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29 March 2019

Barcelona Blog #10: visiting GrowSmarter’s impact in Barcelona

Smart refurbishment for a better quality of life: visiting GrowSmarter’s impact in Barcelona

Efficient insulation and smart refurbishment can reduce households’ energy consumption –and costs –, improve people’s thermal comfort and foster sustainability. This is what the GrowSmarter project has worked on achieving together with the Barcelona City Council, the Housing Agency of Catalonia, the energy services company Naturgy– and 50 families of Barcelona’s Canyelles neighbourhood.

In the framework of the Housing and Renovation Forum of Barcelona, a series of public visits to successful innovative urban initiatives developed in Barcelona were organized by the City Council on March 22nd. The tour included a technical visit of the GrowSmarter solutions in Canyelles, implemented between the second half of 2016 and the beginning of 2017.

The technical team leading the visit explained how the project achieved its goal of generating social, economic and environmental benefits through the refurbishment of a residential building [read the factsheet on the refurbishment ofresidential buildings here].

With micro-grants funded by the GrowSmarter project and the Barcelona City Council –covering up to 80% of the cost of the activities–, the 50 primarily lower middle to low-income families that participated in the project installed more efficient windows and blinds in their homes. At the same time, boilers were replaced to reduce gas consumption, efficient water taps –aerators– were installed, and home energy management systems were deployed. The participation of the community of the building in the GrowSmarter project also meant that the insulation of the façade and the roof was increased and upgraded according to the current minimum requirements by the Spanish Building Technical Code. All measures taken within the initiative reliedon a participatory process involving all relevant stakeholders: the families, the City Council and the GrowSmarter coordination team.

As a result, the community living in the building has reduced its gas and electricity consumption by approximately 31% –saving money for tenants and contributing to their economic empowerment–, which also implies a saving in CO2 emissions. In addition to this, the initiative has succeeded in raising energy efficiency awareness among the families of the community, which are now able to better control their energy use through the home energy management systems. Finally, this solution means a better quality of life for the families in terms of thermal comfort and sound isolation, exemplifying how structural interventions can improve life in cities from both a behavioural and material perspectives.

See the pictures of the study visit.

Contributing authors: Ana Alcantud, Consulting Director at anteverti, Sergio García, Communications Coordinator at anteverti, and Alba Soler, Consultant at anteverti

Iot technology to improve electrical distribution security

The improvement, renewal and continuous maintenance of the network are fundamental to ensure the proper operation of the electrical system. Endesa works to guarantee the quality of the service, the continuity of supply and the safety of the installations, carrying out the necessary actions on infrastructure.

Within the GrowSmarter project, five secondary substations with IoT technology have been equipped to improve the operation of the secondary substations and the safety of workers, in addition to obtaining information that contribute to improving the management of the City.

Until now, there was no information available on the status of the secondary substations.  Thus, there could be situations such as flooded installations or grounding issues not known until an intervention is carried out which puts at risk the people, the installation and the supply.

This technological innovation tool, at the level of electrical distribution, improves security by:

- Sending information about the facilities: Endesa staff and collaborating companies will have information before entering the facilities, knowing in advance the risks that exist.

- Early detection of hazards: Smoke, floods, and other potential risks are detected in an early stage.

As a next step in improving the safety of people and installations, the Open Me project has been launched. It consists of the authorization on demand of access to the installation of the operator who requests it. This is achieved by an intelligent key that only opens the access lock after authentication and authorization.

The objectives that are pursued and achieved with the launch of the Open Me pilot are:

Increase the security of the installations by controlling the access thanks to the authorization-on-demand.Improve operability by reducing waiting times for access

Author: Endesa


Gonzalo Cabeza

Site Manager, Barcelona

For the previous blog post, click here

13 March 2019

Cologne Blog #10 : Lessons learned on Open urban Platforms & mobility stations

The GrowSmarter partners in Cologne are very pleased that they can already say that the goals of saving energy in the Stegerwaldsettlement can be achieved. There is a realistic chance that the settlement will become self-sufficient in the energy sector. To achieve the Co2 emission savings goals however, further efforts must be made.

