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Intelligent Buildings International

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The use of intelligent systems for monitoring

energy use and occupancy in existing homes

Catalina Spataru & Mark Gillott

To cite this article: Catalina Spataru & Mark Gillott (2011) The use of intelligent systems for
monitoring energy use and occupancy in existing homes, Intelligent Buildings International, 3:1,

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Published online: 08 Jun 2011.

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The use of intelligent systems for

monitoring energy use and occupancy
in existing homes
Catalina Spataru*, Mark Gillott
Institute of Sustainable Energy Technology, Department of Architecture and Built Environment,
Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK

In the UK, carbon dioxide emissions from existing domestic building stock account for a significant
percentage. The UK Government has set ambitious targets for reducing UK carbon dioxide emissions by
80% by 2050. These targets will require significant changes to the existing buildings. To understand
and quantify the benefits of refurbishment solutions, it is vital to monitor exemplar buildings and bring
them to an energy efficiency standard with lower associated carbon emissions, by finding the most
efficient way to refurbish them. The case study considered is a 1930s replica three-bed semi-detached
house located in the University of Nottingham campus. The house is fully monitored, including
monitoring of the occupants patterns, environmental monitoring, electricity use and energy associated
with space and hot-water heating. The results presented in this article show that energy consumption
profiles are related to the occupants. The study shows that it is not enough just to improve building
performance in order to improve energy efficiency; it is also important to understand and influence
occupant behaviour because in domestic buildings occupants exert complete control of the appliances,
lights, heating and ventilation. General behavioural trends and patterns can be extracted from long-term
collected data.

Keywords: building performance; energy-efficient dwellings; occupant behaviour; post-occupancy


INTRODUCTION reducing UK carbon dioxide emissions by 80%

The threat of climate change due to the increase by 2050. Many studies state that energy use
in greenhouse gas emissions has led to depends on occupant behaviour, but very little
worldwide concern. According to the Fourth research shows clearly how consumption and
Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental occupant behaviour are related to each other.
Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), the primary There is an urgent need to implement methods
causes of climate change are due to human in order to determine occupants interaction
activities. In the UK, the existing domestic behaviour with available domestic technology,
building stock accounts for 30% of the total such as heating systems, electrical equipment
carbon dioxide emissions (BRE, 2008). The UK and lights, and to come up with solutions in
Government has set ambitious targets for order to reduce energy use in existing homes.

*Corresponding author. E-mail:

Intelligent Buildings International 3 (2011), 2431, doi:10.3763/inbi.2010.0006

2011 Earthscan ISSN: 1750-8975 (print), 1756-6932 (online)
Intelligent systems for monitoring energy use and occupancy 25

The objective of this study is to investigate Aggarwal and Cai (1999) have reviewed 2D
and develop a novel post-occupancy evaluation and 3D methods for human motion tracking and
(POE) methodology and software that integrates human activity recognition.
energy use, environment data and occupancy in Many systems using sensing technologies
one package. The necessity of such software is such as radio frequency identification (RFID) are
to analyse and reduce excessive energy available on the market, and are very efficient
consumption and high energy cost due to and reliable in collecting data. An RFID system
occupants energy use behaviour. Besides the is an automatic system that uses radio waves to
implementation of various technologies in capture information from tags. It is used in
improving buildings, there is also a need to various fields (health, pharma, manufacturing,
determine occupants behaviour and energy defence, energy and aviation) for real-time
consumption, depending on the number of localization/positioning and identification of
occupants. These data will enable us to objects and components, providing accurate
determine the carbon footprints of individuals location information. One of the first users of
within the house by linking their whereabouts to RFID for researching occupancy patterns in
the household energy consumed, during domestic buildings was Gillott et al.
different stages of the house being refurbished. (2006). Over time, researchers have tried
to improve the accuracy and precision,
SYSTEMS FOR PEOPLE TRACKING AND improving the sensing hardware by minimizing
Tracking people, their activity and location, as
well as objects within buildings is a process THE CASE STUDY CONSIDERED THE
applied by many researchers in various fields, E.ON 2016 RESEARCH HOUSE
such as pervasive computing, multimedia A semi-detached house (Figure 1) was built in
processing and computer vision. Many studies the University of Nottingham campus to the
suggest that by using occupancy sensors, good building standards of the 1930s, being
measured data performance and savings of representative of several homes that still exist in
25 75% in a variety of spaces can be obtained the UK. This project provides scientific data to
(Cordes, 1990). A variety of methods for existing verify current retrofit technologies to upgrade
tracking technology in the ubiquitous computing existing homes, by developing innovative
area have been developed, including solutions for improving energy performance,
wristbands, radio frequencies (RF), Wi-Fi and assesses cost-effective measures for
technology, GSM (Global Systems for Mobile reducing carbon emissions from aged buildings
Communication) technology and GPS (Global and potentially applied to similar properties
Positioning System). across the UK.
The system-based power line network The house was occupied by a family (mother,
(Brumitt et al., 2000) uses switches and motion father and daughter). Comprehensive equipment
sensors (detectors) to track indoor human was used for measuring electricity, water and gas
activities. The system provides reliable data that consumption, environmental measuring and
are easy to process. However, it cannot provide occupants patterns, to assess the performance
detailed information, because a motion sensor of a typical 1930s house and the upgrades to
can only say whether a person is present or not different levels of sustainability (Gillott and
in the monitored area. It cannot provide any Spataru, 2010). A range of sensors, such as
data about the exact location of the person. temperature, black bulb temperature, air quality
Koile et al. (2003) proposed a computer vision and humidity sensors, were placed across the
system to monitor the persons location and the house at different locations: walls, floors and
moving trajectory. ceilings.

