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Gamifying Mindful Energy Consumption in Public Schools

by Lucian Corduneanu

The beginning

Entitled „Smart And Sustainable Energy Consumption – SASEC”, the project implementation period is 21 months, gathering various organizations in a strategic partnership—the City of Zrenjanin in partnership with Municipality of Timisoara, the Regional Agency for Socio-Economic Development – Banat and the Cluster for Sustainable Energy Romania – ROSENC.

After following a demanding tender process, we have officially started working on the project at the end of 2019. Our challenge was to develop an integration system that would include both the hardware equipment and administration platform required for measuring the energy efficiency of in three public schools in Timișoara, Romania and other three in Zrenjanin, Serbia.

The source of the problem

A little goes a long way, and the same applies for how each person uses power energy in each classroom, in each school. Despite the collective use of energy, such as lightning in the hallways or power sockets in laboratories, there are still many other small gestures that anyone can make and still impact energy consumption—turning off the light in a classroom when leaving moving to a laboratory or sports facility, reduce the use of phones during school hours to reduce the need for battery recharge and so on.

The first step into becoming more aware of energy consumption is to actually know where you stand. A third party team has performed an energy efficiency audit and presented a case study for each school. Closely following, Denkstatt ensured that everyone was on the same page by addressing and encouraging best practices among the students and school staff.

This has proven to be a solid basis for our activity, as we have already had the data and the openness to implement our solution and launch the permanent energy and air quality audit.

Mindful energy consumption turned into competition

The mission of this project is to help students and professors better understand how they are using the energy and how simple behaviour change can impact energy consumption and ambient quality.

This project has gathered a lot of bright minds, hence the idea of challenging the schools to compete with each other in terms of energy efficiency. In this case, schools had to actually see it to believe it. Thus, each school is equipped with a TV screen showing relevant metrics in real time.

So you’ve seen it, but how do you change it? By offering actionable advice. Our project partners are also providing energy efficiency coaching sessions regularly, in order to raise awareness of responsible use of energy and non-cost measures that can be implemented by everyone in the school, e.g. pulling the curtains to allow the sunlight to generate more heat in winter.

Our technical solution

This project has required a particular setup, hence its specific requirements among which we can enumerate:

  • Collect CO2, temperature, humidity, VOC, illuminance, atmospheric pressure and human activity levels in 150 classrooms
  • Collect Electric energy parameters: Active/Reactive Energy, Avg Voltage, Avg Current, Power factor
  • Collect Heat energy parameters: heat energy index, actual power, pipe temperature, flow, volume
  • Dashboard to visualise parameters on TV screens
  • Acquire raw data exports for data scientists. Learning all the way!

Our challenge is to develop and install all the equipment required for the ambient and energy monitoring solution to work reliably. Here are the major steps we had to follow:

  • Install LoRa gateways with outdoor antennas for each school
  • Install 25 x Sensix Ambient devices in each school
  • Install 4 x Sensix Energy concentrator in each school
  • Install meters for electric and caloric energy metering
  • Install one TV screen per school for the live dashboard
  • Provide access to our mobile and web apps to both teachers and students.

Our progress

As we’re writing this, 60 devices are being tested, awaiting firmwares adjustments to ensure quality and reliability. We’re currently experimenting with the ultimate LoRa gateways that have the potential to lower our infrastructure costs and increase coverage.

We expect to install Sensix solution in all the schools no later than mid July.

Coming up next

Besides raising awareness around energy consumption, the entire process will also require action from the local administration. Thanks to the personalized data and actionable insights, the management can finally take informed decisions, such as replace faulty equipment, update its lightning system and so on.

Our biggest goal with this project, besides successfully implementing our Sensix solution is to create a preceding case that would determine local administrations to consider adopting our solution in even more schools, kindergartens, hospitals, town halls.

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