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Neuron: AI smart building console, Greater China

Empowering smart buildings with a ‘digital brain’

Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems provide us year-round indoor comfort, but contribute to staggering levels of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. In Hong Kong, some 90% of the city’s electricity is consumed in buildings – around 60% of the city's emissions.

While only a small fraction of Hong Kong's 40,000 buildings are classed as energy efficient, over half of them are classed as ‘sick buildings’ - exposing occupants to health issues and discomfort due to building-related factors such as poor ventilation or indoor temperatures.

Integrating Arup’s domain expertise in the industry and the power of digital technology, we developed Neuron to be a ‘digital brain’ of buildings to learn and act on improved energy efficiency and indoor environments.

What is Neuron?

The Neuron Digital Hub Platform is an intuitive and fully customisable visualisation tool to engage users, enhance building efficiency and optimise operational workflows. One of the most innovative features of the platform is the interaction between the building’s 3D BIM model and real-time data captured automatically from building management systems and HVAC systems.

Alvin Lo and Mark Chen talked about how Neuron achieves sustainability through IoT, AI and BIM.

Project Ove is an internal project developed by Arup, it creates a virtual replication of human body through Building Information Model (BIM).

Smart building’s ‘digital brain’

A building resembles a human body – data-rich MEP system representing the respiratory and circulatory systems, while the architectural and structural outputs can be seen as bones and skins. We use our brains for coordinating our systems and responing to changes of external environment and internal abnormal performance.

In buildings, although building automation and energy management systems have been around for some time, they focus mainly on monitoring and providing alarm capabilities. With the increasing convergence of building systems there is great value in a ‘digital brain’, namely a central analytics platform to provide more insights from the combined data. This is why we develop Neuron.


What is Neuron?

Integrating Arup’s domain expertise in the building industry with a digital mindset and the power of Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence, we developed Neuron, an integrated ‘BIM (Building Information Modelling) + IoT + Analytics’ platform for smart buildings. This cloud-based centralised management console provides a foundation to connect disparate building systems and equipment, making them easily accessible and facilitating operation and maintenance.

Neuron is a total solution taking the concept of smart buildings to a new level and changing the way buildings are designed, constructed, managed, operated and maintained. It does not only help buildings achieve energy savings, but also create a better indoor environment that focuses on the health and wellbeing of the occupants.

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Neuron brings the traditional building management industry into a new era with data-driven operation methodology, shaping a new dimension to the ‘smart building’ concept.

AI makes smart building ‘smarter’

Neuron embodies 5G, IoT, big data, cloud computing and AI technology for smart buildings with advanced data analytic capabilities. With the computational power of AI together with machine learning, Neuron transforms building operations – by analysing and learning from large historical data set, it can automatically perform trend discovery and energy forecast, building system optimisation, fault detection and predictive maintenance. In this sense, Neuron is a game changer as it enables buildings to actively response to dynamic environment and look for opportunities to enhance energy efficiency and indoor environment, instead of only presenting real-time status and waiting for building operators’ action.

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By learning historical data of chiller plants, Neuron can generate machine learning models to predicate the cooling load demand and calculate the optimised settings to building operators.

Integrating with the building’s existing 3D BIM model, Neuron makes building performance data more transparent and insightful.

3D BIM facilitates building performance visualisation

Neuron offers intuitive and fully customisable visualisation to engage users, enhance building efficiency and optimise operational workflows. One of the most innovative features is the interaction between the building’s 3D BIM and real-time data captured automatically from building management systems and HVAC systems using open protocols including Building Automation and Control networks (BACnet) and Modbus.


Digital twins with heatmap provide a more comprehensive picture about energy use, occupancy, abnormal monitoring, etc.

Operators can visualise specific parameters and statistics for the item through interactive and responsive dashboards, making building performance data more transparent and usable. Also, 3D BIM further improves the capability of real-time monitoring of building system parameters and by capturing changes in the dynamic environment, the integrated platform can generate timely responses to abnormal or threshold triggers and thus reduce energy consumption.


First AI and data driven building in Hong Kong

Neuron has already been applied to several pilot projects. In Hong Kong, Neuron is in use in One Taikoo Place, a brand-new triple Grade A 48-storey office tower developed by Swire Properties, which is now the first AI and data-driven smart building in the city.

It is also implemented in the iconic Water Cube in Beijing with substantial improvement in its operation. For example, through energy usage optimisation and predictive maintenance an energy saving up to 25% has been realised. Additionally, with air pollution being a major concern for Beijing, a network of IoT sensors deployed in the venue continuously monitor the indoor air quality and collect data to help optimise building system operations.


By implementing Neuron, One Taikoo Place now becomes Hong Kong’s first AI-enabled smart building. It is definitely another milestone for our continuous endeavour in data-driven building operation and asset management. ” Raymond Kwok Project Manager, Swire Properties