation initiatives include mobilizing online communities to reward good business practices, creating Web sites to keep track of public infrastructure problems, and using public art projects that employ digital markers in real space to stimulate public interest in places or events and to teach public history. Flexible Work and Commuting Options Non-productive commuting time negatively impacts many quality-oflife indicators, from individual health to civic engagement. In addition to increasing flexible work arrangements, ICT can connect those within a community by providing them with personalized transportation options to better integrate work and life demands. These commuting options can enhance both professional and personal productivity for riders. Mixed-Use Neighborhoods Mixed-use neighborhoods stereotypically score high on sustainability measures and can become more than just a way of allocating space for houses and work places. Sustainability initiatives that combine new technologies with social ends make possible fluid lifestyles that contribute to vibrant communities. Well-designed ICT applications blur spatial boundaries, allowing people to work, play, participate, and organize from different locations in ways that are accessible and meaningful for each individual.


H2flOw Design for Increased Awareness of Smart Water Use

Liselott Brunnberg, PhD, MIT Mobile Experience Lab

The term smart sustainability implies an already educated and socially aware citizen. The H2flOw project aims to help communities develop awareness and educate their youth population about sustainable water use and, by extension, sustainable living. Clean water is essential to sustain life on earth. This resource must be protected and made accessible to all, but factors such as melting glaciers, shifting rainfall patterns, pollution, and privatization contribute to fresh water depletion and misuse of water resources. Coupled with a constant population growth, providing sufficient, clean water is likely to remain one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century4 . Modern lifestyles contribute to polluted water resources, increased global warming, and large quantities of water consumption. Consequently, an urgent need exists for communities to address the issue and to make citizens aware of their daily use of water. The H2flOw project has undertaken the challenge by engaging the attention of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15. H2flOw embraces an explorative and place-based learning approach, meaning that the students discover and explore the topic in their own local environments, such as their school, neighborhood, community, and city. By establishing a connection between sustainable issues and the immediate local context, the project will inspire young people to reflect on their everyday choices about water consumption and to foster community engagement. Through a combination of Web, mobile applications, and constructible, tangible interfaces, the project envisions a technological ecosystem as a resource for education and community awareness and sharing. H2flOw is a collaboration between the MIT Mobile Experience Lab and FBK/Science Museum in Trento, Italy. Although the project is housed at the Science Museum, it incorporates schools, home environments, and the city of Trento. Two different designs are currently being developed as part of the projects goals.
World Water Assessment Programme, 2009, 3rd UN World Water Development Report: Water in a Changing World, accessed March 13, 2011, <http//>

global trends


1. CUPa do-it-yourself probe to increase awareness of water consumption in the home. In this hands-on activity, participants engage in a do-it-yourself construction session, where they will build their own probe to measure the quantity of water consumed from faucets in their residences, e.g., at the bathtub, shower, garden tap or kitchen sink (Figure 1). Participating teenagers will then have the resources necessary to explore, investigate, or measure water consumption. Awareness by the teenager will lead to awareness among other household residents, who will become more conscious of their water consumption, from brushing teeth to showering.

Figure 1. Designing a water flow meter.

Given the age of the participants, the probe is designed with inexpensive materials and sensors, and is something that could easily be built by a teenager. A paper cup and a cheap microprocessor, simple sensors, and LEDs comprise the probe; a thermometer is used to indicate water temperature. The probe must first be calibrated by holding it under the faucet until the cup is filled to calculate water flow. A Piezo transducer microphone attached to the probe will capture the sound of the water flow. The microphone will then be attached to the water pipe. A microprocessor interprets the sound and, using the already calculated water flow value, can assess the amount of water consumption.


Lights and ambient sounds function as feedback indicators, giving participants a real-time awareness of consumed water to keep the teenager involved and engaged in the process. The ambient sound alters with variations in the temperature and amount of consumed water. The metaphor of a 10-liter bucket is used so that project participants can visualize quantity. This bucket simulates an environment without a water infrastructure and communicates how often participants would have to visit a well to maintain their lifestyles. A vertical row of 10 LEDs on the cup simulates the buckets rising water levels, with one LED representing 1 liter of consumed water. Sound effects are used to simulate the full bucket and when the participant must start over again. The teenagers can use a mobile phone to record videos and report findings on actual versus perceived water consumption in the home by using Locast (Figure 2). Locast is a location-based platform developed in the MIT Mobile Experience Lab that combines distributed Web and Mobile applications to create hyper-local and highly connected experiences. Locast allows users to share videos theyve recorded on mobile devices for immediate uploading onto the Internet to engage the entire community. Data about consumed water quantity can be transferred from the probe to the mobile phone through sound communication (similar to a modem). Video reports and water quantity data can also be uploaded to the Locast Web site to enable school classes to discuss their findings and develop ideas for sustainable water use. Figure 2. Using Locast on the mobile phone

global trends


2. Water Wisecreating documentaries to increase awareness of water usage and consumption The second design introduces the idea of a guided video production by using mobile phones and the Locast platform. Mobile phones now provide teenagers with a tool for explorative learning and civic media creation within their own cities. Teenagers can take on the role of citizen journalists and create short documentaries to raise the city of Trentos awareness about sustainable water use. The Trento region is surrounded by glaciers, and therefore, is rich in highquality water resources. Italy, however, consumes more bottled water than any other European country, and ranks second in bottled water consumption worldwide, after Mexico5. Bottled water in Trento is more expensive and of inferior quality to the tap water in that area. Although the majority of Trentos inhabitants consume bottled water (72.1%), consumption remains less than the national average of Italy. (87%)6 Nonetheless, the enormous amount of plastic water bottles fabricated each year creates an immense drain on resources and contributes to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Drayage (transportation of goods a short distance) alone further drains fossil fuels, contributing to CO2 emissions as they burn. The increase in global atmospheric CO2 concentrations is considered to be the main cause of global warming and hence the increase in global average temperatures.7 Glaciers are disappearing worldwide at an alarming rate as a result of the earths increased temperatures. The glaciers in northern Italy have decreased dramatically during the past 40 years, especially since 19808 and many glaciers are now smaller than they have been for thousands of years.

International Bottled Water Association, Bottled Water Reporter, May/April 2010, accessed March 13, 2011, <http://>

Federconsumatori, 2008, Acqua in Bottiglia: LAffare dellAcqua, accessed March 13, 2011, <>

Solomon, S, Qin, D, Manning, M, Chen, Z, Marquis, M, Averyt, KB, Tignor, M, & H.L. Miller [eds.] 2007, IPCC, 2007: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, accessed March 13, 2011,

United Nations Environment Programme. Global Glacier Changes: facts and figures, accessed March 13, 2011,


In the Trento region, glacier loss was about 39% from 1993 to 2003, and it is predicted by the World Wildlife Federation that the European Alps will lose major parts of their glacier coverage within the next few decades9. Melting glaciers could trigger floods and landslides and result in a scarcity of water. As part of H2flOw, teenagers can investigate and learn about water usage by carrying out different missions, collecting data, and developing opinions on the subject. Pre-recorded videos introduce each mission, complete with background information and end goals. To complete a mission the students will be required to record a video that illustrates the issues surrounding water usage (Figure 3). For example, the teenagers can create a video survey by asking the general public about the types of water they generally consume, investigating the types of bottles on grocery store shelves, interviewing employees of the store, and reporting about calculated CO2 emission related to the production and transportation of a product. The video clips created during a mission can make up a scene in the documentary. The mobile application will automatically stitch the video clips together into a narrative.

Figure 3. Teenagers using the H2flow application.

World Wildlife Federation, Going, Going, Gone! Climate Change and Global Glacier Decline, accessed March 13, 2011, <>

global trends


The videos themselves would be template-driven. Each video recording template provides the user with a shot list, a list of the videos needed to create the intended content. The shot list is sequentially presented on the mobile screen, and each presented shot automatically stops recording after a preset number of seconds (Figure 4). The shot list inspires users to work with short video clips, different camera angles and types of video shots, e.g., long shots, close-ups, and panoramas. The application provides a set of defined templates, including those needed for an interview, a report, a vox populi (voice of the people), or a panel discussion.

