Housing companies in Finland look to improve energy consumption with IoT

Project in Helsinki and Vantaa installing sensors on buildings to monitor energy consumption, and raise resident's awareness of data rights

The sensor systems are intended to provide a low cost way to monitor energy usage in the homes.
The sensor systems are intended to provide a low cost way to monitor energy usage in the homes.

A group of six housing companies in the Finnish cities of Helsinki and Vantaa are piloting an IoT project to reduce energy consumption and improve residents awareness of their data rights at the same time.

The pilot project has installed IoT sensors in six blocks of apartments, to measure energy consumption.

The housing blocks, which are of older stock, have been fitted with sensors as a simple and cost efficient means of monitoring energy usage, primarily heating. The project organisers say that using sensors for data collection is as much as ten times cheaper than manual measurements.

"Heating accounts for the majority, approximately 70%, of the energy consumption of blocks of flats. What’s more, blocks of flats typically have little in the way of technology for actively monitoring heating based on actual needs. As such, Motiva estimates that as much as a third of the energy consumed ends up being wasted, even though the solutions to address this can be quite simple: an adjustment of the heating network, the renewal of a water circulation pump or a change in the adjustment curve’s limit value. However, identifying the correct solution requires expertise," said Project Manager Timo Ruohomäki from Forum Virium Helsinki, the innovation company of the City of Helsinki.

This pilot was launched as part of the Climate-friendly housing companies project. The City of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki, the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) and the cities of Helsinki and Vantaa are working together with the Green Building Council, and the aim of their shared project is to reduce housing companies’ energy consumption and emissions by increasing their awareness of digital solutions.

One of the project’s housing companies encompasses 14 buildings in Vuosaari in Helsinki, which pay altogether nearly 500,000 euros every year for district heating.

"A vast number of buildings in the suburbs are within the same age bracket, meaning that there is plenty of cost-reduction potential. Our housing company is currently focusing on its energy consumption, which is why we also became interested in this project. We want to learn what type of data can be collected with these measurements and how the data can be utilised," added the Chair of the Board Risto Lähteenmäki from housing company Lokkisaarentie.

The project is also aiming to raise awareness of the residents of data rights. Under GDPR, the sensor data collected at home is now considered personal data.

This raises both interest and concerns for housing companies, as the processing of the data and associated security practices must be professional and transparent.

The 6Aika project Climate-friendly Housing Companies aims to increase awareness of these very issues. The project involves testing IoT sensors to collect findings that can provide a better understanding of a building’s energy efficiency. To analyse the data, the project is seeking service providers capable of refining this type of data into concrete recommendations for long term planning, for example. The project pays special attention to the ownership of data and ensuring that residents have a genuine opportunity to have a say on where the data collected from their flats will end up.

The Climate-friendly Housing Companies project is a joint undertaking between the City of Helsinki, the City of Vantaa, the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) and the Green Building Council Finland. The project will run until the end of 2020. This will provide enough time to monitor participating properties during the 2019–2020 heating season and partly in 2020–2021, aiming to utilise the data in a way that provides clearly measurable energy savings. The project will culminate in the publication of a digital guide for housing companies, which will provide more detailed information on the potential of data and its collection while also taking privacy into account. The project is funded by the 6Aika programme.

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