To help Flemish companies bring innovative and fully-integrated energy products and – services to the international market, Flux50 sets up and coordinates living labs in five ‘innovator zones’. These zones reflect the thematic priorities of Flux50. One such innovator zone is Intelligent Renovation.


Market opportunities
Context of the innovator zone Intelligent Renovation

In Europe almost 40% of the building stock predates 1960 and was not built according to any energy efficiency plan. Therefore, an intelligent and ‘deep’ renovation of buildings (both of their envelope and its installations) makes considerable energy and emission reductions possible. The traditional and fragmented market and the lack of ‘renovation packages’ in Flanders, however, make it a challenge to meet European and national goals.


In its revised SET (Strategic Energy Technology) plan the European Commission urges cities and regions to take measures to achieve by 2020 a 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, a sustainable use and production of energy is key. The EU supports different strategies for the refurbishment of existing buildings. If Flanders increases the renovation rate and the performance of ‘deep’ renovations – or renovations resulting in (nearly) energy neutral buildings with building integrated energy production and storage - then opportunities arise for creating market space and economic value. Long term objectives on energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions will only be met when innovative systems and components are combined with new policies by local and national governments. Policy makers will have to map out new roads in spatial planning and urban design, with explicit energy efficiency measures.

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Existing strengths of Flanders – Intelligent Renovation

In Flanders, the minds are ready for intelligent renovation… A study by the Flemish Building Confederation (VCB, Vlaamse Confederatie Bouw) shows that our building industry is aware of its crucial role in energy-innovation activities and is increasingly involved in initiatives that unite energy and innovation in a strong learning context, like Energy Saving Pioneers. A study by Pixii – Kennisplatform Energieneutraal Bouwen for the Flemish Energy Agency (VEA) shows that the Flemish home owner has a strong ‘early adopter mentality’ making it relatively easy to set up demonstration projects for deep renovation with ambitious energy efficiency level. Because Flemish building companies are already active on the international market, our region has a window for creating breakthroughs here.


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Focus of the innovator zone Intelligent Renovation

In the innovator zone Intelligent Renovation the focus lies on techniques that are both feasible within the Flemish building context and scalable to an international level. The emphasis lies on deep renovation with integrated energy systems.

A central position in renovation market opportunities is held by new business models that aim to increase living comfort with integrated renewable energy systems (e.g. Building Integrated PV) and new means of storage, distribution and use. It’s essential to develop cost efficient ‘deep renovation packages’ to upgrade old buildings into new, energy active ones. A major challenge lies in the efficient integration of innovative systems that can spread the load on the electricity grid by matching electricity supply and demand.

A deep renovation package consists of several individually optimized technologies, in tune with each other. Many components need further development and better integration, e.g. in the building envelope (smart sun blinds, glass in windows with low-emission coatings for cooling purposes, insulation components of the building envelope for optimal heating); in efficient heating and cooling technology (integrated and hybrid systems in combination with existing components and subsystems); in intelligent control systems (that allow a building to self-diagnose and facilitate the integration of e.g. hybrid heating systems, with customized IT offering a combination of services in safety, health, comfort and energy-efficiency); at the level of energy generation (building integrated systems, like building integrated PV either in roof constructions or in facades); or at the level of energy storage (batteries, thermal long term and short term storage, in-house distribution with Direct Current grids). However, it always remains important to focus on affordable housing and to work on the breakthrough of new developments in a wide market.


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A first project…

In May 2017, Flux50 launched a Feasibility Study Call. If all goes according to schedule, the first innovation trajectories/living labs per innovator zone will start early 2018.


However, the Proposal for a Flemish Energy Cluster – submitted to the Flemish Government in September 2016 and approved in December of that year – contains an Annex that describes one project idea per innovator zone. From page 204 onwards, the project ‘The power backbone for IoT devices – Intelligent low voltage direct current distribution network within a building with broadband communication capabilities’, initiated by Matthys&Partners (MaPa), Triphase, Enervalis and EnergyVille, is presented. This is a good example of the type of project that can be carried out in the innovator zone Intelligent Renovation.

Today, many buildings are equipped with rooftop solar panels, which generate DC that must be converted to AC to tie into the building’s electric system, only later to be reconverted to DC again for different end uses. All these DC-AC-DC conversions result in substantial energy losses because of inefficient rectifiers and adapters. Obviously, there is a need to modernize the home power grid in line with the evolution of the digital world to ensure affordable energy and a secure local data communications network that may serve as the power backbone for all kind of IoT devices and applications.

Matthys&Partners (MaPa) has worked out such a solution with the iDC concept, an intelligent safe-to-touch DC nanogrid for new and renovated buildings, which integrates power and broadband data communication on a building scale, simplifies cabling and gathers power usage data for local energy management applications outperforming AC energy management tools. The iDC concept is not only a power distribution network but also a broadband local data communication network, much like a regular LAN-network. Each wall socket is interactive instead of passive as in traditional AC power installations.

In the project ‘The power backbone for IoT devices’, that is being initiated by MaPa, Triphase, Enervalis and Vito-Energyville, the initiators and their SME-partners strive to jointly design, develop and demonstrate the iDC solution in an operational building and/or neighborhood of 20 houses. This includes a full scale (with local energy production and storage) demonstration and deployment of the iDC concept in a real-life environment. The outcome of the life-demonstration is the validation of the iDC technology and its performance. The next step is to make the iDC products ready for local manufacturing.

Innovator zones