Using UBC Wi-Fi is helping save energy

Last minute classroom relocation or impromptu workshop in a new space, only to regret it half an hour later as the air becomes stale and warm? To know when spaces need extra air ventilation, sometimes relying on timers and classroom schedules is not enough.

Thanks to Stefan Storey, a recent doctoral graduate from UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, and in partnership with UBC IT Services and Energy & Water Services, the University can now access real-time UBC Wi-Fi network data which reveals when spaces served by campus ventilation systems are occupied.

This new system estimates occupancy using UBC Wi-Fi network data, all in a way that completely protects users by removing all private information and in strict compliance with Canadian privacy legislation.

Based on an occupant count, the control system can vary the airflow to a room, ramping it up for a busy lecture or down during the times in between, saving energy without sacrificing air quality.

How does it work? 60,000 devices connect to UBC’s wireless system every day and the system can determine each device’s location. To turn this into energy savings, a secure server gathers the anonymized location data, counts the number of wireless devices in each room, and then sends the information to UBC’s Building Management System. This data enables the Building Management System to better control airflow to buildings and ultimately reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and financial costs.

The idea was proven through a pilot in one of UBC’s busiest libraries, the I.K. Barber Library, reducing energy consumption by 5%. An expanded pilot is in progress to deploy the technology to 10 more buildings across campus.

Read more at UBC Energy & Water.