The purpose of environmental automation and measurement systems is to:
All of these will help people move towards more sustainable, efficient, and comfortable lifestyles. Open sourcing these systems will increase and ease implementation by others, provide useful information, and forward sustainability and collaboration related to ecology and how it can be aided by technology. We will implement and open source the components of these systems as part of the 3-dome cluster crowdfunding campaign, Earthbag Village (Pod 1) and Duplicable City Center®, and then the other 6 villages.
This page contains the following sections related to off-grid-living automation and measurement systems:
Throughout this page, “Control systems” refers to controllable switches and sensors used in functions such as lighting and temperature control. “Automation” refers to the system’s ability to use feedback and software to automatically control lights, fans, heating, music, etc. “Measurement systems” refers to the systems capable of gathering and collating data on water, electricity, safety states, and internet bandwidth usage.
While the technology to Control, Measure, and Automate buildings has been around for several decades, the application of that technology has only somewhat recently reached mainstream awareness, riding along with the trends of “smart buildings,” “smart homes,” and “green design.” Thus far, the primary applications have been in large (100k+ sq. ft.) commercial and industrial spaces as they have offered the greatest return on investment due to their size and the prior lack of incentive for the employees controlling these buildings to use electricity and water mindfully. However, as homes have gotten larger and owners more eco-conscious, the same principles have trickled down to residential consumers. This has also been encouraged by many city, state, and federal programs that incentivize resource conservation. Looking towards the future, we can see these advances as steps along the path towards the “Internet of Things” and “Smart Grid” – a time when all devices are connected to the internet and therefore can communicate amongst themselves to autonomously perform their tasks in an energy efficient manner with more effective results as defined and monitored by their owners.
Here’s an example of what this will look like for the Duplicable City Center. It is a diagram mapping sensor locations based on function, range, and capabilities. It allows us to start planning wiring and relationships between monitoring and control:
We see the goal with automation systems as making them easy enough, affordable enough, and demonstrating them as attractive enough to create a new market of interest and implementation. We will additionally use them to coordinate data, development, and improvements with collaborative self-sufficient and self-propagating teacher/demonstration communities, villages, and cities we’ll be helping build around the world. We will install these systems and fine-tune them in each of the village models, the Duplicable City Center, and beyond and evolve this page with additional implementation details, research, and systems development, installation, and maintenance specifics.
The primary benefit typically attributed to a building automation system (BAS) is a reduction in operating costs. Since this is achieved by saving resources (electricity, water, natural gas, etc.), it appeals to both the financially prudent and the environmentally conscious. Estimates of utility savings typically range up to 30%. However, often the baseline building used for comparison has round-the-clock operation of lights, HVAC, etc., due to a lack of scheduling or manual turn off; since that is almost a worst-case scenario, the advertised results are at least a bit overly optimistic.
A second common benefit of a BAS is a more comfortable indoor climate that does not require manual operation. Lighting, heating, cooling, and ventilation are often the aspects automated by responding to changes in sensed ambient temperature, light, humidity, motion, or time of day. “Green Buildings” are often designed to be very tightly insulated, which is great for saving energy by reducing the amount of heating and cooling needed, but can result in stale or stuffy areas. For this reason, ventilation systems are often more important for these buildings than for standard, less insulated construction. As a result of more comfortable environments, companies have found that employees appear more productive in automated buildings, reporting fewer complaints and taking fewer sick days.
Finally, each decision or process that needs to be made and can be automated is one fewer item for you (or some other human) to worry about. Whether deciding when to turn on or off lights, or adjusting the temperature or ventilation fans, or configuring the audio/visual system to the correct settings for a presentation, a computer programmed once to handle these situations can almost permanently take remembering all these little details off everyone’s plate, thereby making the outcomes easier, more consistent, and more optimal (whether that means resource efficient or comfortable to occupants or a mix of each is up to the group).
In most situations, monitoring is merely providing the sensor data that is the required input to the building’s automation processes. For example, monitoring room temperature is necessary for a thermostat to know when to turn the heating and cooling systems on or off. Automated lights may benefit from detecting motion or ambient light. The benefits attributed to these automated processes therefore rely upon accurate and frequent monitoring observations.