Intelligent Buildings International 3 (2011)

26 Spataru, Gillott

FIGURE 1 The E.ON 2016 Research House on the university site campus

The loft space was a research laboratory with REAL-TIME OCCUPANCY MONITORING
access provided through the service zone to the SYSTEM USED
party wall side of the house (where data were The technology used in this work includes an
collected), simulating the environmental ultra-wideband RF location system (supplied by
performance of an adjacent property, keeping UBISENSE) to track and monitor occupants and
the party wall warm. space use (Ubisense Manual, 2007). It is the
All measurements from the building system first time that this version has been used for an
management were recorded in the central application in a domestic property. With a high
control panel and were accessed through 963 positional accuracy and reliability, the system
Supervisor software v.2 (provided by Horizons was used to track patterns of space usage in
Control) on a PC located in the loft space. The the house for real time and location, by
data logging equipment was a graphical determining their real-time occupancy patterns.
real-time user interface for the building control A number of sensors were placed strategically
system, providing acceptable accuracy but a around the house and pointed towards the floor
limited storage capacity, being able to host on a so as to detect a robust localization of the tag
page a maximum of 100 sensors (Trend 963, worn by the person with a relatively high
2008). The quantitative data were logged accuracy (Figure 2).
continuously and periodically collected in .*txt Each sensor network cable was connected to
files and used as a benchmark for the energy an ethernet switch. For the occupants, the
performances for UK houses. The data can also devices used were active ultra-high-frequency
be seen on the internet through a wireless RFID tags.
ZigBee, an area network technology based on The following steps were performed. First,
the IEEE 802.15.4-2006 standard, with a mounting brackets for sensors and cabling were
transmission range of 100 m, which installed, sensors were mounted, network data
consumes very little power (, cables and timing cables were connected to the
accessed December 2009). sensors, power supplies were connected, and

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Intelligent systems for monitoring energy use and occupancy 27

FIGURE 2 Schematic map of sensors location in the E.ON 2016 Research House

occupancy sensors in the test house were interface) aspect of the form was designed
calibrated and tested. Then upload the plan of using labels and buttons.
the house was uploaded and the sensors on it A monitor schema was created in order to
were located. The tag details were introduced in query current relationships between objects.
the system and the settings done. Another schema was created to query the names
Next, zones and sub-zones were defined and of the tags (persons) and their relationships
the necessary monitoring settings were done by within the selected spaces in the home.
creating roles and associating shapes with When a person or an object with an assigned
them, so that a detailed map of occupants tag moves in close proximity of the sensors, the
actions could be determined. Figure 3 shows ID of the tag is detected by the sensors and the
the sub-zones created in the living room zone. tag reader sends the data to the system, where
For each zone in the house, sub-zones were it is translated and combined with a set of
created, so as to create a detailed map of the pre-stored data parameters. There, based on
occupants pattern. the users request, the system detects
Using Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, a C# information about the tag ID and person
application in the host computer was created to identity. Information on the location and actions
place all the tags in a list view, obtain the of the occupants are logged by the reader
location data for any particular tag (person program to a *csv file (a comma separated file).
location and person description) and monitor
the spatial relationship. The GUI (graphical user A POE TOOL DATA PROCESSING AND
A key aspect in our study is the data process. The
*csv files with the occupants data obtained with
the UBISENSE system and the *txt files with the
quantitative indoor measurements are
transported and sorted in a database in
Microsoft Access 2007. Computer interface
software was developed, capable of retrieving
information about environmental parameters,
energy consumption and occupancy (IN/OUT
status from a particular space and (X, Y)
location). A series of event procedures were
written to perform an action or a series of
FIGURE 3 Sub-zones defined in the living room zone actions relating energy consumption and

