Student produce ideas for improving energy efficiency

The goal of the Energy Efficiency competition was to find new solutions and best practices for improving energy efficiency on the campuses.

Energy efficiency solutions were brainstormed at Aalto University in a competition won by the Aalto Event Book service.

The goal of the competition organised by Aalto University was to find new solutions and best practices for improving energy efficiency on the campuses. Intended for students, staff and researchers, the competition attracted 26 proposals.

The jury awarded first prize to Aalto Event Book, a web-based service that allows customers to book and order facilities and services throughout the entire campus area.

- The campus area has many lecture rooms, teaching spaces and meeting rooms that are underused. The purpose of the service is to maximise the utilisation rate for facilities and provide the customer with all the necessary services as close as possible, says architecture student Matias Mäenpää.

Mäenpää developed the service with his fellow student Olli Hanhirova. Their prize was a €10 000 budget for further development of the idea.

The partners want to develop Aalto Event Book into a visually high-quality and user-friendly portal that makes it easy to book facilities and services. The website brings together all Aalto University and Student Union facilities as well as accommodation and restaurant services.

Attitudes are decisive

Second prize in the competition went to the Visual Campaign for the Project Ecocampus by 2030 proposal. According to the jury, it motivates and encourages people to save energy and makes Aalto University's sustainable development goals visible.

The idea involves placing graphics designed for vinyl stickers around campus to tell, for example, how much of the energy consumed at Aalto University has been produced by means of renewable energy during the past month – or how much the use of renewable energy has increased each year.

- The graphics are easily approachable and clear, allowing students, staff and guests to immediately understand the message they contain, says design student Eevi Saarikoski.

In addition to large graphics, the people behind the proposal would also install small impulse stickers near locations where water and electricity are consumed. The stickers would remind users that, along with big changes, reducing energy consumption requires small acts from individuals

Graphics placed in selected locations would serve as a continuous campaign to support Aalto University's goal of becoming independent in terms of energy production by 2030. The infographics would include QR codes providing a convenient link to more in-depth information available on the internet.

Although messages about energy consumption already exist on campus, the creators say that information sharing is poorly implemented.

- Information is often outdated and hidden among menus and bus schedules. In order to highlight important issues, unnecessary or less important messages have to be removed, says Saarikoski. Along with all this, energy information is disseminated on large screens, which conflicts with the idea of sustainable development. Communications brings the word greenwashing to mind.

Saarikoski tossed ideas around with Maritere Vargas from Puerto Rico and Mette Baunbaek Pederson from Denmark. Saarikoski and Vargas study design at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, while Pedersen was an exchange student in the department.

Energy from the sun

Third place went to a proposal called Subtle Visibility – The Dipoli Solar Project. The group studied the placement of solar panels in the Dipoli building designed by architects Reima and Raili Pietilä. Dipoli was completed in 1966.

Proponents of architecture and building traditions are concerned about how to retain the building's architectural and cultural-historical value. On the other hand, Aalto University wants to improve the property's energy efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint by means of new solutions.

- The starting point was to study how different values can be taken into consideration when installing modern solar energy production in the culturally important and partly protected Dipoli building, explains Jenni Väänänen, a student in the Master's Programme in Creative Sustainability.

Based on its research, the group found that solar panels could be installed over an area of some 550 square meters on the roof of Dipoli without affecting the aesthetic value of the building.

The roof will not be completely covered with panels. The structures will be implemented in a way that complies with the aesthetic criteria and is acceptable to bodies that want to retain the integrity of the building.

Calculations show that the facility would produce some 160 000 kWh of energy each year, which is equivalent to one percent of the energy required by the Aalto University campus.

- One percent may seem quite small in terms of overall energy production, but the power plant would realise the principle of distributed energy generation. The location on the Dipoli roof is particularly suitable for capturing solar energy.

The group developed the idea during the Values in Design course. They used Friedman's three-step Value Sensitive Design (VSD) method, which progresses from specifying stakeholders and their values to empirical and technical investigations.

In the technical phase, the group installed solar panels on different parts of the Dipoli roof and studied their visibility in the environment. The group members also interviewed passers-by to determine their opinions of the solar panels.

Väänänen collaborated on the idea with Luisa Mok and Mankyu Chun, who study in the doctoral programme in the Department of Design. Although the three didn't know each other prior to this project, group work turned them into friends. Installation of the test panels on the Dipoli roof during the shortest days of December provided a great sense of team spirit.

- None of us had ever done work that went so deeply into technology and infrastructure. It was a great experience. I believe that we all learned a lot from this process, says Väänänen.

Adjusting the temperatures

The proposal Energy Dialogue with Invisibles by Genku Kayo and Nobue Suzuki was awarded with an honorary.

The scientists propose to control the temperatures flexibly according to the actual use of the space. They also suggest building up an environmental information system to have a dialogue with the students and involve them in HVAC control decision.

The proposal takes advantage of two branches of science: Kayo is working in Department of Energy Technology, Suzuki investigates human behavior in built environment.

The campus is connected to district heating. The heating demand is reduced slightly in night time but all the space is heated with the same way 24 hours a day even in weekends and holidays. The heating control does not consider whether there are activities in the space or not.

According to the proposal the heating period during the working days could be cut down from current fourteen hours to nine hours. Hereby the energy need for space heating would decrease 3–5 percent.

The space should be heated in a flexible manner considering the use of the space. Furthermore the use of the space should be guided from inactive rooms to more active rooms. So the temperature in the less active rooms could be adjusted a bit lower than normal.

- If the base temperature in an empty space is lowered by one degree the heat demand per day decreases about 11 percent. If the temperature is lowered two degrees the energy saving for space heating reaches almost 17 percent, Kayo says.

Suzuki and Kayo suggest installing an environmental information network in the campus buildings. Besides delivering information, it could also collect feedback from the students. The network would serve as awakener of energy dialogue among students, personnel and visitors of the university. Energy dialogue also gives you an opportunity to face with the energy issues.

According to the jury the case analysis of the proposal provides concrete possibilities to utilize the idea in both teaching and research, and serve as a concrete action of the Ecocampus 2030 objectives.

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