Helsinki and Vantaa make old buildings smart

Six housing companies in the Finnish cities of Helsinki and Vantaa are piloting an Internet of Thing- (IoT-) based solution to reduce energy consumption in blocks of older flats.

The project is also being used to raise awareness of data ownership through the MyData initiative, which aims to help people gain more control over their personal data.

IoT sensors

A number of IoT sensors have been installed by the housing companies taking part in the project and, by analysing the sensor data, the companies are trying to find the most cost-effective ways of reducing their energy consumption.

Collecting energy data via the IoT can be as much as 10 times less expensive than the older method of taking measurements manually. One of the project’s housing companies encompasses 14 buildings in Vuosaari in Helsinki, which pay nearly 500,000 Euros collectively every year for district heating.

“We want to learn what type of data can be collected with these measurements and how the data can be utilised”

The pilot is part of the Climate-friendly Housing Companies project, a joint undertaking between the City of Helsinki, the City of Vantaa, the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) and the Green Building Council Finland.

The project will run until the end of 2020 and partly into the 2021 heating season and will culminate in the publication of a digital guide for housing companies. This will provide more detailed information on the potential of data and its collection while also taking privacy into account.

Use of personal data

The improved level of data rights brought about by the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has helped shine a light on some of the issues and concerns that can arise in a project such as this over the question of data ownership.

The housing companies want to raise awareness of residents’ rights in this area so the project pays special attention to the ownership of data and ensures that residents have a genuine opportunity to have a say on where the data collected from their flats will end up.

Project manager Timo Ruohomäki from Forum Virium Helsinki, the innovation arm of the City of Helsinki, explained that heating accounts for approximately 70 per cent of the energy consumption of blocks of flats. “What’s more blocks of flats typically have little in the way of technology for actively monitoring heating based on actual needs.”

He added that solutions to reduce energy can be quite simple. “An adjustment of the heating network, the renewal of a water circulation pump or a change in the adjustment curve’s limit value. However, identifying the correct solution requires expertise.”

“Blocks of flats typically have little in the way of technology for actively monitoring heating based on actual needs”

Risto Lähteenmäki, chair of the board of housing company Lokkisaarentie, said that there are a vast number of buildings in the suburbs within the same age bracket providing plenty of cost-reduction potential and added: “Our housing company is currently focusing on its energy consumption, which is why we also became interested in this project.

"We want to learn what type of data can be collected with these measurements and how the data can be utilised.”

To analyse the data, the project is seeking service providers capable of refining this type of data into concrete recommendations for long-term planning.

The project is funded by the 6Aika programme, a joint strategy focusing on sustainable urban development of Finland’s six largest cities: Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku and Oulu.