Figure 4. Screenshot of video recording template.

Depending on the mission and how the participants choose to approach it, different templates will work better than others; therefore, users should select templates that best correspond to their concept of the mission. Each mission results in geo-referenced video clips that are uploaded and shared on the Locast Web site (Figure 5). These clips can later be viewed as video reports on a map according to where they were shot or be combined into a narrative and viewed as a documentary. Through this exploration process, participants will better comprehend the role of water and environmental issues concerning water in their community. Participants will learn about global issues related to sustainable water use, such as the impact of bottled water consumption on the environment and the future of water resources.


But this project also will contribute to an increased awareness about local matters, such as differences in citizens perception of water use and the extent of bottled water consumption in a local community, and will provide a perspective on the citys future and the existing water resources in the region. This process will provide teenagers not only with a local but also with a worldview on the topic of sustainable water use.

Figure 5. The Locast Web site.

Implementation of H2flOw is also scheduled for Sao Paulo, Brazil. In that undertaking, more than 5,000 students will be involved in creating media content about sustainability water issues related to their particular cities. Sharing the created content on the Locast Web site will create awareness of local issues on a global scale. Schools can then use this online resource to teach about local and distant situations.

// The Sustainable Connected Home


Energy Mobility Network

Natalie Cheung, MIT Mobile Experience Lab

Within the Sustainable Connected Home Project is the Energy Mobility Network, first created to provide more information to users about their consumption of electricity. In todays society, it is common is to turn an electronic device on and leave it running, with little to no thought about energy consumption. The Energy Mobility Network project aims to raise awareness about wasting energy. There are three main goals in this project: First, alter peoples perception of their energy consumption by using just-intime feedback as a means to modify behavior. Just-in-time feedback allows the user to see how much electricity is consumed in any given hour and the difference in costs when the electricity is used at different hours of the day. Second, move from a device-centric mode of thought to a human-centered mode of control, where people, instead of devices, are the main components of the interaction. Third, change peoples perceptions about electricity. Electricity should be a social responsibility instead of an individual responsibility. The overall system design is illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Energy mobility network, system design.

sustainable connected home


As shown in Figure 1, the user communicates with the Energy Mobility Network by using a device that has been dubbed the Energy ID. The Energy ID helps turn devices on and off that the user wants to access. All of these devices are plugged into outlets that are directly sourced to the electrical grid. The Energy ID shows the energy consumption and costs of that energy in real time (just-in-time feedback) and in an easy-to-understand manner. A more tech-savvy user might have an Energy ID in the form of a mobile device that displays energy costs in terms of kilowatts; whereas, a person who is more interested in the amount of money spent might wish to see energy usage in terms of the local currency. The Energy ID interface will allow users to identify which devices are available, which networked friends are available, and which devices are in use. An example of what the interface may look like is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Energy ID interface.

The Energy ID can be embodied in different objects as preferred by the enduser. A tech-savvy user might prefer using a mobile device to access Energy ID information, whereas a family planner might prefer having it on a watch and a teenager might prefer having it on a key fob. Information can be further customized so that the family planner can access information on costs, consumption, and usage, and the tech-savvy user can access information on energy regulations or fluctuations in the consumption and cost of that energy.


A teenager might prefer having an Energy ID that is reflective of energy consumption by a given social group rather than that of an individuals use. The system will calculate cost based on several factors: the amount of time used, the amount of electricity being consumed, and the users profile. Each Energy ID user has a profile, which is also a fluid identity that changes based on the context and the persons location. For instance, if the user is at school, the system recognizes the user as a student. If the user is at a friends home, the system recognizes the user as a guest. The Energy ID recognizes the various profiles and charges the user accordingly. Energy costs and charges depend upon the context in which someone uses a device. A student, for example, might be charged only 50% of the energy cost and the school would cover the other 50%. At home, however, a user would be assessed 100% of the energy costs.Based on the final system design, the MIT Mobile Experience Lab has created a prototype that provides instantaneous feedback to the user, allowing the user to turn devices on and off. The current prototype uses a Zigbee device that allows remote wireless connections in the system and among users and outlets. Zigbee is a small, low-power radio system that will stream data about the user back and forth from the Energy ID, outlet, and the server. For instance, the user could get information from his Zigbee about his current electricity consumption costs and could have it displayed on his Energy ID. The system also integrates a Kent Display, a cholesteric liquid crystal display, as the new screen. The Kent Display is aesthetically similar to an LCD display, but it consumes minimal power. This new technology is essential to energy efficiency because the screen stays on even when there is no power to it. This allows for minimal power in the Energy Mobility Network. Passive and active users will require different Energy ID devices. For passive users, ultraviolet (UV) technology will be integrated into the system. The passive users would carry devices similar to those in the first row of Figure 3, e.g., a key fob, bracelet, or card. When the user accesses the Energy Mobility Network system, the Energy ID will appear similar to the devices shown in the second row of Figure 3. The colors seen in the UV light signify the amount of electricity the user consumed and saved. The saturation of color will depend on the specific amount of electricity consumed or produced. The color will change based on information in the database to communicate information to the end-user.

sustainable connected home


Figure 3. Examples of passive devices that use UV light.

For more tech-savvy users or more active users, the Energy ID can be incorporated into a mobile device. The Energy Mobility Network has an additional feature: The system can be configured to calculate co-shared costs, such as when two people are watching television together. The cost of using the television can be divided by the number of people who are watching a program. Although this adds a level of sophistication and complication to the system, it allows users to make conscious decisions about energy usage. When two people watch television together, one can offer to pay for the event, similar to social situations where one person picks up the cost for the whole group (such as dinner, drinks, or theater/movie tickets). Furthermore, with information logged into the database over time, the system will also be able to identify patterns of energy consumption to help users become more energy efficient. The system can detect when certain devices are being used, such as when the user turns on the television or which devices are used most frequently on specific days of the week, or at what time of the day the user consumes the most electricity. The system can then suggest ways to conserve electricity in the long run. The Energy Mobility Network gives users an alternate view of electricity. By making energy use a real-time measurable event, end-users can determine when using the device in question is most cost-efficient. The network will further accommodate the user by remotely turning devices on and off. These additional features of the network can bring awareness of energy consumption to new levels, creating a new social realm for the future.


Lighting: How the Electrochromic Faade Influences the Internal Lighting of the Sustainable Connected Home
Guglielmo Carra, MIT Mobile Experience Lab

Several recent studies have shown that buildings account for 50% of the total emissions of CO2 in the atmosphere. A primary factor affecting the rate is the emissions created to make buildings visually and thermally comfortable. The Mobile Experience Laboratory is developing a building that combines a strong sensitivity to environmental issues by implementing cutting-edge materials and construction techniques that emphasize sustainable living. This will be accomplished through the use of information technologies that educate and guide consumers toward the benefits of having an eco-friendly lifestyle. The Sustainable Connected Home incorporates environmentally sound materials and systems: wooden walls and ceilings, X-lam technology, heavy insulation offering low thermal transmittance values (U), and rooftop photovoltaic and solar thermal systems. Sensors installed throughout the home will continuously monitor energy consumption, sending data to graphic interfaces to inform the occupants of their energy consumption, thus raising their awareness about energy choices. The south glazed faade of the Sustainable Connected Home plays a significant role in this process. This faade incorporates the green concepts of a contemporary, dynamic, and transparent home. The sustainable architecture is both environmentally and socially friendly and appealing. The windows serve a dual purpose: a visual connection between people and the outside environment, and a technical component that can increase the efficiency of the buildings use of light and energy. Large glass faades are often perceived as an element of discomfort owing to glare from the sun and sky. They are also known to disperse heat necessary to keep buildings warm in cold weather and cool in warm weather, and create condensation in humid climates.