An emerging benefit of detailed monitoring is the ability to “mine” this “big data” in order to gain insights that allow the current and future systems to be fine-tuned to the specific needs they serve. By fine-tuning, a system can provide superior user outcomes while also requiring fewer resources. The gained efficiencies reduce utility costs and environmental impact.
Finally, information has become a benefit in itself for environmentally-conscious people. As the saying goes “what gets measured gets done” – an increasing interest in goals such as shrinking environmental footprint or reducing CO2 emissions has placed an increased importance on gathering relevant data. The more data we are able to gather, the more we can evaluate the resource and monetary benefits of making changes. The more we can open source share these details, the more we hope to help others to better evaluate the benefits of such systems and changes too.
The easiest way anyone can contribute to this page is to share your opinion with us through the following survey we created. It is 14 multiple choice questions with two options to write in your own ideas or comments at the end. Once you complete the survey, you will be given the option to see the results of all those who have completed it before you.
Bupesh Seethala: Architectural Drafter & Designer, BS Electrical Engineering
Lucas Tsutsui da Silva: 4th-year Computer Engineering Student
Mike Hogan: Automation Systems Developer and Business Systems Consultant
Ramya Vudi: Electrical Engineer
Shubham Agrawal: Electrical Engineer
Tyler Gonnsen: Software Architecture Consultant and Web Application Developer
When designing a system, a common approach is to consider it from the perspectives of the system’s inputs, processing, and outputs. At a high level, our proposed system will “see the world” by utilizing many input sensors which provide real time information for Lifestyle Applications. These lifestyle applications may run on one or more micro controllers and or servers and will process inputs with its custom and configurable logic rules in order to transform the data to be ready for analysis and to trigger changes in the output device controllers. The output device controllers will serve as intermediaries between the virtual software system and the real physical infrastructure. For example, LAN and/or WiFi integrated relays and valves can translate computer instructions into turning power circuits on/off or opening/closing water pipes. With this approach, we will be able to more easily adjust our system(s) over time to include new sensors, new logic functionality, and new automated devices.
What follows is a detailed exploration of the Standards used to design the system, the Inputs, the Processors, and the Outputs.
Scalability, Sustainability, and Effectiveness were the top priorities One Community chose when designing this system.
The average 3-bedroom house requires over 300 control points to manage all AC outlets, ceiling lights, sensors, audio visual systems, motor controllers and valves. Large multi-level dwellings often require over 1000 control points. All components in the One Community design have been chosen so they can be used in single/multi-dwellings, greenhouses, tank farm/irrigation systems, energy management systems, and/or scaled up for use in systems even bigger than those of the Duplicable City Center and Earthbag Village.
One of many challenges in developing effective central control systems relate to integration of multiple communication standards. This can present a costly and wasteful challenge when designing small and highly functional systems or large-scale automation. To address this issue, the core framework has been designed to translate signals and protocols from different device types into a central control system. This allows the use of automation products from different manufactures while maintaining integration with core lifestyle logic. This saves both money and resources.
Home Automation must do just that… automate. Otherwise it’s yet another gadget that needs attention.
~ Michael T. Hogan
Imagine the ability to control every light, the temperature zones, music, etc. in your house from any location using any type of interface. This may include conveniently placed switches, touch screens, IR repeaters, speech recognition, and Xbox sensors. A command from any one of these interfaces can engage control macros to active or adjust individual zones or the whole house at the touch of a button, voice command, or reaction to some other event.
Now imagine adding integration with handheld devices, ambient light sensors, motion detection, IR commands, and other sensors. This sensory information combined with event calendars and logic modules provides a truly integrated and intelligent system. The concept of needing to use a light switch, manual thermostat control, etc. eventually diminishes.
Here are just a few application examples:
All of this requires an integrated system of inputs, processing components, and output components. To put this in perspective, here is an example of what a comprehensive control and automation system might look like when integrating a diversity of different components and functions:
“Inputs” are the data gathering devices for the control and automation systems. We’ve added detailed descriptions and included product recommendations wherever we’ve identified what we feel is a product that best meets the needs of a specific area of input.
