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Smart technologies for better cities

The Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP presents innovative solutions at UrbanTec 2011

Buildings that produce more energy than they consume, thus serving as decentralized power generators providing electricity for the local infrastructure or for recharging electric vehicles. Building stock that can serve as a source of raw materials for urban production activities when it reaches the end of its useful life. And technology-assisted working environments designed for people instead of inflexible single-purpose structures. These are the visions for the city of the future that Fraunhofer IBP will be presenting at the UrbanTec exhibition and congress in Cologne from October 24 to 26.

The model of the energy-efficient city demonstrates ways in which the energy and heating needs of a residential complex can be met with the aid of innovative technologies based on the use of alternative energy sources and predictive analysis tools © Fraunhofer IBP

As part of the joint Fraunhofer exhibit in Hall 7, Stand 029, IBP’s research scientists will present some of the innovative solutions they have developed as a response to the needs of tomorrow’s urban population, including noise abatement, smart energy supply concepts for metropolitan areas, and predictive software tools for environmental audits and the analysis of material and energy flows.

Alongside climate change and the depletion of natural resources, population growth and the increasing trend toward urbanization are the greatest challenges of the modern era. The United Nations Organization predicts that the number of city-dwellers will increase to 6.3 billion by the year 2050, almost twice as many as today. Various Fraunhofer Institutes have embarked on proactive research projects to address this issue, including Fraunhofer IBP, which plays a key role in the German government’s “Morgenstadt” lighthouse project, launched jointly with the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft with the aim of developing innovative, sustainable solutions designed to optimize the human and environmental aspects of life in (tomorrow’s) cities and metropolitan areas. “The aim of our research is not to develop a vision for a better future but to transform that vision into real-life solutions. To do so, our researchers are following numerous lines of approach, which have the common denominator of being focused on the human aspect,” says the director of Fraunhofer IBP, Professor Klaus Sedlbauer.

Noise abatement in the urban landscape
The density of road traffic in our cities has increased to such an extent during the last century that noise reduction measures have become an increasingly complex challenge. Attempts to rally people to a common cause are often fruitless in situations where it is difficult to draw a clear distinction between the perpetrators and the victims, as in the case of persistent traffic noise. The planning and implementation of noise abatement measures must take into account the sometimes conflicting needs for quietness and mobility and integrate them in an equitable, holistically viewed solution. It is difficult for urban planners and inhabitants to reach a consensus on noise limits and concrete projects because people find it hard to imagine the level of noise represented by measurements in decibels. A technique known as auralization can solve this problem: software modules calculate a kind of acoustic virtual reality and link it with a visual display. An acoustic model of the urban environment in question can be combined in numerous permutations with examples of effective noise reduction measures stored in a database on the computer to produce an audible simulation. This technology enables local authorities, urban planners, real-estate companies and investors to obtain a realistic impression of noise levels in the planned urban landscape and assess and optimize its acoustic quality.

Not all sources of noise are of a permanent nature. Building sites and open-air concerts are a temporary nuisance but nonetheless require effective measures to protect people living in the vicinity from the noise they create. An easy-to-use, flexible solution is provided by mobile noise barriers made of plastic materials. It would be wrong to assume that the light weight of the structures made of thin films and membranes makes them insufficient as noise protection. The solution consists of double-walled, inflatable elements of approximately the same dimensions of traditional noise barriers that are capable of blocking noise to a similar degree as a concrete wall. Using the simulation software developed by Fraunhofer IBP, the desired effect can be verified at the planning stage. Field trials have confirmed both the soundproofing effect and the ease with which the mobile system can be installed and transported from site to site.

Future energy supplies
Many of the necessary improvements in energy efficiency that go hand in hand with efforts to achieve a sustainable energy supply that meets the criteria of economic viability, environmental compatibility and social acceptance depend on the decisions made by city councils and local authorities. The Morgenstadt lighthouse project aims to serve as inspiration for the design of cities of tomorrow that are carbon-neutral. The key to such solutions is a well-thought-out, holistic energy supply concept. At UrbanTec, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Building Physics IBP and for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology IWES will be presenting an overview of their expertise in sustainable urban and regional development in an exhibit focusing on the city as an integrated energy system. The two institutes’ products and services will be of particular interest to local authorities, energy providers, and all companies aiming to contribute to their region’s entry into the new age of sustainable energy. The model of an energy-efficient city presented at the fair offers a wealth of ideas for reducing energy requirements, making use of alternative energy sources, and using smart technology to combat the effects of climate change. The concept is based on an approach that integrates energy users at all levels of the community – from a single building to the entire region. All components of the energy system are taken into account, including renewable energy sources, measures to increase energy efficiency, and smart power-grid management tools. By providing analysis tools capable of reducing heating energy requirements, determining the potential of heating systems employing renewable energy sources, and smart energy management, the researchers aim to support regional, district and community decision-makers in their efforts to implement an energy policy based exclusively on renewable energy sources. In this way, the Fraunhofer partners can help to strengthen the regional value chain and widen the range of options for new incentives available to local authorities.

In addition to their work on various renewable power generation options, including photovoltaic systems, wind energy and biomass, the Fraunhofer scientists are consistently developing new control strategies. Through their model of an energy-efficient city, they aim to offer ideas for new approaches and initiate a process of dialog and knowledge-sharing. Pilot projects implemented by Fraunhofer IBP to demonstrate technologies for tomorrow’s energy-efficient cities are already underway in Stuttgart and Wolfhagen.

On the way to a clean energy future
The vision of the smart city of tomorrow presented in the joint Fraunhofer exhibit is based on a holistic approach to the issues at stake. Fraunhofer IBP has taken this opportunity to emphasize the benefits to be obtained by applying scientific methods and analysis techniques based on a holistic view of the situation. The key element is a materials and process database dedicated to eco-audits and the analysis of material and energy flows, which has already found numerous applications in many companies and research institutes worldwide in connection with the GaBi 5 software tool. This software was developed in collaboration with PE International AG on the basis of data accumulated during numerous projects over the course of many years. The instruments and methods employed in GaBi 5 include tools to assess the sustainability of products, systems and structures used in the construction industry and related industrial processes. The resulting lifecycle data enables users to evaluate the long-term ecological, economic and social impact of the measures they intend to apply. The same software can be used in environmental audits to evaluate the efficiency of power generation, energy supply and storage concepts, to compare the advantages of existing and projected mobility solutions, and to evaluate semi-finished products, raw materials and production systems at every stage of the value chain, from their manufacture and intended use through to end-of-life recovery or disposal. The broad scope and logical structure of the software makes it a reliable and indispensable tool for users in industry, research and public administration. Congress paper to be delivered on October 26

In a paper entitled “Buildings and Megacities”, Professor Klaus Sedlbauer will present his vision of the city of the future and the ways in which it might be implemented as part of the UrbanTec conference program on Wednesday October 26 at 9:45 a.m.

Contacts for more information:
Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, acoustics depart-ment
Prof. Dr. Philip Leistner
Phone +49 711 970-3346
Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, energy systems de-partment
Dr. Dietrich Schmidt
Phone +49 561 804-1871
Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, environmental au-diting department
Matthias Fischer
Phone +49 711 489999-21

| Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
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