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Researcher Rima Alaaeddine

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Researcher uses AI to help tackle buildings’ energy performance gap

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A researcher at the University of Huddersfield is using artificial intelligence to better predict building energy usage. 

Rima Alaaeddine, a PhD researcher within the University’s School of Art Design and Architecture,  aims to combat and minimise the “energy performance gap” and could benefit the building sector at a time when there is increasing pressure on industries around the world to conserve their energy consumption. 

This week the government announced it wants to halve the energy consumption of new buildings by 2030 as part of its clean growth grand challenge mission.

Alaaeddine’s research could play an important part in helping the construction industry meet these energy efficiency targets. With the energy consumption of buildings accounting for 30% of global energy use, improving the energy efficiency of buildings is a key strategic objective. 

More accurate energy predications can facilitate building energy optimisation and guide decisions regarding a building’s energy performance. 

“My research will employ a branch of artificial intelligence (AI) entitled machine learning,” said Alaaeddine.   

She explains that machine learning techniques are capable of handling complex and non-linear problems and can offer more accurate predictions on occupants’ behaviour

Her project is already receiving national recognition. The 27-year-old researcher was shortlisted from hundreds of applicants from across the UK to present her research in Parliament, as part of the annual STEM for Britain competition, to a range of politicians and a panel of expert judges.

The prestigious poster competition, headed by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, was organised in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Biology, The Physiological Society and the Council for the Mathematical Sciences. 

Alaaeddine’s entry was entitled ‘Minimizing the energy performance gap by application of an integrative machine learning methodology for occupants’ behaviour prediction’ and she says it was an honour taking part in STEM for Britain and to be given the opportunity to present her work in Parliament.  

“The event provided me with an opportunity to communicate my research as widely as possible, to inform and enthuse non-scientific audiences about my research in the building energy performance realm aiming to unveil the benefits it brings,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Construction Leadership Council said that the launch of the clean growth grand challenge mission has the potential to dramatically improve the energy performance of buildings, increase innovation in relation to low carbon technologies and reduce the cost of these, and to improve the quality of construction.

It will also benefit consumers through developing smart technologies that give them a greater ability to monitor and control their energy consumption. Whilst the focus of the mission is on new buildings, the development of new energy efficiency technologies will also benefit existing buildings, and drive the growth of the retrofit market in the UK.

STEM for Britain provided me with an opportunity to communicate my research as widely as possible, to inform and enthuse non-scientific audiences about my research in the building energy performance realm aiming to unveil the benefits it brings.– Rima Alaaeddine