Electricity metering serves several purposes. Here are the three we consider most helpful:
HOW IT WORKS:
Current transformers (CT’s) are clamped around AC cables at the breaker panel(s). The CT transforms AC current to a smaller DC voltage levels supplied to separate channels on a CT gateway. The CT gateway in turn provides electricity usage data from each CT to the automation system infrastructure logic.
Here’s a hardware example electricity metering:
In order to understand the current state and flow of electricity on the property and allocate usage to the responsible users for accurate data gathering and open source sharing, we will need to monitor each building’s total consumption as well as individual circuits (or paths within a circuit) within the building. The suggested system(s) were selected based on flexibility/expandability and direct availability to consumers, making them good choices for budget-conscious DIYers.
Electronic monitoring systems are available for both commercial and residential applications. The two systems we are currently most excited about are provided here:
|ECM-1240 Energy Monitor by Brultech||$200||
Suggestion for larger installations:
|TED 5000 Energy Detective||$350||
Suggestion for smaller installations:
Water metering serves several purposes:
In order to understand the flow of water on the property and allocate usage to the responsible users for accurate accounting, we will need to evaluate each building’s total consumption as well as the pipes serving individual rooms within the building.
HOW IT WORKS:
Water flow meters are inline sensors that count number turns of a paddle positioned inside a pipe. Based on pipe diameter, each turn of the paddle represents a specific volume of water. A system’s maximum flow rate is used when choosing sensors and calibration of settings in the software which translate number of turns over time to determine flow rate.
Several flow sensors have been evaluated for various requirements from low-flow to high-flow systems. Here are the two we are currently most excited about:
|Futurlec Flow Sensor FLOW40LO-REED||$11||0-80c||
|Futurlec Flow Sensor FLOW100LO||$28||0-80c||
Water temperature monitoring serves several purposes:
Many aspects of our infrastructure depend on hot water infrastructure. Included in this are radiant floor heating, showers, kitchen sinks, and appliances. In order to understand the effectiveness of heating the water and visualize its usage on the property, it will be beneficial to monitor the water temperature at several points within the hydronic system. As an alternative to measuring the temperature at each location of water usage, we may be able to simply measure the temperature of the building’s hot and cold water sources and allocate usage by observing the quantity of each used at a certain location. For example, instead of monitoring total flow and temperature at a shower, we could instead measure flow for each of the hot and cold pipes, as well as the building’s hot and cold water storage temperatures.
HOW IT WORKS:
Temperature sensors are designed for specific purposes so as to provide best accuracy. This is accomplished when the sensors range closely matches environment being monitored. For example, measuring domestic hot water temperature uses a sensor with a range of 0 – 200 degrees Celsius. When measuring a boiler or steam system the sensors max range needs to be at least 800 C.
Several water temperature sensors have been evaluated for various requirements. Here are the three we are currently most excited about:
|Pipe Temp sensor||$50||-40c to 125c||
|Phidget Thermal probe||$30||-50c to 800c||
|Monnit Wi-Fi Water Temperature Sensor||$170||-40 to 100+c||
Ambient light detection is used by lifestyle logic to determine several conditions including:
Knowing when a space is being well lit by the natural lighting (such as sunlight through the windows or skylights) allows lifestyle logic to adjust light levels to a predefined setting. Imagine sitting by a window reading a book. As the natural light from the window fades, the system will incrementally raise artificial lighting to a user-customizable level. In contrast, as natural light increases, based on thresholds, artificial lighting will incrementally decrease, resulting in a subtle transition to natural light. Ambient light sensors in conjunction with motion sensors provide automatic modes of operation for detecting occupied versus away behaviors that save resources and create a more comfortable living environment.
HOW IT WORKS:
Ambient light detectors come in several varieties. The main two categories are:
The following table lists the specifications and features for several light sensor recommendations.
|Phidgets 1127_0||$7||3 to 70000 lux||0-10mv analog||
|Phidgets 1142_0||$7||1 to 1000 lux||0-10mv analog||
|PT550||$4.50||1 to 6000 Lux||Analog||
Computer network traffic monitoring serves several purposes:
HOW IT WORKS:
For small computer networks servicing isolated dwellings, a simple flat network and several access points will likely suffice. Based on size and complexity of the Duplicable City Center and outlying areas, the computer network will consist of several virtual LANS (VLANS) on a high-speed backbone providing connections to wired and wireless computing devices. VLANS will be configured to provide isolation between building infrastructure devices, security, administration, occupant and guest access. The data monitoring system will be set up to monitor network traffic on VLANS as well as individual network connections.