sustainable connected home


These obstacles are evident with static glass faades that are incapable of reacting to changing weather conditions. Dynamic glass faades, however, respond to various environmental conditions. They provide increased natural and artificial lighting only in the areas being used and might block out visibility altogether where privacy is desired, as in a bedroom. The window element has a thermal transmittance greater than other building materials, but through a proper control, it can collect and store solar energy for use when needed. The strength of the Sustainable Connected Home lies in the dynamic control of its integrated systems. Installed on the south faade are 100 electrochromic windows that adapt to the environment by modifying their transparency and coloring, and automatically changing their opening to maximize the airflow through the building. Each window can work individually or as part of the overall structure. Managing the flow of light and heat through a low-voltage electric current will optimize natural lighting and lessen energy consumption. The current lowers the transmittance value of the glass from as high as 80% to as low as 3%. Within the window module, an opaque film (PDLC) increases the ability of the occupant to obscure the view without affecting the transmittance values of the glass. In this manner, occupants can maintain the desired level of privacy. Understanding daylight was required to determine how to improve the internal lighting of the prototype. This was achieved in part by alternating the number and distribution of active and inactive windows and maximizing the use of electrochromic technology. Two software products (Relux Professional and Relux Vision, produced by the Swiss company Software AG) were used during the simulation process. The prototype was analyzed according to the illumination standards of the Commission Internationale de lEclairage (CIE), implemented in the software itself, referencing the Italian law on residential lighting. Table 1 shows the values for the main parameters of the law, including the average illuminance that must be more than 500 lux, and the uniformity of illumination (G1).


Table 1. Values of reference for Italian residential buildings, European technical standards adopted by Italian law.

The daylight simulation uses the two models provided by the CIE: Standard Overcast Sky distribution (the sky is the only source of light radiation) and Standard Clear Sky distribution (the sun is the only source of light radiation). The system will exclude temporary phenomena with the help of a system of sensors, still in development, that will simulate external conditions and optimize data collection. Figure 1. Typical distribution of illuminance inside the house in daylight conditions.

The initial analysis began with conditions in which the faade was completely transparent; all window modules were inactivated to permit the dataset to analyze the faades behavior at this basic level. The next stage of the analysis was to understand how activation of the electrochromic window, or groups of windows, influenced the internal parameters of illumination. Various geometric configurations were analyzed (primarily along horizontal and vertical lines) to determine how they bind to the lighting inside the prototype. We found that the position of the horizontal lines is important for the internal verification and varying their on-off placement the results are significantly different.

sustainable connected home


The placement of the windows plus the light filtered through the line of windows influenced the ratio of direct to reflected light. During the simulation of several vertical patterns, the number of active or inactive modulesthat is, the electrochromic coverage ratio was expected to have different effects on the interior lighting.

Figure 2. Eight patterns of vertical electrochromic lines in the south faade.

Each pattern, however, resulted in similar lighting conditions, or equivalence class, and each had a consistent value of interior lighting. It is possible then to activate a particular number of windows in a preset geometric pattern and yield the same value of interior lighting as you would achieve with a completely different geometric configuration. This can be accomplished by achieving the same electrochromic coverage ratio. Thus, it is possible to change from one pattern to another, within the same equivalence class, and consistently provide the optimal balance of energy to meet the specific needs of the occupants. It has been demonstrated, by comparing configurations at different periods of time, that it is possible to generalize this principle for both CIE calculation models.


Figure 3. Scheme used for the creation of mixed cases between the 1st and 8th cases, comparison between the internal lighting values for three mixed patterns.

The main challenge was to determine the specific number of windows that require activation at specific times of the year to create an internal environment suitable for the occupants. It was important to determine how many modules had to be activated and how many had to be inactivated. As previously mentioned, all temporary environmental phenomena (such as the passage of a cloud in the sky that obscured the sun) were excluded from this process. The sensor system installed in the prototype would reorganize the faade and automatically set up the new number of windows to be activated to correspond with each phenomenon. Figure 4 provides the relation between the number of active windows and the value of the internal illuminance.

sustainable connected home


Figure 4: Table and relatives values showing the relation between the number of active windows and the value of illuminance inside the house for the 21st of December at 1 PM in a Standard Overcast Sky distribution.

The simulation provided enough data to determine the number of windows that required activation to reach 500 lux. Now, we can determine the lux value that will provide sufficient light at a given time of day, in a particular month of the year, with a specific number of windows in a given geometric pattern. The number of active windows is the minimum number by which to reach the threshold value; however, it is also possible to define a scale of values for different levels of illumination for special needs. In this way, the illumination performance of the Sustainable Connected Home can be determined throughout the year for any external lighting condition. In overcast conditions, fewer windows in the faade will be in the on position. This permits the maximum amount of natural daylight to filter into the Sustainable Connected Home (Figure 5). When the sky is overcast, the number of windows requiring activation depends on the value of the light radiation produced from the sky. With a clear sky, the number of windows remains constant throughout the year, and the entire faade must be active to maintain the values around 500 lux. In this case, the faade would be turned on only when it is necessary to reduce discomfort associated with areas saturated in direct sunlight. Areas not affected by the activities of occupants can remain inactive. This allows natural light to be used, especially in the colder months, to raise the interior temperature of the house.


Figure 5. The number of windows that must be active throughout the year at 1 PM for an Overcast Sky distribution and a Clear Sky distribution.

Additional research is required to develop a system of artificial lighting that follows the same principle of the pixels adopted in the faade. If the electrochromic pixels correspond to windows being on or off, the inner pixels are defined by turning on spotlights grafted onto a rectangular grid with square module. This grid can trace all possible paths within the building, so that every place in the house can be illuminated as needed. The light will follow the movement of the occupants and turn on and off accordingly. The lights will also have the ability to vary the opening of the light cone and rotate (with limited angles) around the installation axis.

sustainable connected home


Figure 6. Examples of activation of organic pixels for defined paths inside the Sustainable Connected Home. The cyan picks resemble the highest values of light from the presence of a spotlight.

Sensors are used to scan the probable path of the inhabitants. Lighting energy consumption can be optimized because artificial light will be present only where there is activity within the house. The automated features will turn off artificial lighting when it is not in use. The artificial lighting system also maintains the uniformity of lighting conditions throughout the house. This overall process alerts occupants about their lighting consumption and permits the system to correct less sustainable habits.


Designing a Robust Energy Controller

Wesley Graybill, Masahiro Ono, Brian Williams, MIT, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

Numerous components of the home require energy or different resources to operate. For example, the heating system, TV, microwave oven, lighting, and other electronic devices require electricity, while the dishwasher, washing machine, and air conditioning require water and electricity. Since resources are limited or expensive, the goal of an energy controller should be to control the components of the home and minimize the use of resources, while still meeting the needs of the residents. The primary goal of a recent study is to minimize the energy consumed by the heating ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, while maintaining comfortable temperature levels for the inhabitants. Temperature Control Issues The target variable that we wish to control is the internal temperature of the home (Tin). The Tin is influenced by a combination of the outside temperature via conduction through the walls, solar radiation through the windows, and the HVAC system. Traditional homes typically use only the HVAC system as a means of controlling the temperature. The prototype home will have electrochromic windows, which allow the controller to dynamically change the tinting on the windows. This effectively allows the system to control the solar radiation entering the home. Ideally, the dynamic windows use solar energy to heat the house in the winter, reducing use of the heating system, if not eliminating it altogether. Conversely, in the summer, the windows can be manipulated to block the suns rays so the air-conditioning system is not required often, if at all. Inherent in this formulation is a level of uncertainty, including solar heat input as well as outside temperatures. The controller must manage the HVAC system and electrochromic windows so that the indoor temperatures remain in the comfort range of the resident, even in the face of this uncertainty (Figure 1).

sustainable connected home


Figure 1. Problem formulation.

There are numerous advantages to the dynamic windows. The variable tinting on the windows permits flexibility. When dynamic windows are in use, they can block solar heat during hot summer days, thus reducing AC use. They can also capture solar heat during warm winter days, reducing heater use during the night. In a simulation, it was determined that, when compared with the worst-case, real-life scenario, there was a 26% energy savings in the summer and a 16% energy savings in the winter when the windows are used. Most home heating systems operate with reactive controllers; however, current reactive controllers are not efficient. A temperature is set, and the heating or cooling system controls for one temperature. A model predictive controller, however, takes the current state and plans over a certain time frame (typically a day) what the settings of the HVAC and dynamic windows should be, while maintaining the requirements for the resident. This approach provides useful information to help the controller formulate an optimal plan. Figure 2 shows the planning results of the model predictive controller on a summer day. The red curves represent the comfortable temperature range of the resident, while the blue curve illustrates the indoor temperature. Compared with a simple reactive control, the model predictive controller (MPC) provides a 10% savings over the course of a 2-day simulation.


