Creating a Virtual Reality platform for visualising Smart Building data
The University of Sheffield’s Diamond building was designed to be a ’Smart Building’. As such, it contains approximately three thousand sensors which report data about the Diamonds internal environment, including temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, seat occupancy, lighting and heating status to a database called a Building Management System (BMS). Given the quantity of data recorded in the Diamond’s BMS, simplex numerical figures of the building’s environment are difficult to understand. With that, understanding the optimum working conditions of the Diamond or diagnosing system faults are hard to comprehend, which can result in an uncomfortable and inefficient building environment.
The building’s constructors produced a highly detailed computerised model of the Diamond, known as Building Information Model (BIM). My aim of this project was to combine the model from the BIM with the past and present data available in the BMS through 3D graphical visualisations via Virtual Reality (VR). This is done in the hope to improve the understanding of the Diamond’s internal environmental data. From my research, such a graphical and interactive system for a Smart Building BMS is not known to previously exist in the world.
I designed an interactive system that graphically simulates the internal environment of two unique rooms within the Diamond, by combining data from the Diamond’s BMS database with an optimised version of the Diamond’s BIM. By observing from a computer screen or a VR headset, users can visualise snapshots of the room’s environment or watch an animation displaying the changes in a room’s environment over time. The application was evaluated by anonymous participants and staff from the University of Sheffield’s Estates & Facilities Management (EFM) department, who completed a survey after demonstrating it first-hand. It was found that the implemented system successfully improved the understanding of the Diamond’s internal environment. For users with and without technical experience in building management, it facilitated their identification of trends in the environment’s behaviour over time and improved the efficiency in diagnosing physical building faults.
A link to the paper I wrote can be found here. Thanks for reading!
Submitting my work to the CIBSE Technical Symposium 2019
Between the 25th and 26th April 2019, The CIBSE Technical Symposium 2019 was hosted at the University of Sheffield’s Diamond building. The 2019 Technical Symposium provided an opportunity to examine and share research, development and applications that will drive change in the regulation, creation and maintenance of the built environment.
While studying Computer Science at the University of Sheffield, I investigated a solution to improving understanding of smart building data as part of my final year dissertation project, which was supervised by Dr Ramsay Taylor. By marrying a computer games engine with a BIM model, I was able to create a 3D visualisation of the environmental performance of Sheffield University’s complex Diamond building.
My dissertation paper was submitted to The CIBSE Technical Symposium 2019 and I was invited to present at the symposium. My presentation and paper explaining how it was done was named the ‘Most Significant Contribution to the Art and Science of Building Services’ at the 2019 CIBSE Technical Symposium. Additionally, a magazine spread was written about my project in the CIBSE journal.
Getting into the tech details 🤓
Further VR work with ARUP Design
On the basis of Virtual Reality Smart Building platform, I was contracted by the University of Sheffield and Arup to design and develop a VR system that provides intuitively visual representations of the internal and external environment of the University of Sheffield’s Diamond Smart Building. The graphical data visualisation techniques I am designing aim to aid performance analysis of the ventilation system in the atrium of the building.
The system below enables representation of the Diamond’s outside environment, including, temperature, weather conditions, humidity, CO2 levels, wind direction and speed.
I was also commissioned to design the research and development ‘sensor farm’ enclosure for the Urban Flows Observatory organisation. Urban Flows Observatory is a University of Sheffield and ‘Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’ (EPSRC) funded organisation, which seeks to understand how physical metabolism of cities can be effectively measured, understood and utilised. Within Sheffield, there are several mobile and fixed sensors positioned around the city centre which record environmental data. I am involved in designing the physical enclosure of these sensors which will be used in the understanding and creation of a zero carbon and healthy city.