Building for a better future

Future homes may be able to ’tell’ homeowners when insulation needs replacing and estimate the amount of money wasted each day because of escaped heat.

This is part of the vision researchers at Cardiff University’s School of Engineering are projecting for homes and buildings. A team there is examining the feasibility of using wireless sensing systems for providing continuous recommendations on energy-saving retrofitting solutions over the lifetime of buildings.

Project leader Christina Hopfe, a civil engineering lecturer at Cardiff, said the research programme will test the use of sensors for applications beyond smart meters and energy monitoring white goods, which are already commercially available.

Some ideas, she added, include incorporating sensors in window insulation to monitor thermal losses. Hopfe believes this information could be wirelessly sent to a home database for analysis and then directed to a homeowner’s mobile phone.

’It could tell you the amount of energy savings you could achieve if you change the window insulation,’ she said. ’It could also tell you when you would receive payback on the cost of the new insulation.’

Hopfe added that the same sort of wireless sensing system could be integrated with the roof and even the flooring. The idea is to give homeowners and businesses the information they need to adapt their homes and buildings in a way that saves energy and meets varying environmental conditions.

While commercial products and services are not the initial goal following their feasibility study, Hopfe hopes that the research findings get picked up and used by industry. ’We hope this concept has a snowball effect,’ she said.

The programme is set to begin in April and will run for three years.