Figure 2. A reactive predictive controller vs. a model predictive controller.

10% energy savings over reactive PID control The MPC will plan for optimum energy efficiency, assuming accurate information about the system. Outstanding and unknown variables remain: accurate weather forecasts and accurate information about the residents schedule. If the actual weather deviates by a few degrees from the forecast, or if a clear sky suddenly becomes cloudy (as with summer thunderstorms), using a standard MPC may cause the temperature to fall outside of the residents comfortable temperature range. One design that overcomes that obstacle is a robust MPC that probabilistically guarantees that the residents temperature constraints are satisfied. To achieve this, a model of the uncertainty within the system is necessary. Instead of assuming a definite forecast of the outdoor temperature, the controller assumes a probability distribution over the possible outdoor temperatures. Based on the uncertainty model, a safety margin can be computed around the residents temperature constraints. The controller then generates a control sequence for the HVAC and windows that stays within the safety margin. Controlling within the safety margin guarantees that the temperature of the home will only violate the residents constraints at most a fixed percentage of the time.

sustainable connected home


Figure 3 illustrates the simulation results of the robust planner on a summer day under uncertain outdoor temperature. Instead of controlling right up to the temperature constraints, as in Figure 2, temperatures lower than the constraints are used. Then if the actual outdoor temperature, for example, 5 degrees hotter than forecasted, the constraints are not violated.

Figure 3. An example of the robust model predictive controller.

Future work on this controller will involve incorporating the lighting aspects into the system to ensure that the residence is bright enough during certain hours without compromising comfort. The controller will have to handle trade-offs between the heating and illumination aspects of the house. For example, in the summer season when a cool temperature is of the utmost importance, the dynamic windows would be active in the tinted position so that the house can block as much solar heat as possible during the daytime; however, this will cause the interior to be too dimly lit, requiring the use of artificial lighting. Additionally, the simulation must take into consideration the residents schedule to establish acceptable temperatures for the home. Incorrectly predicting the residents schedule could lead to the violation of temperature constraints. To avoid this problem, a method for predicting a residents schedule based on data from sensors placed in the home is currently in development.

// Building and Fabrication

building and fabrication


The Three Autonomous Architectures of the Sustainable Connected Home

Sotirios D. Kotsopoulos, PhD, Carla Farina, PhD, MIT Mobile Experience Laboratory

The Sustainable Connected Home is presented in this section as the interaction of three autonomous architectures: (1) the spatial arrangement of the tectonic elements; (2) the assembly of sustainable materials; and (3) the cognitive architecture of its active systems. The Sustainable Connected Home, a prototype of which is moving into construction in Rovereto, Italy, aims beyond the goals of conventional sustainable architecture. An intelligent sensing and control system, embedded within the corporeal architecture, allows for real-time monitoring and reconfiguring of the states of architectural elements, which thus become responsive. This capacity revolutionizes architecture, where normally tectonic elements are passive, or require actuation by users. This presentation offers insight into the dynamic relations among the corporeal elements of architecture and the incorporeal attributes and events that are associated with them. The Sustainable Connected Home incorporates a multidisciplinary approach, involving specialists from different areas: architects, social planners, and building technology and information-communication technology specialists. The two main deliverables of the Sustainable Connected Home research are: a material, corporeal architecture and a computing, incorporeal architecture. The Sustainable Connected Home was envisioned as an evolving experiment that supplies a fresh look on many parallel issues, such as social living, environmental sustainability, connectivity, energy consumption, and energy production. Within this general framework of objectives, the methodology that we had adopted combines active and passive systems and attempts to integrate a prototype residential unit within the context of a city or the natural landscape in a way that permits maximum connectivity (Figure 1). The overall framework of the smart city of the future is envisioned as a smart, energy efficient grid, where the houses are the active nodes and the inhabitants are the active participants of a community.


Figure 1. The residential units are envisioned to perform as active nodes in a responsive grid, as the inhabitants are envisioned to be active participants in a community.

Current research expands on four major areas: 1. Sustainable Architecturea specialized architecture that embraces environmentally conscious principles 2. Smart Energy Systemssystems that use renewable energy sources (sun, wind, biomass) to supply energy for residential units 3. Information & Communication Technologies (ICT)integration of innovative information and communication technologies to create responsive environments with renewable energy sources. (See Spinak presentation: ICTBased Urban Planning Initiatives: Facilitators of Movement, Communication, and Opportunity) 4. Social Sustainabilityintegration of environmental, social, and economic issues in existing urban communities More specifically, the first prototype of the Sustainable Connected Home integrates five unique systems: (1) a passive high thermal mass envelope; (2) an active glass faade; (3) a high thermal mass base with heating and cooling capability; (4) a renewable energy production system; and (5) a high-level control system. The design of the home consists of an open plan space with an electrochromic glass faade with southern exposure. The building exhibits high thermal resistance and low conductivity to sustain thermal energy.

building and fabrication


The high thermal mass envelope is an assembly of wood (on the exterior), wood-based insulation, and stone (on the interior), passively sustaining heat during the winter and protecting against excessive heat during the summer. The glass faade is a matrix of 5x20 digitally controlled windows functioning as an active filter between the exterior and interior. Each windowpane is independently operable to permit adjustable airflow. Each window glass has an overlay of two electronically switchable materials: the first provides the desirable degree of visibility, securing privacy; the second provides a desirable de gree of sunlight penetration, securing thermal performance. The high thermal mass base accommodates an underfloor heating/cooling system, and a solar cogeneration plant provides electricity, hot/cold water, and air. An autonomous sensing and control system is responsive to the weather conditions and the desires of the inhabitants, so that the overall performance of the house remains constantly optimal. (For specifics on the glass faade, see Carra presentation: Lighting: How the Electrochromic Faade Influences the Internal Lighting of the Sustainable Connected Home.) The relationship among the five systems of the Sustainable Connected Home are orchestrated on three different levels, which remain distinct in their logic of organization and their material constitution. All of the systems operate as a unit to provide a responsive, energy-efficient environment. The logic of organization of these systems can be thought of as constituting three autonomous architectures: the spatial arrangement of the tectonic elements, the assembly of sustainable materials, and the cognitive architecture of the active systems. Methodology A typological study, mapping elementary building layouts and their capability to accommodate various energy systems (e.g., wind turbines, solar panels) was initiated. This mapping yielded the combination of typical building geometries such as the oblong, donut, and cube, and how these geometries affect the performance of energy systems such as, solar panels, wind turbines, and active windows (Table 1).


Table 1. Early typological study, mapping possible elementary building layouts and their capability to accommodate alternative systems of energy production.

The scheme of the Sustainable Connected Home was based on the oblong, or the bar-house style (Figure 2). The early design schemes were conceived on the assumption that solar panels, or alternatively wind turbines, would be used for energy production purposes. Both solar- and wind-powered schemes employed a system of dynamic switchable windows (Figures 3a and 3b). Both design alternatives combined passive and active technologies for insulating, heating, and cooling the house interior. More careful simulation of the yearly weather conditions for specific sites in Zambana and Rovereto, Italy, indicated that harvesting the wind would not yield any satisfactory results for the purpose of energy production. Accordingly, implementation of the wind-powered design scheme was aborted.


Figure 2a. Early conceptual sketch by William J Mithcell. Figure 2b. Early conceptual rendering.

Figure 3a. Wind turbines were proposed as an efficient way to harvest the wind energy. Passive thermal storage integrally combined means for passive heating and coolong of the building. Figure 3b. Solar panels provide seasonal energy, cooling for summer and heating for winter. Dynamic windows modify thermal performance and visibilty based on weather change and preference.