Integrated Infrastructure: Open urban Platforms as key component for integrated SmartCity infrastructures

The implementation phase has shown that the collection and processing of data from different areas is a very sensitive issue. It is often unclear to individuals and to the community how to deal with this issue. This resulted in a number of conclusions for the approach to data collection and compilation listed in detail in the GrowSmarter Concluding Report.

The conclusions are intended to simplify reaching a consensus for both data collectors and data owners in order to have a useable solution for all parties involved, also taking into account everyone’s rights and duties. The most important conclusion seems to be understanding the open questions on how to deal with data. What is the data’s value? What is the best way to use it? Is it possible to create a business model with the data? Is the outcome and the result of using free data a better business model or is it best to share all data for free to optimize the quality of life in a city?

We found out that the first step should be understanding how to best use the data, what to do with it as well as finding a win-win situation for all parties involved.  This means creating a so called „Use Case“:

1.    Defining concretely the desired result in advance; considering known possibilities, defining which data in which quality is needed, and by whom.

2.    Checking the financial conditions: which costs are incurred, regularly or punctually and how can they be covered? Creating a first Business Model.

3.    Clarifying the legal Framework: e.g. legal requirements related to the topic, keywords: enforceable stopping bans, data protection, trade tax exemption, certified smart meter, electricity grid regulation.

4.    Defining and clarifying technical framework conditions: which provider is used, do interfaces/prototypes already exist, is the WLAN network sufficient ? Which innovations in the near future do you have to consider?

5.    The biggest factor of all is: defining and clarifying the „human framework conditions”: Are the inhabitants of the desired area / or your customers open to this innovation?

These are only a few points of the overall conclusions. It clearly depends on the measure and the individual situation, but overall the most important conclusion is staying flexible and open to new findings and required adaptations - use foresight / look ahead!

Room Air monitoring: The GreenAir service

With GreenAir, Colognes project partner RheinEnergie AG offers a room air monitoring service for tenants and landlords.

Sensors will be installed in the apartments to measure temperature and humidity. The sensors have the size of a room thermostat and are not particularly noticeable. The data transmission is carried out using an innovative LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) wireless technology. Thanks to the long range, no gateway is required in the apartments and will be installed outside of the buildings.

The data is processed anonymously and made available to the tenants via an APP. GreenAir provides tenants with an air monitoring service and with reasonable ventilation and heating recommendations based on the monitoring. This will help prevent the formation of mold due to excessive humidity, lead to a better well-being and at the same time saves heating costs.

Particularly after renovation work, the humidity could rise to a critically high level in the apartments if the ventilation behaviour is not adapted. In order to support the tenants in this new situation, GreenAir offers an app for Andriod and iOS, on which the current temperature and humidity in the individual rooms is displayed, and ventilation and heating recommendations are made. Should the humidity rise above 60%, the tenant receives a push message with a ventilation recommendation. Equipped with the information aggregated in a dashboard, the landlord can supervise the condition in his buildings.

Our project partner [ui!] – the urban institute developed the technical infrastructures, the backend components and the apps for the tenants, the landlords and the technicians, who install the sensors in the flats.

Figure 1: GreenAir views for the tenants

This pictures shows two views for the tenants. The left view provides information about temperature and humidity inside the rooms and outside the building. The right view provides the recommendations what the tenants should do to improve the situation inside. At present the user interface is in German only.

Standardization Activities GrowSmarters steering group decided to put a stronger focus on standardization activities in order to ease replication and roll-out of project results to other cities. Cologne considers standardization efforts as important as well and has welcomed this decision. Together with City and industrial partners, Cologne already developed one standard during GrowSmarter, see the blog entry from June 2018[1], and the development of another one has been started in 2018. [ui!] – the urban institute is coordinating the development of the new standard “DIN SPEC 91367 Urban mobility data collection for real-time applications”. The standardisation committee consists again of cities and industrial partners and the standard will probably be available for a download free of charge at in March.

GrowSmarter’s Opens mobility stations

Within GrowSmarter, the first mobility stations with all partners (RheinEnergie, KVB, Cambio and Ampido) and the combination of e-bikes and e-cars started in the district of Cologne Mülheim. Until this point there was a lot of work to do because of the complicated civil work and the cable laying. Another important fact was the installation of a switch cabinet just for the implementation of the e-bikes next to the stations. This was needed as the power units for the e-bikes don’t fit into the RheinEnergie switch cabinet. Nevertheless the whole project team did a lot of public relation (e.g. tenant events) especially near the mobility station at the Stegerwaldsiedlung.

