Creating smarter buildings, from design to occupancy

New project funded by the City of Edmonton focuses research on building smarter cities.

Katie Willis - 29 October 2019

A new partnership between the City of Edmonton and the University of Alberta is focused on transforming our infrastructure from static to smart, with the potential to transform the way professionals design, construct, and operate facilities-as well as the way that occupants interact with them.

The project, called Advancing Toward Smart Buildings, is being led by Eleni Stroulia, Omid Ardakanian, and Ioanis Nikolaidis, professors in the Department of Computing Science, with Mohamed Al-Hussein in the Faculty of Engineering.

"Edmonton is one of the first cities to engage with new technologies such as smart buildings," said Stroulia. "Smart buildings are a natural fit for research, given our location and climate, which necessitates that we make energy management our priority. And furthermore, given our expertise in Internet of Things technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) we are well positioned to develop solutions with broad impact."

One hallmark of the project will be the digitization and automation of building information, from plans and models to advanced building controls that can respond in real time to activities happening inside any given building.

"With building and construction industries responsible for 36 per cent of global final energy consumption and nearly 40 per cent of total direct and indirect carbon dioxide emissions, improving the efficiency of the construction industry and the management and maintenance of buildings can have a substantial positive impact on our climate," said Stroulia.

"Buildings today have a data 'footprint' that accumulates across their lifetime," added Nikolaidis. "Some data come from built-in sensors used for managing the comfort of the residents, but increasingly data is also collected from devices used by the residents, like their smartphones. Understanding how buildings are utilized and lived in requires that we have systematic ways to fuse the data that come from all of those different sources."

This project builds on existing work, including the Smart Condo Project co-led by Stroulia and Lili Liu, dean of Applied Health Sciences in the University of Waterloo.

This project is part of the MetroLab Network, an international initiative designed to share information, best practices and solutions to common challenges faced by cities around the world. It is one of several MetroLab projects at the University of Alberta.