Finland’s innovative approach to optimised living
As the fourth industrial revolution moves into our homes, access to data and control of energy use become keys to environmentally friendly and comfortable living. Based on this, everything from maintenance to washing laundry and charging vehicles can be optimised.
Smart buildings are ultimately all about energy used at the right time in the right place. With the technology available today it is possible to optimise, for example, lighting, heating, ventilation and the use of white goods according to weather conditions and market prices.
However, contractors and homeowners are not always aware of the available solutions or willing to invest in them. This is why the Energy and Buildings event has become an important part of the Vaasa EnergyWeek, held in March.
“There needs to be a change in attitudes towards smart building,” says Mauritz Knuts, project manager at Vasek. “It should become as self-evident as automatic locks on doors are in houses today.”
Knuts emphasises the need for cost-efficient solutions that can pay back investments as quickly as possible, in order to encourage construction companies to use the latest technology. At the same time, the efforts to renovate old buildings need to be tripled to reach the Finnish carbon neutral vision set for 2050.
Teaching old houses new tricks
One of the Finnish companies answering the demand for sustainable solutions is LeaseGreen, whose customised solutions are specifically designed to minimise costs. By first optimising energy use and then measuring energy production systems according to actual consumption, the gap between invested money and payback is minimised.
At the same time, it has positive effects on the environment. For example, the energy renovation of a hotel in Southern Finland recently resulted in a 50 per cent cut in CO2 emissions.
“Improving energy efficiency in existing properties is more difficult than in new constructions as there are more constraints and restrictions,” says the company’s sales manager Ari Laitinen. “That is why we personalise comprehensive solutions for every case.”
This drive to create better solutions can be found in the way we get around. Vaasan Sähköverkko highlights the possibilities brought forth by the increasing demand for electric cars. As the electrification of transport plays an important role in Finland’s goal to reduce CO2 emissions, the Finnish government wants to see 250 000 electric vehicles on the roads by the end of the 2030s.
This means new demand for charging stations.
“Including charging stations in apartment buildings could increase their value,” says Juha Rintamäki, the CEO of Vaasan Sähköverkko. “The reality is that you usually charge your car at home or at work and public stations are only used about 10 per cent of the time.”
X-ray vision maximises maintenance
Today’s digitalisation efforts also allow fast maintenance, which is crucial in keeping energy use at the right levels. Mapping the construction is, especially with the emerging augmented reality tools, a matter of exploiting every corner of the house. The relevant data can then be distributed to local actors, which is what Granlund’s latest development is all about.
“We have been able to transfer the analytics from the construction plan to a maintenance model that can be used in practice,” says Teemu Hausen, the company’s business area director.
Granlund’s software continuously monitors the building and alerts when something is wrong. All the relevant information is then automatically distributed to local service people who can see the exact location and component that needs to be fixed.
“As soon as we find local service people that can be connected to the cloud and hired when needed we will take this solution beyond Finnish borders to Dubai,” says Hausen.
The dawn of prosuming
Connecting households to smart systems means that the use of renewable energy sources can be maximised. The peaks in production and consumption, which are now balanced with fossil fuels, could instead be tackled, for example, by using the house as a battery that stores and regulates the use of the energy.
When regulating the demand, this also means new business models based on sharing and trading electricity.
“The focus is turning to prosumers, which fuses the production and consumption,” Matias Grädler, innovation director at Wapice, explains. “If two neighbours produce enough energy for themselves the rest can be transferred to the grid to then be used by others.”
Wapice is currently part of two national research projects where this prosumption model is explored and used in practice to form new economic systems.
“There is a global problem that needs to be addressed and Finnish technology can help identifying the cause and make improvements,” Grädler summarises.