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Saving energy and money with smart systems

05 October 2015
Bernoulliborg, University of Groningen (Photo: Peter van der Sijde)

Using the University of Groningen’s Bernoulliborg building on the Zernike Campus as a living lab, PhD student Ilche Georgievski has devised systems to save energy and money. The results, which are generic and can be used in other buildings, will generate savings of about 35 percent on energy use in monetary terms. In the Bernoulliborg canteen, Georgievski brought down energy use for lighting by 80 percent. He will defend his thesis describing the systems behind these measures on 9 October 2015 at the University of Groningen.

Ilche Georgievski’s PhD project is part of the Energy Smart Offices project funded by NWO and was conducted in the Distributed Systems group of the Johan Bernoulli Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science. The aim was to design a system that could make office buildings more energy efficient without affecting productivity or the wellbeing of the occupants.

Social corner

Georgievski monitored the energy use of different appliances in several offices and a social corner on the fifth floor of the Bernoulliborg. ‘We collected data on energy use and the internal and external environment. The next step was to reason out what to do about it’, Georgievski explains. By modelling the behaviour of appliances like computers, printers and the social corner microwave and including the everyday routine of the staff, he was able to construct an intelligent system to manage the energy use.

Peak use

‘Take the microwave in the social corner; this is used mostly between noon and 2 p.m., during lunchtime. It uses a lot of energy at a time when the price of energy is at its peak.’ By switching off non-essential appliances, like charging laptops, Georgievski was able to reduce peak use. ‘Another adaption is that the hot water boiler is switched off during the night, when there’s nobody in the building. These kinds of interventions can save up to 10 percent in energy use.’

Smart grid

Georgievski tested the system in real offices in the Bernoulliborg, and used data from the US to simulate a situation where energy could be bought by the hour on the open market via a smart grid. Compared to the present situation with one fixed energy supplier, the monetary savings he achieved were on average 20 percent compared to using regular energy, and 35 percent compared to green energy.

80 percent reduction

A second project was purely aimed at energy conservation. ‘In the Bernoulliborg canteen, lights were switched on at 6.30 a.m. and left on until 8 p.m. But outside lunch hours, occupancy is very low.’ So Georgievski had movement detectors and light sensors installed. ‘These provide information on where people are, and how much natural light is present.’ Using this information, the system’s computers switch lights off where no one is present, or where abundant natural light is available. This resulted in a reduction in energy use of 80 percent.


All this may seem straightforward, but building a smart system to regulate energy use in the most efficient way is actually rather complicated. ‘Take an office with just ten appliances. There are thousands of possible combinations. My algorithm is able to find the best combination in milliseconds.’

Start up company

The systems Georgievski developed can be applied to different environments, like homes or offices. They are being used by a University of Groningen start-up company called Sustainable Buildings , which is led by two colleagues of his, Tuan Anh Nguyen and Faris Nizamic , past winners of the University of Groningen Green Mind Award. Georgievski is now working as a postdoc at the University of Groningen on another NWO-funded project, Smart Energy in Smart Cities.

More information

Ilche Georgievski defends his PhD thesis entitled ‘Coordinating services embedded everywhere via hierarchical planning’ on Friday 9 October at 11 a.m at the University of Groningen. His promotor is Marco Aiello .

Watch also the Unifocus video Making offices even smarter

Last modified:27 September 2021 2.38 p.m.
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