Leveraging digital solutions and AI to reduce the climate impact of residential energy use
Smart and energy efficient systems has a large potential to add value for both construction companies and property owners alike. An exploratory project allowed the real estate company Tornet to investigate innovative ways to link ground-breaking energy solutions to behavioural change among residents to minimise climate impact. With AFRY’s service, a multidisciplinary project team came together to deliver concrete ready-to-implement solutions for Tallbohov Electric Village in Sweden.
Our homes account for a large amount of global greenhouse gas emissions. In spite of this knowledge, the tools available to influence how we use energy in our homes risk being too blunt to have much impact. Electrification, greener energy sources, and general energy reduction techniques, are currently not able to adjust for, and take advantage of, momentary energy capacity levels.
Residential real estate company Tornet has operated at the forefront of flexible energy systems for quite some time and is wellaware of the energy supply challenges of the future. As part of a broader ambition to minimise climate impact, Tornet partnered with the governmental agency Boverket, the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, and AFRY in order to explore innovative ways to link ground breaking energy solutions with behavioural change among residents.
Maintaining a holistic perspective was a key success factor in the project. It was complex, but the complexity was important because it allowed us to tap into so many different sources of expertise.
- Therese Wernstedt, Senior Sustainability Expert at AFRY
Sustainability Scanning lets us view buildings as ecosystems
The project takes a new, holistic approach to how we see buildings, viewing them as complete ecosystems, where reduced climate impact is achieved through a cross-functional approach at every level – from the underlying energy system to individual residents. Managing a cross-functional process is also what makes the project complex.
In this project, AFRY used one of proprietary systematic processes called Sustainability Scanning. The scan is conducted together with the client at the beginning of a project to identify how sustainability targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be met. The purpose is to gain an understanding of the most important sustainability issues for the project and to manage those issues in a systematic manner.
Using AI and digitalisation to shift from reduced energy consumption to reduced climate impact
A key part of the project was to implement a new type of energy system. Tallbohov Electric Village’s energy system is designed to achieve low climate impact through local energy production, and storage of electricity for effect peaks, in combination with encouraging responsible energy consumption among residents. The project uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to effectively steer the building’s energy system towards minimising energy consumption and decreasing climate impact while maintaining an optimal indoor climate, says Hans Forsberg, AI Strategist at AFRY.
“AI can optimise complex ecosystems on a level that we can’t achieve in other ways, especially when it comes to minimising climate impact and not just energy consumption. Because the climate impact of energy consumption largely depends on what the variable energy market looks like at the moment,” says Therese Wernstedt at AFRY.
To promote more climate-smart energy consumption among residents, AFRY’s digital platform leverages AI to give feedback on historic climate footprint while providing a real-time view of ongoing usage and offering predictions for expected consumption. This enables individualised suggestions to residents on how to reduce their climate footprint, such as encouraging them to use the WWF’s climate calculator to consider alternative food choices.
It’s clear that the AI-driven system is doing what we want it to do. Our job then is to create a link between the AI insights from the energy hub and the residents. When we have made that connection, we can influence how they behave when it comes to using energy.
- Thomas Norr, Project manager at Tornet
The digital platform is brought to residents through the user interface TORNA – a smartphone app connected to the building’s energy system. In the future, it could also be integrated into, for example, a smart mirror in the apartment.
The TORNA system for residents has been developed to achieve a range of interim targets, says Elin Annebäck, Designer at AFRY. The features are related to climate-smart energy consumption, including giving recommendations related to sustainable travel and sustainable consumption of food, goods, and services. For Thomas Norr at Tornet, the project has been a journey in embracing a holistic view of Tornet’s buildings, digitalisation, and sustainability.
“Over the course of the project, it became increasingly clear to me how important the overall concept is to our ability to reach our goals. I no longer want to talk about energy steering via AI or TORNA separately, it’s the combination of these tools that is the key,” says Thomas Norr.
Project overview: Tallbohov Electric Village
The Tallbohov Electric Village project cast a wide net and focused
on investigating three main areas:
- Cutting-edge technology for the energy systems of the future
- Tools to promote a more sustainable circular lifestyle
- Knowledge-sharing both nationally and internationally