The early design iterations were coupled with performance simulations. The simulations confirmed the hypothesis that higher energy efficiency could be achieved through integrating passive and active systems in a unique building envelope. The consecutive design iterations integrated the experimental findings by addressing the combination of passive and active systems more explicitly. The passive systems include a high thermal mass base and building envelope with a northern orientation. The active systems include an active electrochromic glass faade and the control system. The passive and active systems become the driving components both from a technical and from a design point of view. The combination of solar system and a micro combined heat and power (CHP) technology generator comprise the main energy production system of the house (Figure 3c). Figure 3c. Consecutive design iterations resulted to the integration of active and passive components in a single building envelope.

Two sustainable principles underlie the logic of the house design. First, the house secures optimum energy performance. Second, it is a tectonic expression of customized sustainability. Optimum energy performance is achieved through careful consideration of local natural and weather conditions. To achieve this, certain variables must be identified and compiled, including statistical weather data, and data produced via realtime simulation. Customized sustainability requires consideration of local parameters: cultural, social, and economic.

building and fabrication


For this purpose, the artificial technological and economic contexts and conditions that exist in the area of Rovereto, Italy, were carefully analyzed. Consecutive design iterations integrated the two sustainable principles (noted above) into the final design of the house. For example, sun path data simulation plus illumination and temperature simulation provided information on the performance of the electrochromic faade during specific days in the summer. The simulations provided quantitative information on how the sunlight affects the interior illumination and temperature. This information was compared with simulations that show how the faade performs during winter. The arrangement of the glass faade was set to maximize the yearly solar gain. Based on the yearly energy performance, the material constitution and the thickness of the northern high thermal mass wall was developed to insulate the house from the environment while preserving interior thermal conditions for as long as possible (Figures 4a and 4b). Figure 4a. After identifying the location, the sun path and weather data were analyzed to maximize the yearly solar gains for the prototype.

Figure 4bi and 4bii. Interior lighting analysis through computer simulation, for winter, December 21, and summer, June 21, at 1 p.m.


Three Autonomous Architectures Spatial Arrangement The spatial arrangement of the house follows an open plan. The simplicity of the plan shortens the process of computer modeling and simulation. The simplicity of the building envelope permits better control over the input and output data on simulations of temperature, light, and airflow. On an entirely different level, the arrangement of the interior space was left flexible to become an open test bed for future inventions related to sustainable living. The house interior can be subdivided in alternate ways, depending on desired future utilities. At the primary stage, there is a provision for the basic house utilities: a sleeping area, a bathroom area, a living area, a dining area, and a kitchen (Figure 5). These can be reorganized as desired. The initial arrangement also includes a patio adjacent to the electrochromic southern faade. Figure 5. The spatial arrangement of the prototype follows an open plan.

Figure 6. Alternative rendered views of preliminary interior arrangements.

building and fabrication


The house is organized into primary (I) and secondary (II) spatial modules, following a sequence of I II I II - I (4.80 m 2.96 m 4.80 m 2.96 m 4.80 m, respectively) (Figure 7). The total length of the house is 66 6.5 (20.0 m), the width of each module is 25 5 (7.75 m). The primary modules accommodate sleeping, living, and cooking. Secondary modules correspond to the eating and lavatory functions. The primary and secondary areas do not correspond to distinct rooms, but to open functional areas. Figure 7. Module (left), spatial relation (center) and spatial arrangement (right).

Sustainable Materials The thermal performance of a house is greatly affected by its location and orientation. Having a south-facing orientation maximizes a buildings exposure to sunlight. The south-facing orientation plus illumination and sun-path simulation provided the data necessary to identify the optimum orientation and selection of building materials for the prototype. The building envelope of the prototype exhibits high thermal resistance and low conductivity to sustain thermal energy. On the south side, the electrochromic faade regulates the sunlight penetration and the view. On the north side, the house is protected from the natural elements (Figure 8) by a high thermal mass envelope that isolates the interior from the exterior. The high thermal mass envelope is an assembly of wood on the exterior and wood-based insulation and stone on the interior that is passively designed to sustain heat during the winter and prevent excessive heat during the summer (Figure 9).


Figure 8, 9. The overall performance of the house is based on the efficient integration of two different technological solutions. The passive and active components of the building envelope are oriented towards north and south, respectively.

Local building materials were deliberately chosen for the projectwood, concrete, and insulation forms with high thermal lagging capacity. Good lagging is important to preserve heat during the winter and limit excessive heat during the summer. The exterior wooden skin and the structural system of the passive envelope were developed by the Trees and Timber Institute (IVALSA) in Trento, Italy. The interior skin includes a high thermal mass stone wall. A high thermal mass base, made of concrete and wood, accommodates an underfloor heating/cooling system, while a solar cogeneration plant provides electricity, hot/cold water, and air (Figure 10).

building and fabrication


Figure 10. High thermal mass passive system, based on wood, provides excellent thermal performance and it is earthquake safe.

Active Systems A fundamental design guideline was to integrate the passive thermal building components with active components that can dynamically respond to the changing weather conditions or adapt to the occupants demands. The main active component of the envelope is the electrochromic glass faade that covers the houses south elevation.


This glass faade is a matrix of 5 x 20 digitally controlled windows functioning as an active filter between exterior and interior, allowing controllable crossventilation and penetration of sunlight. There are 100 operable windows whose main characteristic is to regulate the air/light/heat flow into the house (Figures 11). Figure 11. The dynamic facade is a reprogrammable active system that supports environmentally and socially sustainable behaviours.

Table 2. Enumeration of possible actuation typologies for the windows of the south facade.

building and fabrication


Table 3. Methodic exposition of the overall kinetic effect caused by different actuation typologies.

This first prototype house integrates some extreme new concepts of sustainability, back-to-back with other, more traditional ones. The purpose is to determine the performance of the new systems and to see the problems during real-life operation. Along these lines, the electrochromic southern faade is an active element that will be tested next to the passive high thermal mass envelope on the north. The southern glass faade was designed to achieve three important objectives: (1) regulate airflow; (2) regulate the percentage of sun and heat that penetrates the house; and (3) regulate interior illumination.


The first feature, air regulation, is straightforward. Each window is independently operable, so that the permeability to airflow is adjustable. Cross ventilation becomes possible when windows facing north and windows facing south are open simultaneously. The windows of the dynamic curtain wall are activated by a system of electronic actuators. At the aesthetic level, the house takes advantage of the strong kinetic effect created by the dynamic repositioning of the windows to animate the south faade. Accordingly, several different states of elevation can be achieved. The remaining two features of the dynamic windows concern the regulation of light/heat penetration and of visibility. Each window glass is an overlay of two electronically switchable materials: the first (polymer-dispersed liquid crystals [PDLC]) provides the desirable degree of visibility, securing privacy; the second (electrochromic) provides the desirable degree of sunlight penetration, securing thermal performance (Figure 12). Figure 12. The combination of the states of electrochromic glass and PDLC film allows the regulation of sun-light penetration and visibility at the house interior (left). Interior rendering and illuminance simulation of a facade pattern, for June 21, 1 p.m. (right)

By turning instantaneously from a transparent to an opaque state, the first layerthe PDLC filmpermits residents to control the degree of visibility and privacy. By turning gradually from transparent to tinted, the second layerthe electrochromic glassblocks sunlight, solar radiation and the illumination and thermal performance of the curtain wall.

building and fabrication


By altering the opaqueness/illumination/solar radiation factor, it is possible to compute in real time how many windows must be activated to achieve the desired levels of illumination in the interior. Visibility to the outside is still possible from the inside when the PDLC film is inactive. Activation of the PDLC film secures privacy (Figure 13). In this way, the dynamic faade operates as a programmable skin between exterior and interior. Figure 13. The PDLC layer provides the desired degree of privacy, day and night.

