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VTT developes future energy solutions in cooperation with residents


House can guide how to save energy

Residents have a notable influence on a building’s energy efficiency and carbon footprint. Together with the City of Espoo, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland will start to monitor the energy efficiency of the new research hotel in Otaniemi. The result will enable the creation of a new reciprocal energy efficiency model that will focus on the role of the resident and on the reciprocal opportunities created by building automation. 

VTT is developing future energy solutions in cooperation with residents of the new research hotel in Otaniemi. The hotel offers rented furnished accommodation to visiting foreign research scientists, who will move in to the new building in November. The four-storey research hotel is located at Otaranta 4 and overlooks the sea. The hotel has 52 rooms ranging from 30 to 80 square metres, with common areas and facilities on each floor.

Residents’ energy behaviour matters – up to a fourfold difference in consumption

Research Professor Miimu Airaksinen says that the role of the resident is a significant one. Existing research shows that the varied energy behaviour of residents can even amount to a fourfold difference in energy consumption. This is clearly significant with regard to energy-saving.

Over the coming winter VTT will monitor the research hotel’s energy efficiency: how and in what form the residents consume energy. The research hotel’s building automation will monitor and distribute information on the energy impacts of various items directly to residents.

The aim is to create a new reciprocal monitoring model in which residents give and receive information on their own energy consumption and learn how they can influence it.

Exacting environmental and energy requirements have been set for the building, and gold-level LEED certification has been applied for. Assessment methods for energy-efficiency solutions have already been developed by VTT for the City of Espoo at the building’s design phase.

The research hotel has been built to perform at energy consumption levels considerably lower than required by current regulations, with the property itself producing around a third of its own electricity and thermal energy. With an energy efficiency rating at an extremely low 92 (kWh/gsm²/year), the thoroughly insulated building is heated principally by district heating and partly by ground heating. The mechanical ventilation is fitted with a heat recovery function. The roof is equipped with 35 m² of solar panels intended to provide a portion of the building’s electrical energy, while around half the building’s hot water is heated by solar thermal collectors. A heat pump is used to recover heat from waste water. In summer, a circulation pump is all that is needed to obtain almost 120 kW of free cooling energy from ground heating wells. Elevation of room temperature is also prevented by use of window blinds and louvers.

The project began two years ago, and once residents have moved into the building in November will continue in the form of follow-up research. The first results are expected in just over a year’s time.

The research hotel was commissioned by the City of Espoo, the project being implemented in cooperation with VTT and the research hotel design group.