Funding Granted for Project on Environmental Impacts of Digitalization in Buildings

In a project starting in August 2024, researchers and industry partners connected to Dig-IT Lab will evaluate various digital solutions in buildings, using Life cycle assessment. The goal is to provide guidelines for industry and property managers regarding performance and sustainability requirements.

Advancements in information and communications technology (ICT) have significantly improved building operations. Key applications include space efficiency, building automation, energy management, demand response, behavior change campaigns, and predictive maintenance. As ICT becomes more affordable, new digital applications continuously emerge, often promoted for reducing environmental impacts and enhancing sustainability. However, these claims often overlook the full range of effects. Life cycle assessment (LCA) can provide a comprehensive understanding of ICT solutions’ net effects by evaluating environmental impacts across all life cycle phases.

ICT in buildings includes sensing devices, connectivity, network systems, data storage, and actuators, all with environmental footprints throughout their life cycle phases, including manufacturing, operation, and disposal. LCA helps reveal these footprints alongside the benefits, offering a clearer picture of their overall impact. The design and configuration of these systems significantly influence their environmental performance. For example, data sampling frequency, wired vs. wireless connectivity, and data handling practices (local vs. cloud storage) impact environmental footprints.

This project will evaluate various digital solutions in buildings with academic and industry partners. We will analyze how system design and configuration affect environmental performance using LCA methodology. Diverse ICT solutions in case study buildings will be considered to understand tradeoffs between environmental impacts and technical performance. Based on the results, we will provide guidelines for product and system developers and assist property and facility managers in making informed decisions that fulfill performance and sustainability requirements.

Starting in August 2024, the four-year project has a budget of 4 million SEK from the Smart Built Environment program funded by Formas and an equal amount in-kind from the industry. Participants include Göran Finnveden, Shoaib Azizi, and Tove Malmqvist from SEED at KTH, Jonas Anund Vogel from the Energy Department at KTH, Rikard Strid from KTC, Adam Cocozza from Botrygg, John Wibrand from Swegon, Mikael Dimadis from Einar Mattsson, Shima Dehvari from Bengt Dahlgren.