Motion detection serves several purposes:
Motion sensing represents the system’s awareness of human or animal presence in specified areas. Passive infrared sensors (PIR) are commonly used for this type of sensing. The output is binary in nature with either motion or no-motion status. Resulting sensor data will be used by system lifestyle logic to manipulate various conditions for heating, cooling, lighting and safety.
HOW IT WORKS:
These devices work by detecting changes in infrared radiation (similar to heat energy) that humans give off and thereby can detect when people are moving within a space. Based on whether or not a room is occupied, they automatically turn lights on and off and maximize energy savings. Since they are “passive,” the devices themselves do not emit any energy or radiation to perform this function.
When placing motion sensor for living areas, at least one sensor is pointed towards the entrance door (from the inside) with an orientation that senses when someone has first crossed the doorways threshold, while not sensing motion from people walking by the door from the outside. An additional sensor is then placed facing the living area of each space to provide motion status for resetting light countdown timers. In this example each 12 by 12 room will require at least 2 sensors.
The following table lists the specifications and features for several motion sensor recommendations:
|Phillips PIR wide||$20||6.6ft||Digital Output||
|Phillips PIR narrow||$20||16ft||Digital Output||
|PIR Motion Sensor v1.0||$4.90||22ft||Digital Output||
Temperature / humidity detection serves several purposes:
HOW IT WORKS:
Temperature and humidity sensors are a relatively inexpensive set of devices capable of precisely measuring temperature to within 1°F and relative humidity to within 1%. Location of temperature sensors greatly affects system ability to respond quickly and accurately to subtle environmental changes. For these to be as effective as possible, the following points should be considered:
Temperature and humidity sensors come with a variety of ranges and protocols. Evaluating the diversity of what is available, and our intended uses, here are the three we are currently most excited about:
|Phidgets Temp/Humidity||$50||-30 to 80c
10%RH to 95%RH
|Parallax Temp/Humidity||$42||-40c-123c||2 wire
|HTU21D-F Temp/Humidity||$15||-40 to 120°C
0 to 100 %RH
|Digital / I2C, or
PWM / analog, or
SDM, convertible to analog
The current time and programmed schedules will serve as inputs into our system because we may desire certain features to be turned on or off according to a predetermined schedule or configured logic rules that vary according the time of day or day of year.
Understanding where certain people are (or plan to be in the future) can be of benefit for controlling resources or allocating usage to users as part of data analysis. Users may “check in” or “check out” at certain locations to indicate their participation in an activity or their presence in a room. This can (and likely will) be accomplished in several ways. First, a user can directly check in/out via a website or mobile application. Second, a user can indicate his or her intended schedule in an online calendar. Third, a device reader at the location may allow the user to quickly check in/out, such as by swiping a keycard, scanning a barcode, or holding a cell phone within a certain range.
These data metrics will be helpful to One Community’s global change methodology and open source goals by helping track and share results and participation in both the community contribution model and the optional fulfilled living and other available Highest Good society aspects of One Community. Our goal in doing this is to objectively demonstrate the increased recreational value (in dollars not needing to be spent) and time availability (in time saved) within a replicable teacher/demonstration hub like One Community.
One Community will build functionality into the Highest Good Network which will allow users to see the devices and options that they are currently allowed to control. They can then directly indicate their preferences through the website or mobile application.
“Processing” components of the control and automation systems are the components that help to use input data to save resources and/or share availability of resources, efficiency metrics, and other relevant information for fine-tuning and improving total system effectiveness and efficiency. This section describes how each of the individual processing components of the control and automation system contribute to it.
Logic Control and Interface works similar to the way the human nervous system performs its tasks. In the human brain, neurons are like passive sensors that tell the brain what’s going on. The low-level parts of the brain are like an autonomous Micro Controller (MC). Low-level functions happen without the upper brain giving any instruction but the upper brain is still aware of information coming from the low-level brain (MC). Included in this is the ability to override other systems in response to additional needs. Meanwhile, the upper brain Control Center handles purposeful action, higher level evaluation, and decision making.