The process for signing up for an e-bike is similar to the process for conventional bikes. The costumer can sign up for free by using the homepage, by using the KVB or nextbike App or register on the phone by using the nextbike costumer hotline.

After the registration and the confirming of a payment method, the costumer can rent and return the e-bikes at any of these stations mentioned above. Enough charging spots are available. The fee for renting an e-bike is 3 € for 30 minutes and 19 € for the whole day. The average distance of the e-bike is 45 km. If the costumer is an owner of the so called mobility card and uses a subscription (e.g. Job-Ticket or Mobile Pass), he can use the conventional bikes 30 minutes for free in the free-float-system. This free-float-system KVB-Rad is very popular in Cologne and covers more than 84 square kilometers on both sides of the Rhine River. To date there are more than 90.000 registered users who drove over 2,2 million kilometers in the past three years.


Barbara Moehlendick

Site Manager, Cologne

For the previous blog post, click here

13 March 2019

Stockholm Blog #10: The Moment of Truth

In January 2019 IESE researchers visited Stockholm to discuss with partners the economic evaluation of the measures implemented. The partners were also able to have a chat with KTH researchers about the technical evaluation. After this meeting the general feeling was that it is possible to evaluate the measures technically, economically and socially with the available data. IESE researchers also discussed the upscaling of measures and their replicability, which are an important part of this project. In this blog I will elaborate a little bit on the evaluation of measures in work packages 2 and 3 where evaluation data is available.

Action area 1: Low-Energy Districts

What is happening in Valla Torg, Årsta and the Slakthus area buildings, what results do we have and what can be scaled-up?

In Valla Torg the refurbishment and implementation of energy efficient measures of the final two multi-storey buildings (2A and 3B) and the low-storey building 5E are finalised. Tenants have moved in to buildings 2A and 5 E and will move in to building 3B in March. The reductions in energy use based on the evaluation this far was as follows:

BUILDING 6F Area size Energy purchased Energy produced locally Energy use
Before refurbishment 4942 m² 650 510 kWh   132 kWh/m²
After refurbishment 5191 m² 193 162 kWh 4 276 kWh (new photovoltaics installed) 38 kWh/m²
Total energy use reduction 94 kWh/m2 or 72%

In Building 6F the total reduction in consumed energy was thus 94 kWh/m2 thus 72%.

BUILDING 7G Area size Energy purchased Energy produced locally Energy use
Before refurbishment 4571 m² 568 136 kWh   124 kWh/m²
After refurbishment 4626 m² 370 578 kWh 11 493 kWh (new photovoltaics installed) 83 kWh/m²
Total energy use reduction 44 kWh/m2 or 36%

In Building 7G the total reduction in consumed energy was 44 kWh/m2 (36%). These figures are lower than expected, but they are largely due to the fact that the exhaust air heat pumps were not functioning before December 2018. The estimation for 2019 with fully functioning heat pumps is a reduction of 64% in consumed energy.

BUILDING 8H Area size Energy purchased Energy produced locally Energy use
Before refurbishment 5401,5 m² 688 049 kWh   127 kWh/m²
After refurbishment 5651 m² 415 170 kWh 3087 kWh (new photovoltaics installed) 74 kWh/m²
Total energy use reduction 53 kWh/m2 or 42%

In Building 8H the total reduction in consumed energy was thus 53 kWh/m2 (42%). These figures were also lower than expected, but they were also largely due to the fact that the exhaust air heat pumps were not functioning before the end of November 2018. The estimation for 2019 with fully functioning heat pumps is a reduction of 66% in consumed energy.

If the estimated values for buildings 7G and 8 H are reached the average energy use per squaremeter in the first three evaluated buildings is 42 kWh/m2.  These are very promising results, considering that the original building is from 1961 and that the requirement for new-built buildings in Stockholm is 55 kWh/m2.

