While heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems provide us year-round indoor comfort, they also contribute to staggering levels of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
In Hong Kong, for example, while only 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.
Can our buildings get smarter to provide a more efficient, comfortable and sustainable environment?
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.
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.
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.
Neuron leads the trend through enabling buildings to make active response in advance based on prediction and self-learning ability, instead of passively handling with alerts.
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.
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
AI-powered health screening tool
During the post-COVID-19 transition back to normality, we developed a new feature for Neuron to identify those with a high temperature – one of the first symptoms of the disease – in public or commercial environments.
We added a thermal imaging camera, which can measure forehead temperature quickly and efficiently. The system can identify individuals with an elevated body temperature and send that person to a separate queue for further screening by a designated employee with a hand-held temperature scanner.Download thermal imaging camera brochure
This solution reduces the need for performing slow, manual checks with hand-held infrared scanners in buildings, a process which can usually lead to long queues. Also, it can be easily deployed and operated as a checkpoint at the entrance of any building including office lobbies.
We are already seeing our government and private sector clients benefiting from this. It is a cost-effective and reliable way of helping to protect the public, and our clients’ employees. ” Jacky Chan East Asia Digital Services Leader