HOW IT WORKS:
One Community will use a system framework where most of the decisions are made by logic running on a main server while autonomous operations are handled by micro-controllers (MC’s). The server logic has access to all data and the ability to monitor and override functions from MC’s. This methodology encourages simplicity, redundancy, and the ability to build in failsafe functions.
Here are the micro-controller options we are currently most excited about:
|Phidgets 1073_ SBC||$150||Debian Linux||Ethernet||
|Raspberry Pi 2 B||$50||Linux
Wifi add on
|Arduino Mega 2560||$45.95||Linux||USB||
Certain features (for example lighting or room electricity) may turn on in response to detected motion or turn off as a result of a period of no detected motion. It is estimated that roughly 15% of the total energy consumed by US residences goes to lighting. However, much of this is likely wasted due to lights being turned on during times when no one is present in the area or when the ambient sunlight is more than sufficient. Due to our high energy costs, every Watt saved is very important to us.
Lights on dimmers are controlled separately from standard on/off lighting controls. The AC wire to the light is the same, except it’s connected to a dimmer pack output as opposed to a relay contact output at the panel. Attached is a detailed technical article about dimming from the lighting experts Lutron. It is a wealth of great info and a must read to understand the complexities around dimming: Lutron Dimmer white paper
|Lutron Dimmer||$30-50||600 watts||Hard wired to relay contacts||
|Ethernet light dimmer||$390-$500||100-1500 watts per channel|| Ethernet
A core feature of our automation system is the ability to automatically maintain certain areas within certain temperature ranges. In order for the system to know when to turn on or off, it will need to be able to sense the current temperature. By far the largest component of building energy usage is maintaining a comfortable indoor climate, typically via a Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. Due to our location and construction methods, One Community intends to be 100% passively cooled, thereby removing the need for an air conditioning system.
Primary ventilation is managed by core HVAC system. Augmentation to core ventilation can be controlled based on direct user actions and/or detected temperature differentials settings.
Users may “check in” or “check out” at certain locations to indicate their participation in an activity or their presence in a room which may turn on or off room water or electricity and affect how the associated resources are allocated.
Critical internet traffic will be given the highest priority so that in a situation where we’ve met our aggregate bandwidth limit, the less important personal browsing will slow down to allow the necessary infrastructure services to continue unhindered. We may also “throttle” individual users (decrease speed in response to prior excessive usage) so that the bandwidth is shared fairly amongst all residents during periods of peak usage.
“Outputs” are the components of the control and automation system that allow for remote control of devices, lighting, fans, actuators, pumps, valves etc. We also included Data Analysis in this section since it is most relevant to the control and monitoring of the output components. Adding output components to key access points will allow us to additionally program and/or automate the process of conservation based on the data we are gathering. We’ve added product recommendations wherever we’ve identified what we feel is a product that best meets the needs of a specific output category.
In order to meet safety and electrical code requirements all AC electrical connection points must be enclosed in a protective case or panel. The panel provides connection points (terminal blocks) for connecting lights, plugs fans etc. Relays and interface circuitry allow monitoring and control of AC devices. Connections to sensors and other input output device run to/from the panel as well.. In some cases a micro-controller may also be installed provide a complete self contained system.
Relays serve several purposes including:
HOW IT WORKS:
A relay works on the same basic principle as a light switch. While open, electricity doesn’t flow through the circuit. By expending a small amount of energy to close the circuit, however, the large amount of energy within the circuit begins to flow and power all of the connected devices. Whereas a light switch is powered by a human’s direct action of physically flipping the switch, a relay can be switched by a small amount of electricity that is provided by an automated computing device (i.e. via automated computer logic).
There are literally thousands of types of relays specifically designed for various needs. We have identified several relays and modules well suited for control and automation. Here they are:
|Eklan Memory Relay||$25-$35||15 amp||
AC or DC
|Phoenix 24vac Relay||$12-$27||16 amp||24 VAC||Contact||
|National Control Devices ProXR Relays||$200||10 amp||Internal||Sockets API||
IR repeaters serve several purposes including:
HOW IT WORKS
Infrared Repeaters (IR) typically have a range of 30 ft. for sending and receiving audio systems IR command signals. For best function, you should therefor place IR repeater within 30 ft facing AV equipment racks, billboard TVS, etc. For large areas, one transceiver facing the majority of AV equipment, plus another facing the audience or gathering areas, allows for complete automation of AV equipment and all IR remote activity from remotes and or smart phones.