MicroCHP technology was selected as the core energy production component of the first prototype. MicroCHP technology, in combination with a high-level control system, allows the house to self-sustain its energy needs based on the energy consumption profiles shaped by the inhabitants, while taking into account the specific thermal performance of the building materials and the exposure to the current environmental conditions. The Rovereto prototype combines this MicroCHP technology with a solar concentrator. The solar system produces electricity through concentrated solar radiation, which is converted into high-temperature steam or gas to drive a turbine that produces electricity. From a wider energy use perspective, one can envision an interactive framework of sustainable houses, where each house belongs to an energy grid. Houses belonging to the same grid produce energy in alternative ways.


If required, they balance the energy productivity of the grid by sharing energy. In the interior of the house, a smart energy interface is programmed to augment the efficient use of household appliances. It assists the inhabitants in conserving energy by reducing consumption and improving recycling efforts. The smart interface can make users instantaneously aware of their energy consumption and allows them to make informed decisions. An autonomous cognitive control system automatically triggers the correct or required response, relative to the weather conditions and the needs of the inhabitants so that the energy performance of the house remains continually optimal. The high-level control system has both sensing and actuating capabilities. The system receives feedback from a network of sensors that is embedded within the architectural elements of the house. The sensors permit real time monitoring of the conditions. Based on this sensory feedback, the system responds appropriately. A system of actuators allows certain architectural elements to change state, as required. Over time, the high-level control system has the ability to memorize the repetitive behavioral patterns of the inhabitants. The system projects the suitable response, while combining information from the weather data, real time feedback and the preferences of the inhabitants. The smart house can project the course of events and proactively save energy. The architecture of the house is such that, in real time, energy consumption is kept to a minimum while satisfying the needs of the inhabitants. Conclusion The Sustainable Connected Home was envisioned as an evolving experiment that supplies a fresh look at many issues regarding the nature of social living, sustainability, connectivity, and renewable energy. Although optimizationdriven technologies focus mainly on efficient resource management and energy performance of buildings, this project aimed to address the social, cultural, and aesthetic potential of these technologies. Within this framework, our methodology integrates active and passive home systems for city or natural landscapes in a way that propagates maximum energy performance and connectivity.

building and fabrication


The approach is based on passive and active sustainable design principles: a high thermal mass envelope, novel techniques in real-time modeling of energy performance, and an intelligent dynamic energy control and decision-making system that responds to the needs of the occupants and the uncertainties caused by environmental feedback. The prototype relies on the following components: Energy-efficient architectural design Thorough selection of sustainable building materials (passive and active) Intelligent control that minimizes energy consumption Real-time monitoring and performance evaluation from sensor and statistical data Real-time feedback to the users and to the cognitive control system Mathematical simulation, risk and uncertainty modeling of thermal performance Parametric design simulation with an emphasis on performance-equivalent configurations with varying aesthetic, social, and cultural effects The prototype of the Sustainable Connected Home offers a new vision for homes of the future. It combines passive and active sustainable principles in an integrated, responsive environment: performance modeling and simulation, sensing infrastructure, custom cooling/heating system, and an interactive glass faade. Fundamental to the prototype is the modularity and discreetness of its technological components. The components of the house can be readily substituted as soon as new technologies become available. The Sustainable Connected Home optimizes energy performance, automates climate control, and provides feedback to encourage socially and ecologically responsible behaviors. It stands as a new aesthetic paradigm of interactive, reprogrammable architecture.


MAI-IVALSA Modular House Meets MITMobile Experience Lab

Ario Ceccotti (Director CNR-IVALSA, National Research Council of Italy-Trees and Timber Institute), Paolo Simeone and Andrea Briani (researchers CNR-IVALSA)

Istituto per la Valorizzazione del Legno e delle Specie Arboree (IVALSA) is the largest Italian institute for research in forestry and sustainable uses of wood. Their research activities cover the technological development of wood, building, dendrochronology, and preservation of the cultural heritage, protection, and validation of forest heritage, assistance for companies, and education and documentation services. IVALSA invites scientific and technical discussion. It serves as the natural research leader in the wood industry for designers, building contractors, and researchers. The Modulo Abitativo (MAI) IVALSA modular house was undertaken to determine the most sustainable use for natural resources such as timber. The MAI system consists of a preassembled housing modules constructed of environmentally sustainable materials such as X-lam (cross-laminated timber panels) (Figure 1). Figure 1. The module. Figure 2. Floorplan design for MAIs Modular House.

It took nearly 2 months to build a prototype and move it 40 km from the IVALSA institute by truck to a city location (Figures 2 and 3).

building and fabrication


Figure 3. The moving of modules

Figure 4. The transport of the IVALSA modular house

The goals of the project were to use a new system that uses wood for the loadbearing structure that can be prefabricated at one locale and successfully transported to another locale. The objective was to reduce the construction phases and re-use wood panels wherever possible to ensure an efficient building process. To transport the modular house in the narrow streets of many old-world cities, a small footprint was required. The MAI module was 2.9 x 4 m (base) x 3.9 m (height), 8 x 13 x 13 feet, and the residential square footage was 35 m2 (380 sq ft) (Figure 4). Each module required a box of X-lam wood, an extremely rigid yet lightweight product that meets industrial standards and is available in a variety of finishes. The module can be easily moved and quickly assembled (Figures 5 and 6).


Figure 5. The assemblage of the 5 modules

Figure 6. The module assemblage scheme

X-lam is a European wood-based material in which timber boards made of homegrown wood, typically spruce, is assembled in layers and glued together crosswise to form massive wood walls and floor panels. The MAI construction system uses X-lam for its load-bearing elements. One of two types of external walls used in the MAI system is 378-mm (15-in) thick and consists of six different components.

building and fabrication


Figure 7. The wall structure (energy performance: thermal transmittance coefcient U = 0.156 W/m2K, phase displacement h 21.4.

We used wood fiberboard with different density for insulation both for external and internal walls and chalk fiberboard for internal finishing. For this project, we tested the re-use of X-lam panels (Figures 8 and 9). These panels had been used for a project called SOFIE (a research project on sustainable buildings with the support of Provincia Autonoma di Trento from 2004 to 2007). The panels were used to construct a 24-meter-high, seven-story building. The building was constructed on the monster shaking table in Kobe, Japan, that simulates the earthquake of 1995 (7.2 magnitude) (Figure 10). After more than 10 consecutive tests, no residual displacement was observed on the building. The structure was never altered, but returned to its original position each time. Because the panels had been exposed to natural weathering since 2007, we devised a humidity measurement to determine if the wood would be structurally sound enough for use in our project. Reuse of the wood added to the sustainability of the products for project. The panels in each module were connected with metal angles, ringed annularshanked nails, and self-drilling screws. Glue was not used.


Figure 8-9. The X-lam construction system

Figure 10. MAIs building yard

We used rubber to create a better sound barrier in between the modules and as added protection from external factors. Using a water- and windproof and UV-stabilized underlay for the external walls and roof was also necessary, as the module would be constructed in the United States and Canada to conserve energy and enhance durability. This underlay is permeable enough to allow liquids and gasses to pass through, preventing condensation in the internal layers of the walls and roof. A special natural treatment on the wood surface and a special thermally modified wood, both tested in the IVALSA laboratory, were used to control the aging of external timber elements. The outside of the living room walls was gray, and the roof of the kitchen and living room was fitted with natural color boards.

building and fabrication


Another special and sustainable material was used for the roof of the bathroomnatural patinated copper sheets (Figure 11). Hidden by the copper sheets, integrated solar thermal collectors supply hot water to the main heat pump system. The furniturespecifically designed for each modulewas made of panels of larch wood (19-mm thick) laminated on the exterior with paper-stone, a special material made from 100% postconsumer recycled paper with petro-free phenolic resins and natural pigments (Figure 12-13). For the floor, we used another environmentally friendly material: linoleum. This natural floor covering is made from renewable materials, including solidified linseed oil. Figure 11. MAI

Figure 12-13. MAI

The IVALSA modular house demonstrates that it is possible to use wood, a natural material, for modern prefabricated and sustainable buildings. This new system can be used not only for small houses, as in this prototype, but also for multistory buildings. Such houses are more economical than conventional construction systems and more respectful of the environment.
* All photos of MAI-project were taken by our photographer Romano Magrone.

