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Smart Building Sensors Could Change Home Design Says Northumbria University

Thousands of people across the UK live in misery due to mould, mildew, and damp, which also happen to cost homeowners, landlords, and housing associations millions of pounds a year in repairs.

Researchers at Northumbria University have found a solution that could change the way that future homes are designed and, in the process, make mould a thing of the past.

Over the past year, academics at Northumbria, together with partners from the National Energy Foundation and the BIM Academy, have been working with Your Homes Newcastle, a  local housing organisation, to learn more about how people live in their homes.

With customer consent, smart building sensors were placed in seven apartments to monitor things like:

  • Room temperature
  • Electricity usage
  • Light
  • Humidity
  • How residents move around

This data can be used to understand how people use buildings, provide advice and alerts that support better living and influence building design so that it is more in accord with customers’ requirements.

Dr. Kay Rogage, a member of Northumbria’s BIM Academy Research Team, said that this system can be customised to, for example, send out an alert when the humidity in an individual room or flat exceeds a certain level. This would enable landlords to identify conditions that lead to mould and mildew before they can develop, minimising treatment costs, reducing tenant complaints, and enabling more comfortable living conditions.

Structural Defects Insurance

Innovate UK funded the project with the goal of integrating smart building sensor data, design information, and user feedback to produce alerts and advice that are meaningful to owners and builders. The team involved now hopes to obtain the funding needed to develop the prototype into a software that can be used by those involved in the housing and building sector.

The prototype would offer features such as the ability to obtain data from Standard Assessment Procedure reports. Available information could include an estimate of a building’s energy consumption. These values could be inputted to automatically send an alert if estimates are exceeded.

Graham Kelly, BIM Academy Director, said that Building Information Modelling has long been used in building construction and design, but owners and occupants had no way of measuring building performance after completion.

He pointed out that buildings can produce a lot of data during use, and the Smart Connected Buildings project intends to collect it and use it to create advice on optimising building performance once complete and guide design and construction in the future.

Ian Gallagher, Your Homes Newcastle, Assistant Director Operational Property Services, said that his organisation, as housing stock manager for Newcastle City Council, wanted to provide homes where the residents are comfortable, can control their environment, and can avoid problems like condensation, mould, and damp.

Mr. Gallagher said that smart building sensors and data could make this possible, so Your Homes Newcastle was pleased to assist in the development of the Smart Connected Buildings model. He said he looked forward to seeing where it leads and how customers can benefit.

Specialists in Construction Insurance

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