As the results indicate, the technical solutions are indeed able to reduce the energy use in an old residential building by more than 70%, but it is economically feasible? We do not yet have the economic figures, so unfortunately it is too early to define if the refurbishment is economically feasible or not. I should be able to answer this in the next blog in May. There are other issues to consider. One of these issues is the u-value of the windows. The windows chosen in the project have a very low u-value of 0,7. In our northern climate this low u-value has meant that during special weather conditions more than half of the window has had frost on the outside. The frost indicate that heat is not leaking out the window, but for the tenant it is inconvenient when they cannot look out the window.

In the private condominia Brf Årstakrönet the evaluation is on its second year. Compared to the 2015 baseline, the savings in 2018 was around -11% for district heating -13% for electricity (not including electricity used in apartments) and -3% for water.

In Slakthus-area the refurbishment of building 8 is finalised. Compared to the 2017 baseline, the savings in 2018 were 49% for district heating. The baseline for electricity in 2017 is not comparable with the 2018 use as the function of the building has changed becoming amusic club which resulted in an  increased use of electricity of 300% .

The substitute building Kylhuset in Slakthus-area is also finalised for building related energy efficiency measures. Compared to the 2017 baseline, the savings in 2018 were 19% for district heating and 10% for building electricity. The production of electricity from photovoltaics is not available yet 2018, nor the recovery of waste heat from the datacentre. These do not affect the above figures, but they do affect the saving in total CO2-emissions.

Action area 2: Integrated Infrastructures

Installing smart LED-lighting

The smart LED-street lights (solution 5) have now been in operation for more than two years and the system works well. There are three sub-measures implemented and evaluated. I presented the results in my previous blog post but in summary the savings are between 14 and 46% depending on the sub-measure. The economic evaluation is not yet available, but in my next blog I will be able to talk more about the economic feasibility of this measure.  

A Smart, Connected City

The aim of the measure 5.2 is to implement in the city environment, if possible on existing infrastructure, sensors for data collection, analysis, visualization.  

Two types of sensors have been implemented in the Slakthus-area and have been operating for one year. The 10 sensors for measuring vehicle traffic on a real-time base have been functioning well and have provided accurate data. Some of the sensors were installed in existing infrastructure (a bridge, existing road signs), whereas others were installed on poles specifically set up for that purpose, as neither the traffic or light poles could bear their weight. As it is costly to install the poles, bring electricity and connectivity to them, it is important that the sensors can operate for a long period of time. Therefore we are currently working on extending the measurement time beyond the project time.

The wifi-nodes were installed in buildings owned by the city and could use the existing connectivity (broadband) there. No additional cabling for electricity was needed as the wifi-nodes were connected with power over Ethernet (PoE). Theywere supposed to detect passing people in a very accurate way, but in reality did not do so. The issues were the sensitivity of the sensors, that regularly stopped working and the connection to people’s mobile device which was too long (between 20 seconds and 3 minutes) to determine if people were pedestrians, cyclers, or passing in a car.

We are currently going through all wifi-nodes not providing data to re-start and/or replace them. We also add new wifi-nodes to provide additional data. And as a third step IBM is installing multisensors to gather additional data about pedestrians and bicyclists in the Slakthusarea, as part of M8.1.

The data from the sensors are analysed and visualised in the IOT platform provided by IBM. In the platform we have information about all sensors as well as a map (see below).

IBM, who is responsible for the open consolidated big data platform (solution 8), has built up a multi-use data platform where real-time data can be analysed, but also were the data can be turned into practical usecases on reducing transport emissions and increasing the quality of life for citizens. Data flows from the sensor vendors’ systems via two separate entry points. The data is then immediately stored in the data lake for later processing but also fed online via the IBM Event Streams system for online processing, e.g. real time counting of unique visitors, or passages through the system.

Implementation of a Big Data platform often impose a higher start-up cost for the first use case. Adding additional cases or increasing the usage of the same use case can lower the cost per unit of use case. This effect is basically a result of services or labour costs. The IT related platform cost (IBM Cloud) is consumption based and will have a low cost for the low volumes also at the start.

The Measure is economically sustainable when we assume that the foundation would be used for more cases or at a larger scale. The Measure is installed in a limited geographical  area with few sensors connected which  makes the relative cost per sensor higher.