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28 Spataru, Gillott

occupants presence. A schematic diagram of the often the one unknown variable even in the
entire POE process that integrates energy use, most comprehensive POE studies.
environment data and occupancy is shown in In order to provide detailed information, it is
Figure 4. necessary to take into account the following
The computer interface software developed factors: number of occupants and daily presence
will enable researchers to analyse the data time, whether they are active or asleep, duration
efficiently and in a short period of time, and of lighting in each room, real indoor temperature
large data sets can easily be accessed. The and type and use of appliances. The identification
input data were categorized in parameters of zones within the house is important to know
(sensors), persons (occupants) and cells (zones where each person is located. From the
considered in the house). The tool can provide information collected, it can be determined
breakdown domestic energy consumption and where energy is consumed in excess.
environmental, occupancy profiles and the The patterns of time spent in particular
relations between them for any specific period. spaces depend on the number of persons
This is an essential part of the POE study, present in the house. Figure 5 shows an
because it provides accurate data that will example of a graph with the number of active
enable us to determine the carbon footprints of occupants over 24 h. These patterns could vary
individuals within the house by linking their over the course of each day.
whereabouts to the household energy To see how much these patterns vary,
consumed, during different stages of the house occupants were monitored in each season
being refurbished. Detailed occupancy data are during the year. It is vital to know the

FIGURE 4 A schematic diagram of the POE process

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Intelligent systems for monitoring energy use and occupancy 29

FIGURE 5 Number of active occupants during 24 h

occupancy pattern in order to determine how Relations between electricity consumption

space is used during different seasons, whether and occupants patterns were determined
any energy is wasted and how it can be from the monitoring systems by using the
reduced. Detailed monitoring of behaviour was interface tool (Figure 8). This supports
undertaken by using the UBISENSE system. previous studies, which indicate that electricity
Figure 6 shows the patterns of space usage of demand is affected by occupants behaviour
an occupant (father) during 24 h. (Seligman et al., 1977; Moore, 1993; Toftum
The amount of gas usage is related to the et al., 2009).
outside temperature and occupants presence in The computer interface software is capable
the dwelling (Figure 7). Once the outside of generating a series of graphs for any interval
temperature is low, gas consumption increases so of time: weeks, months or years. In addition,
that the temperature inside stays almost constant the interface tool can generate a series of
during the 24 h. It was observed that outside different graphs for various combinations of
environmental conditions affect behavioural selected parameters: pie charts showing the
actions, which in turn affect gas consumption in percentage of electricity and gas consumption
the house. When a person is present, the space and occupancy per zone, bar charts by
temperature increases due to the use of a gas comparing the time spent for certain periods of
heating system. Therefore, as expected, colder time (work days and rest days), bar charts
temperatures lead to higher energy use. showing the consumption for different periods

FIGURE 6 Patterns of space usage of an occupant during 24 h

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30 Spataru, Gillott

FIGURE 7 Environmental conditions versus energy consumption schedule during 24 h

FIGURE 8 Occupants pattern versus electricity schedule in the dining room zone

of time during a day and occupancy mapping for before and after each phase of refurbishment.
time and location density. These data can provide information, such as
Occupant patterns are valuable in making a occupant density, and can help in finding solutions
decision regarding thermal comfort in the house for reducing electricity and gas consumption.

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Intelligent systems for monitoring energy use and occupancy 31

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS performance in one system, allowing the results

The results indicated that the interface software obtained to be combined. The patterns of
developed is computationally very efficient and occupants in a building are of great importance
is able to generate a series of information in in simulating the behaviour of occupants within
various forms. It is only necessary to choose the a building and their effects on the buildings
desired parameters, persons and type of graph. demands for resources such as electricity, gas
Large quantities of data can be stored in the or water, as well as the production of waste.
database and accessed through the interface
software developed. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
It has been proved that the system supplied by The authors acknowledge the support of the
UBISENSE is able to locate and track occupant Research Council UK Energy Programme and
location with a high degree of accuracy. Our E.ON (UK) who funded this work as part
results indicated that it is possible to build a tool of a wider research project called Consumer
that is able to combine the person location data Appealing Low Energy Technologies for Building
with environmental and energy consumption Retrofit (CALEBRE).
data. Using this method, considerable information
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