Here are the IR repeaters we are currently most excited about:
|ir Trans IR Repeater||$15||IR codes over ethernet||
ETHERNET SECURITY CARD READERS
Ethernet security card readers have a few key features and functions:
|HID Card reader||$350-500||Security card reader and door lock controller||
Current Suggestion: Asco 212 Series Solenoid Valve
A valve is the water equivalent to an electrical relay – a small amount of energy applied to the valve has the large effect of switching the valve’s open/close state. By placing valves appropriately within the water pipes and powering the valves with a LAN/WiFi connected device, we will be able to open and close the pipes to control water flow via automated computer logic.
Current Suggestion: See One Community Internet Page
Traffic shaping is a technique used in computer networks to allow for prioritizing bandwidth usage based on the user or device. This can be especially helpful in situations where internet bandwidth is limited and/or still being expanded to meet current needs. Through traffic shaping a group is able to make sure their highest priority network needs are always met first.
Once the system is in operation, we will work with the relevant decision makers to develop relevant reporting capabilities for the Highest Good Network so that the large amount of automation data can be consolidated, analyzed, and “mined.” The goal here will be to create replicable analysis systems that are built into our custom software so the people who choose to use them can share and open source the data to help each other and all future teacher/demonstration villages to be even more efficient and effective.
One design element required to design such as system involves classifying sensors/devices into categories.
Building your own board? Here are some great soldering tutorials that are specific to control board creation:
Control, automation, and data-gathering systems have the potential to dramatically increase efficiency and understanding of how people use resources. For groups interested in participating in this process, One Community is open source sharing the development of our system with additional plans to integrate options for data sharing into the Highest Good Network so teacher/demonstration hubs around the world can collaboratively compare and refine their approaches.
Q: Are you recommending this level of monitoring/automation/control for everyone?
No, our organization is focused on this level of detail because of our open source and sustainability goals. We’d like to work with others who are interested in this level of data gathering, sharing, and systems fine tuning too. That said, we aren’t making recommendations to others about whether or not they should adopt a similar approach. For people who want to though, we’re focused on making it as easy, collaborative, and useful as we can.
Q: How will you decide what will be monitored and what won’t?
We feel that data gathering is essential to maximizing our effectiveness and efficiency. With this in mind, our goal is to monitor as many resource elements as possible.
Q: Why not just hire professionals to install an industry solution?
We aren’t sure yet what level of professional involvement will occur in implementing our monitoring and automation system. This project is very important to us for sustainability reasons, but it isn’t mission-critical (as it would be in a hospital or science lab for example). Also, we recognize that hiring a team of professionals and paying a premium for industry products will be out of reach for many folks due to financial and logistical constraints, which is a concern for our goal of making this as easy to duplicate as possible. With the emergence of a technical-savvy do-it-yourself generation of open-source “prosumers,” we believe that the industry’s current model of selling a closed system through middlemen has real opportunity for improvement. If we can create an open source solution, we see this as helping a lot of people and stimulating the whole industry too by creating a new market of people interested in these technologies and willing to pay people to design systems and/or paying to upgrade or enhance the do-it-yourself versions we want to provide.
Q: Are you writing your own software or is there an existing open-source solution?
We will be writing our own open source software. We have also done a lot of research into potential systems so we can include this in our decisions of “buy vs. build” and “starting from scratch vs. adapting existing work.” From what we’ve researched, the following projects look the most in alignment with our goals:
Being a One Community Community Resident or Member is about joining a sustainability think-tank and team purposed to do all we can to create positive and permanent global change within our lifetime. Our team is coming together with a shared set of values and a vision to live for The Highest Good of All. Part of being on a team with goals as large and specific as ours is data gathering and sharing so we can constantly work together to analyze this data, improve all systems, and share what we learn as open source tutorials, examples and templates for others. The more transparent we are with each other, the more efficient and beneficial all this will be for us and the world.