Helsinki making old buildings smart – aiming at energy-cost savings

Artikkelikuva: Helsinki making old buildings smart – aiming at energy-cost savings

Wasted energy is a common problem in blocks of flats, even though simple, cost-effective solutions are available. Now six housing companies in Helsinki and Vantaa are piloting a simple solution to reduce their energy consuption, also increasing awareness of these solutions and the residents’ MyData rights.

Even in the most advanced smart cities, most of the buildings are relatively old. What if we could reduce the energy waste and climate impact of these houses by simple and cost-effective means? This is now being piloted in Helsinki and Vantaa in Finland where 6 houses of flats have installed IoT sensors aiming to use the sensor data to achieve energy savings.

“Heating accounts for the majority, approximately 70%, 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. As such, Motiva estimates that as much as a third of the energy consumed ends up being wasted, even though the solutions to address this 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”, says Project Manager Timo Ruohomäki from Forum Virium Helsinki, the innovation company of the City of Helsinki.

This pilot was launched as part of the Climate-friendly housing companies project. The City of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki, the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) and the cities of Helsinki and Vantaa are working together with the Green Building Council, and the aim of their shared project is to reduce housing companies’ energy consumption and emissions by increasing their awareness of digital solutions.

Six housing companies participating in the pilot

Last spring, a number of IoT sensors were installed in 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. With only a few IoT sensors per building, collecting energy data 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 altogether nearly 500,000 euros every year for district heating.

“A vast number of buildings in the suburbs are within the same age bracket, meaning that there is plenty of cost-reduction potential. Our housing company is currently focusing on its energy consumption, which is why we also became interested in this project. We would like to learn what type of data can be collected with these measurements and how the data can be utilised”, says the Chair of the Board Risto Lähteenmäki from housing company Lokkisaarentie.

Data collected from flats raises questions on My Data – information security is vital

In recent years, many services allowing housing companies to collect data regarding the energy consumption of a block of flats, and other similar things, have been made available. However, issues related to the ownership of data collected and changing service providers later down the line are not always easy to resolve.  Luckily the improved level of data rights brought about by the implementation of the GDPR last year has helped shine light on the question of ownership, as sensor data collected at home is now considered personal data that can be used to analyse residents’ personal lifestyle. At housing company level, these kinds of services raise both interest and concerns, as the processing of the data and associated security practices must be professional and transparent.

The 6Aika project Climate-friendly Housing Companies aims to increase awareness of these very issues. The project involves testing IoT sensors to collect findings that can provide a better understanding of a building’s energy efficiency. To analyse the data, the project is seeking service providers capable of refining this type of data into concrete recommendations for long term planning, for example. The project pays special attention to the ownership of data and ensuring that residents have a genuine opportunity to have a say on where the data collected from their flats will end up.

Cooperation between cities

The Climate-friendly Housing Companies project is 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. This will provide enough time to monitor participating properties during the 2019–2020 heating season and partly in 2020–2021, aiming to utilise the data in a way that provides clearly measurable energy savings. The project will culminate in the publication of a digital guide for housing companies, which will provide more detailed information on the potential of data and its collection while also taking privacy into account. The project is funded by the 6Aika programme.


Photo: Petja Partanen

Further information


Timo Ruohomäki

Mobile: +358 40 661 5500

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