// Energy Sustainability


FBKREET Energy Vision and the Positive Energy Building

Alessandro Bozzoli, Renewable Energies and Environmental Technologies Research Unit (REET); Luigi Crema, Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK)

Energy will continue to be a priority in the near future. World energy demands require a serious examination of affordable energy generation systems, reliable technologies, and better regulatory frameworks for micro- and macrogeneration of energy. One of the main concerns is the connection between available energy and socioeconomic wellness. Fossil fuels and their continued availability are a main component of this issue. Even the most optimistic scenarios predict sufficient reserves for only 40 to 60 more years. When the production potential is eclipsed by market global demands, energy prices will increase dramatically. Yet, society requires energy at stable and manageable prices to continue the production of goods and to maintain societal wellness. What then are the most useful energy resources and the possible technological solutions? Can the answers be found in the sun, wind, biomass, water, or the earth? If so, what opportunities do these elements offer? Establishing an energy society might be one way to examine these questions. This is one way to reformat society based on energy requirements. It would be based on a legal framework, effective business models, and reliable technologies. Climate change and the carbon footprint are pushing and strengthening the call for using renewable energy sources. A series of new policies and legal frameworks must reflect the growing consciousness of individual citizens and communities and local districts. The new energy society will make considerable infrastructure modifications based on total energy consumption in each sector.


In the European Union, the total energy consumption is divided into four main sectors: transport, industry, households, and commerce (Figures 1 and 2). Commerce consumes the greatest amount of energy. It is where major savings can be realized through the combination of energy-efficient actions and technologies10. The European Commission has devoted a significant amount of time and resources to support the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector for energy efficient and retrofittable systems. Figure 1. EU-27 total energy consumption (Mtoe). Eurostat source Figure 2. EU-27 total energy intensity (toe/GDP M). Eurostat source

An overall lack of technologies exists, not only in terms of marketable standalone systems, but also within systems (thermal, cooling, and electrical) that can be retrofitted for energy generation. Energy consumption in buildings varies between countries. Buildings consume about 40% of total energy, of which 70% both in the USA and in Europe is thermal energy; however, some estimates indicate that Europe consumes 80%. Buildings consume 70% of all electricity and 50% of all natural gas.

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and theCommittee of the Regions, Second Strategic Energy Review, An EU Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan, Europes current and future energy position Demandresourcesinvestments [Brussels, 13.11.2008].

energy sustainability


The FBKREET energy vision The FBKREET unit has worked on an energy vision for the buildings and the communities supporting the energy generation from renewable sources in a feasible, integrated, and marketable way. Next-generation energy systems require technology that will combine and integrate solar, geothermal, biomass, wind, hydro, and waste sources at micro-scale for electrical and thermal energy storage. A limited contribution of fossil fuels in hybrid technologies may increase the overall efficiency and ability to retrofit some of these technologies. An example that illustrates the integration potential is provided in Figure 3. Figure 3. FBKREET energy vision.

The FBKREET energy vision is a full-development program divided into three main phases (Figure 4).


Figure 4. FBKREET energy vision main phases.

Phase 1 is related to pilot projects incorporating various technologies with several renewable energy sources. The objective is to develop new solutions that can be retrofitted onto the generated thermal or electrical energy. Phase 1 of all pilot projects is nearly complete. Phase 2 transfers technology to industrial partners through project cooperation and/or start-up initiatives. This step is designed to extend the impact on the market for different technologies and to prepare the next generation of technologies in a developed industrial network. Phase 3 integrates into the next-generation project the developments obtained in the previous phases. FBKREET aims to penetrate the market with these technologies. A combination of economic, social, and political actions would be required to obtain the desired impact for a specific technology. Key factors include (1) social sustainability related to building development and (2) information technology (IT) to promote active end-user participation in energy sustainability. IT can effect distribution of energy generation. To promote a better lifestyle, IT can foster social navigation, distributed data sensing, healthcare, mobility optimization, peer-to-peer freight, and civic engagement. The objective is to create a complete system called the + energy building, which can produce thermal power for heating, cooling, electrical power, and biofuels from domestic waste and organic materials, plus provide a local energy storage system for matching the energy production from renewable energy sources. This energy vision is supported by a dissemination plan (Figure 5).

energy sustainability


Figure 5. Dissemination plan

Finally, each project must be implemented economically. Based on FBK REET results, local companies could benefit financially from innovative sustainable technologies. There are several active projects. Some involve small-scale concentrated solar power, microCHP technology, thermal power, and multi-generation lighting. Others concentrate on biomass, geothermal energy, energy storage, and resource assessment. DiGeSPo aims at developing and building a modular 1 to 3 kWe, 3 to 9 kWth, microCHP based on innovative concentrated solar power and Stirling engine technology (Figure 6). The objective of DiGeSPo is to generate electrical power, heating, and cooling for single and multiple domestic dwellings and other small commercial, industrial, and public buildings. The system integrates small-scale concentrator optics with moving and tracking components, solar absorbers in the form of evacuated tube collectors, a heat transfer fluid, a Stirling engine with generator, and heating and/or cooling systems. These elements are incorporated into an architecturally acceptable manner with low visual impact.


Figure 6. DiGeSPo project partnership and proposed technology layout.

A second project, BIODOMUS, combines the cogeneration of energy from a domestic pellet boiler. It incorporates the mRT-1k Stirling engine under manufacture in FBKREET. The project goal is to realize a system for the cogeneration of 1 to 3 kW of electrical power and 8 to 24 kW of thermal power for domestic heating from a pellet boiler, achieving an overall efficiency of about 85 90%. SOLTEC is a third project involving a new retrofittable thermal energy storage system. FBKREET labs developed a solar-driven cooling/heating machine based on a double adsorption/desorption cycle. The machine can store thermal energy by using microporous material. The material is regenerated by solar thermal collectors and provides heating and cooling through an adsorption cycle plus an evaporative system. The system may be scaled in cooling/heating capacity by changing the volume of porous material, and in cooling power by changing the airflow through the system. A prototype provides a cooling capacity of 25 to 30 kWhth and a retrofittable cooling power of 2 to 5 kWth. The cold temperature is between 12C and 16C. The coefficient of performance (COP), defined as the ration between output and input thermal power plus electrical consumption on the storage system, is 0.7 to 0.8.

energy sustainability


Finally, ISLE is a newly proposed project that can identify safe and retrofittable electrical storage for domestic dwellings. Such a system can store electrical power to be used through a proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC). The system operates on the reaction provided by the sodium borohydride and water on the following stoichiometry: NaBH4 + 2 H2O 4 H2 + NaBO2 + 217 kJ mol-1 The energy from PV or other microCHP sources could regenerate the sodium metaborate into sodium borohydride. The reaction can be realized in a properly controlled system, enabling a fully retrofittable technology in synergy with the distributed system requirements. The FBKREET energy vision offers a roadmap for developing fully integrated technologies to provide energy for a domestic dwelling. The integration of different renewable sources and systems will fluctuate depending upon energy costs and market uses. Ideally, buildings will interact in a community with a decentralized energy production system. FBKREET is undertaking two new projects to meet these goals. One is creating a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC); the second is creating a microCHP system based on gasification processes combined with an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC). Some of these technologies have been undertaken on a full sustainable building in partnership with the MIT Mobile Experience Laboratory. The ability to fully retrofit a system designed for energy cogeneration that can be implemented in buildings will provide an adaptive system that can generate electrical and thermal power, both for heating, cooling, and generating hot, sanitary water at local levels. The systems themselves will be able to generate the required energy to match at best the auto consumption at high overall efficiencies. Information technologies can provide support from end-user interfaces and from smart solutions. These projects are examining the implementation of such technologies in real buildings and appliances. The overall objective is to provide a technological link between centralized and decentralized systems to local communities and districts. The solution could define the energy society of the future.