Waste Heat recovery

Fortum’s open district heating (solution 6) system has two sub measures. The first sub measure is “waste heat recovery from data centers”. The data center is now having a load of 0,54 MW heat and will annually generate approx. 4,7 GWh (based on 8760 hours of operation/year) of heat. The heat reuse of the data center is expected to increase gradually to a level of approximately 1MW heat, a heat recovery that is sufficient to heat more than 1,000 apartments while reducing annual CO2 emissions in Stockholm. From the technical perspective, the main innovative solution applied to the data center is the heat pump model used, which is the first of its kind in Sweden. The heat pump is able to produce hot water at a temperature of 85oC instead of around 68oC. This is an advantage since a higher delivery temperature allows for more running hours in the district heating system, also during cold days when district heating customer SLA requires temperatures above 68C.  

This measure has been economical feasible for both the district heating company Stockholm Exergi and the supplier. For Stockholm Exergi the recovered heat has been cost efficient compared to other production units. For a large-scale implementation of heat recovery into the district heating network Stockholm Exergi gains in other aspect such as avoiding peak production capacity investments and reducing operation and maintenance costs thanks to third party ownership of the production asset. For the data center, heat recovery generates a revenue stream from the waste heat that otherwise would be costly to get rid of. Since the datacenter had expansion plans there was an investment need in more cooling capacity. Instead of another conventional cooling machine, this heat pump solution with heat recovery was chosen. If you compare these two options this measure shows economical gains for the supplier compared to conventional data center cooling. Pay-back for the supplier will be within 5 years time but the economical values will remain over the total technical lifetime of approximately 15-25 years.

The second sub measure is “waste heat recovery from fridges and freezers in supermarkets”. The studied supermarket had a heat recovery potential of up to 30 kW which would approx. generate 219 MWh annually. As long as the measure was in operation, during January to August 2017, the running time was over 99%, way higher than the initial aim of 50%.

The conclusions regarding the sustainability of this measure shows that implementing heat recovery will contribute to decreasing the use of fossil fuels and carbon emissions independently of the electricity mix used when calculating the footprint.

The economic feasibility of this measure could not be adequately evaluated due to the lack of data caused by the limited time of operation.  The pay-back period for the supplier is estimated to be within 10 years’ time but the generation of economical value would continue over the equipment’s total technical lifetime of approximately 15-25 years.

Smart waste handling

The waste handling system provided by Envac has been running since summer 2017. This solution demonstrates a smart waste solution for residential areas using differently coloured bags for different sorts of waste, transporting the bags long distance underground and sorting them automatically in a treatment plant. There are currently six inlets in operation in the installation due to the general time plan of the refurbishment of the Valla torg site. When the automated waste collecting system is in full operation there will be 13 inlets, thus increasing the amount of waste significantly, in turn making the evaluation more relevant.

There is no data available for the sorting rate prior to the installation of the automated waste collecting system, so the sorting rate is compared to reference values from the Optibag sorting facility in the city of Eskilstuna, see table 1. Notably the residents in Årsta sort their waste better the residents of Eskilstuna. There is less rest fraction and more of organic fraction and paper packaging, even though there is slightly less plastic packaging. This is a good sign, since there were no sorting of organic waste prior to the installation of the AWCS in Årsta.

Fraction Årsta 181122-181212 Eskilstuna reference values (source : Envac Optibag AB)
Rest fraction 41% 52%
Organic fraction 41% 34%
Plastic packaging 6% 8%
Paper packaging 13% 7%

The organic fraction can be used for biogas production, which in turn can be used in vehicles. So it is very promising that this fraction per quantity is the largest.

A normal consequence of the installation of an AWCS from Envac is a substantial reduction of waste truck traffic in the area. This is also the result for the Growsmarter installation in Årsta/Valla Torg.  The traffic in the area is reduced by 90%.With the available information the measure seems to be financially sustainable, if the present revenues are maintained along the life time of the asset.

As the evaluation of measures in workpackages 2 and 3 shows, we do have some interesting results and measures which have a great potential for replication both in Stockholm and in other European cities. We will return to WP4 measures as well as WP2 economic evaluation in the next blog when I have this data available.

With this I wish you a pleasant and sunny spring.


Mika Hakosalo

Site Manager, Stockholm

For the previous blog post, click here