A*STAR develops sensor platform for companies to test green building solutions

Rachel Phua Channel NewsAsia 10 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's research arm, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, or A*STAR, has developed a new platform for companies as testbed for green building products in a tropical climate.

The system, called the Intelligent Building Energy and Environmental Monitoring and Control System, or i-BEEMS, was co-developed by researchers from A*STAR’s Experimental Power Grid Centre (EPGC) and Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC).

The platform, which is currently housed at the EPGC on Jurong Island, works by tapping on a network of sensors that measures various atmospheric and energy-consuming elements to evaluate how effect a green building solution is.

It compares the building's performance figures without the product, and the new set of data when a building product is introduced.

i-BEEMS has close to 200 sensors placed around the EPGC building, and monitors the building’s elements in real time. Measurements are categorized under three groups: the building’s energy consumption, such as the amount of air-conditioning, utilities, and lighting different parts of the building is using; the indoor environmental quality, such as the amount of air pollutants and level of noise produced; the outdoor environmental conditions, such as the wind speed, amount of rainfall and visible light.

Besides observing how the product affects the building’s functions, the data collected is also transferred to a virtual model of the EPGC, where the researchers can test the product’s effectiveness in “many different scenarios which may not be measured on the field,” Dr Koh Wee Shing, a senior scientist at the IHPC, and one of the co-developers of the platform, told Channel NewsAsia during a visit to the centre.

Being housed at a facility with an experimental power grid also means that companies can test how their product reacts to any changes in electricity levels, said Mr Alex Chong, a senior manager at A*STAR's EPGC, and another co-developer of i-BEEMS.

He added that having i-BEEMS operating on a building at Jurong Island also means the product will be tested in “harsh weather conditions”, as it is close to chemical plants and shipyards that “filled the atmosphere with dirt”.

It also comes as Singapore is pushing for more environmentally-friendly building solutions. The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has set a national target of at least 80 per cent of all buildings in Singapore to be certified green by 2030. According to one report by the BCA, this means that the buildings must be “energy and water efficient, with a high quality and healthy indoor environment, integrated with green spaces and constructed from eco-friendly materials”.

"In general there's a push from different government agencies to green the buildings as well as to improve energy-efficiency,” Mr Chong said. “With all these initiatives, I think … there's some motivation for the companies to come up with new products and solutions that would allow building owners to address these concerns.”

He added that he was driven to create the platform as there are a “limited” number of sites for industry players to test out their solutions, which on the other hand, are aplenty in the market.


Mr Chong added he started developing the system – which cost “a few hundreds of thousands” of dollars to develop but has a “minimal” operational cost – in mid-2014. i-BEEMS hosted its first test-bedding project with commercial players in January this year, where it helped to test out a new type of glass panel solution developed by glass manufacturer AGC Group.

AGC group is testing how their double-glazed glass panel sets work in a tropical climate, as their products are usually created for use in temperate countries such as Japan, Mr Lim Yew Meng, AGC Asia Pacific’s executive director said.

The glass product that the company is testing at EPGC, the ATTOCH, has been installed in more than 200 projects in Japan since 2012, Mr Lim added, but it needed to test how well the glass panes work in a hot and humid climate first before “putting it on the market”.

"And it is a common practice in Singapore that the developer, the architect, the consultant, would prefer an independent third-party data report instead of our in-house report or data,” Mr Lim said.

AGC will be testing their product with i-BEEMS till the end of this year, but Mr Chong said that the research team is also currently in discussions with several other companies to test their products at the centre.

He added that he hopes to add a data analytics software to i-BEEMS so that it can help to interpret the data collected, and allow it to test 'smart' technologies and devices in the future.
Source: CNA/mn