Toward Zero Energy Buildings: Optimized for Energy Use and Cost
Leon R. Glicksman, PhD, and Carrie Brown, MIT

Before determining how to create a zero energy building, the question must first be whether doing so is necessary. In the United States, several government administrators believe that society should make the attempt. In Massachusetts, the governor created a task force to investigate creating state buildings that have zero net energy. And there are regulations, both in the United States and in Europe, that indicate some time within the next 5 to 20 years a certain percentage of buildings should reach zero net energy. But, is this the correct goal? Although zero net energy may seem to be a feasible target, does it make sense to attempt this? And can society even reach it? As an example, data for the John Hancock building, a high-rise in Boston, was analyzed to determine how much photovoltaic power could be generated onsite. In the best-case scenario, it was assumed that the entire surface of the building would be covered with photovoltaic panels. It was determined that only 15% to 20% of the energy needs of the building would be obtained even when the building is entirely covered in these panels. It is a safe assumption that for a number of buildings, zero net energy cannot be attained simply by looking at the supply side. Although photovoltaic and similar systems may appear attractive because they are accessible and currently available, this may not be the correct direction. Supply side renewables can be part of the solution, but society must also examine how to reduce energy demand through efficiency measures. When considering zero net energy buildings, society must not only look at sustainability issues in general but also consider the economic effects. What should be at the forefront of concern is how various cities can reduce the carbon footprint of the building sector without bankrupting city finances to do so.

energy sustainability


To help users understand the path toward zero energy buildings, researchers at MIT are developing an online simulation tool that will be accessible to nontechnical users. The concept itself is not new, and there are already tools on the market that can address some of these issues; however, the tools currently available are either time consuming to run, developed for engineers, or concentrate on supply-side solutions without adequately considering demand-side efficiency options. The MIT goal is to help users look at buildings that minimize energy use in a cost-effective manner. The tool is being built on top of Design Advisor, which was developed in the MIT lab over a number of years. Design Advisor is an online simulation tool that allows users to get a building simulation up and running in just a few minutes. After the user picks a region and building type, Design Advisor will automatically select appropriate default choices. From drop-down menus, the user can change options after more is known about the building. The system currently allows four separate scenarios to be compared at once. For the groups new tool, there exists a need to model both energy efficiency and supply side solutions. Every time the design of the building is changed e.g., the orientation, number of windows, and type of windowsnew simulations are required to determine energy consumption for an entire year. One simulation alone may take 30 seconds. Extrapolate out to the tens of thousands of potential scenarios, and it is simply not feasible for the enduser to wait for an optimized solution. The challenge was to develop an algorithm where the simulations could be done almost instantaneously, so that within a few minutes, the architect or designer can have results.


For this tool, the outputs being investigated are the capital cost above a baseline building, and then the net annual energy use and the total cost for each case (total cost being capital cost, energy, and maintenance for the building). Both the supply and demand side of the equation are being evaluated simultaneously, as well as efficiency options and renewable and distributed generation. Initially, the top 10 to 12 variables with the strongest solution are being evaluated. Several new modules have been developed, including a photovoltaic module and a combined cooling, heating, and power (CCHP) module. With CCHP, electricity is generated on-site, and the waste heat is fed to heaters and absorption chillers, so that there is demand year round. There is also a cost module for both supply and demand options. To develop the optimization methods, single objective genetic algorithms for both energy use and cost were evaluated first. On the cost side, a population of 100 with 50 generations converged to $0/m2. This was to be expected, as the algorithm was evaluating capital cost above baseline and the optimal solution on the cost side is the baseline building. The energy side was much more time consuming. With a population size of 30 with 40 generations, we converged somewhere around 95 kWh/m2. Although the cost model could operate online without any setbacks, calculating the energy side proved to be problematic since the genetic algorithm took several days to run. An emulator that could provide nearly instantaneous energy calculations would be necessary to run this online. Thus, tens of thousands of training runs were required to develop multivariate regressions to predict energy use. Initially, one set of equations was used to predict energy for the entire range of outputs. Figure 1 shows these initial regression results. The red line is the actual output from Design Advisor, while the blue line is the predicted results from the regression analysis. The gray dots are the actual errors at each point and the gray line is fitted to these errors. The left x-axis represents annual energy use, while the right x-axis is the percent error. Although the middle of the regression predicted fairly well (within an error range of 20%), on the extremes the errors were about 50%, which is not accurate enough to use as a substitute calculation method.

energy sustainability


Figure 1. Initial multivariate regression results.

It was determined that several levels of regression equations were needed. The first round was used over the entire set of solutions to predict whether the energy use would fall into the top or bottom half of the energy solution space. After an option was chosen, energy use was recalculated with regression equations based on only that half of the solution space. After repeating this process with multiple regression steps, the errors were much lower. Figure 2 illustrates that splitting the data three times results in errors of less than 10%. Figure 2. Data analysis, after 3 splits


An initial case study evaluated a low-rise commercial building in Boston. The photovoltaic cost at both $4 and $8 per watt, which is a current approximation of the real price and the price with tax breaks, were modeled. Net metering prices at $0.15 and $0.20 per kWh, varied discount rates, and 5- 10- and 30year projections were also analyzed. Figure 3 provides details on the initial variables analyzed. Figure 3. Sample formulations

The results can be seen in Figure 4. In both graphs, the x-axis is capital cost above baseline in dollars per meter squared ($/m2). In the top graph, the y-axis is total cost and in the bottom graph the y-axis is net annual energy use. In general, as capital cost is increased along the x-axis, the building gets closer to zero net energy. The green dots represent energy efficiency measures alone, the red dots represent photovoltaic cells alone, and the blue dots are both energy efficiency measures and photovoltaic cells combined. In this low-rise commercial building, to achieve zero energy, it would cost about $225/m2 above the baseline capital cost. As the top graph shows, this goal can only be reached when all energy efficiency measures and photovoltaic cells are incorporated.

energy sustainability


Figure 4. Sample output

When photovoltaic cells were implemented without energy efficiency measures, the building cannot reach zero net energy. Installing photovoltaic cells on the roof only provided about 30% of the base-case buildings energy needs, and the returns on investment would not have been realized for more than 30 years. When the same data were projected over a 10-year period, the capital costs remained about the same ($250/m2), but the initial investment would have been paid back if the building implements photovoltaic cells after reducing the demand with energy efficiency first. In that scenario, the payoff would be $70/m2 10 years. The 5-year scenario provided too short a time frame to be cost-effective while reaching zero net energy. In these examples, the kWh sellback price is a key parameter, along with the discount rate and photovoltaic cost. In the initial runs, there was a large cost difference between the energy efficiency measures and the distributed generation options; however, work is still ongoing to add retrofit options to better compare the paths. Overall, even with tax breaks over a 30-year period, photovoltaic cells are expensive, and they may not even meet the buildings energy demand; however, if energy efficiency measures are implemented and then photovoltaic cells are added, reaching zero net energy will become more affordable. In this initial case study, the paybacks were less than 10 years with tax breaks, and close to 30 years without them.

This book comes out of a collaboration involving the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea, the Italian Trade Commission in New York and the Mobile Experience Lab, Design Lab, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Thanks are due, in particular, to Gaia Scagnetti, Guglielmo Carra, Dan Johnson, Leonardo Benuzzi, Carla Farina, Sotirios Kotsopoulos and Wesley Graybill from the MIT Mobile Experience Lab, and Masahiro Ono from MIT. Thanks to Pelin Arslan who designed and directed the production of the book, Nate Howe, and all the MIT Mobile Experience Lab team and researchers, who presented the ongoing research during the first international symposium Smart Sustainability 2010. Wed like also to thank the Fondazione Bruno Kessler in Trento, Italy, with whom the MIT has an ongoing research project to design and build a full scale prototype of a connected sustainable home. We are grateful to the conference participants, in particular to Cisco Systems, Ivalsa CNR Italy, and Prof. Leon Glicksman and Prof. Brian Williams from MIT. Truly precious support was provided by the Italian Trade Commission and by Claire Servini in particular. Thanks to the Italian Consul in Boston, Giuseppe Pastorelli, for his opening remarks at the symposium. Finally, thanks to Michelle Dalton for her valuable editorial assistance throughout the book project.

ISBN-13 9780982114438 ISBN-10 0982114435