Edit Torino–UX and mathematical algorithms to simplify the control of a complex building

In recent years, attention to the environment and to the reduction of energy consumption has inevitably exploded thanks to new technologies. Under the Christmas tree, it will no longer be surprising to find a smart thermostat or a remote controller for home lights. Similar IoT devices (Internet of Things) for the residential world have a significant impact on the reduction of consumption and pollution, and above all, they help to educate people to behave more responsibly and more carefully in their homes.

But if consumption and pollution in the residential world are extremely influenced by individual behavior—we are still responsible if we forget to switch off the television! – for all non-residential buildings, there is a huge gray area where you can do a lot of optimization, as consumption is not perceived by occupants and users. Just think of schools, offices, shops, cinemas or theaters, all spaces where we spend many hours of our time but where we have no perception and no possible influence on how lights, heating, and ventilation are managed.

However, thanks to new technologies, this paradigm is changing.

In these large buildings, the plants are regulated by very complex software, called BMS—Building Management Systems—which often try to maintain pre-set settings. They are certainly able to regulate the intensity of the lights, settings of the electrical and gas systems for heating and cooling and in the latest versions also manage security or access to the building. Yet, regarding intelligence, there is still room for advancement.

With the Enerbrain team, we have evolved this process, creating a complete BMS starting from software available on the market and applying our mathematical algorithms not only to improve comfort but to make buildings truly dynamic and intelligent. For example, modulating the plants in real time based on the presence of people, based on the forecasts of use of the building, or even according to weather forecasts and therefore saving more than 30%.

This took place at EDIT, in via Cigna in Turin, designed by the architectural firm lamatilde. Inaugurated at the end of November 2017 to the public, they host shared kitchens, a brewery, two restaurants and a coffee shop where guests can experiment and be part of the process of creating food. It is a state-of-the-art building, with very complex systems, which have to manage kitchen ventilation, beer production areas, catering areas, each with very different needs.

If often the BMS’s of buildings of this complexity are a “black box” understandable and accessible only to the eyes of the technicians who installed them, in this case we worked together with the designers of the Lamatilde team in order to make the environmental controls finally simple and user friendly not only for maintainers, but also for regular users of the building and space managers.

Moreover, a series of algorithms optimize the systems based on the use and presence of people in the various environments, ensuring comfort and reducing consumption.

Damiano Gui, UX designer of Enerbrain, together with a team of system integrators—Fabio Santagata, Claudio Lauriola and Alberto Orfanò—has developed a whole process of UX design starting from the needs of the space managers, to allow simple control of the scenarios lighting and comfort directly from touch-screen screens distributed in the rooms.

Starting from the coordinated image of the project, realized by the architects and designers Lamatilde, the character styles, illustrations, and colors were extracted to define a complete customized design system, that is the set of modular graphic components that were assembled for realizing the interfaces.

These were then designed according to the established and simulated flows thanks to an interactive prototype. Evaluated together with the customer and updated according to his feedback, the prototype was passed to the development team for the final programming.

Now that the spaces are open to the public, the managers and employees who work in the building can even create new lighting scenarios, adjust individual lighting points, manage specific alarms and much more directly from the touch screens distributed in various environments.

In this way, not only the users have finally control, but above all this control is made simple by the hidden heart of the system: mathematical algorithms learn by themselves what complex adjustments must be taken to respond correctly to the required scenarios, reacting automatically to the different conditions.

In fact, at EDIT, weather forecasts, and a learning method that works in the cloud saves more than 30% of the pollution produced by the plants, further reducing management costs.

In the future, if thousands of buildings will have systems of this kind, we will finally see a drastic reduction in the pollution of cities. Above all, buildings will be able to react dynamically to external and internal changes, as real living organisms optimized thanks to mathematics and technology.