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Going Green

Energy Saving Project at Leiden Town Hall

by Miklos Horvath 27 May 2011
Energy Saving Project at Leiden Town Hall

Metering, feedback and behavioral changes

In 2007, the management of the Town Hall of Leiden, which provides public services to its citizens and hosts many offices, decided to join an energy-saving program that was partially funded by the European Union. Leiden is one of five cities(1) that take part in the EU project: "Save Energy". CIP-ICT-PSP-238882. The objective of this program is to reduce energy consumption by changing employee behavior. It was recognized that people do not usually take on the initiative to be responsible for saving energy in public buildings as those structures are not their own properties, so these governmental entities decided to do it for them. During the project, employees learn how to save additional energy in their offices in order to reduce the running expenses of the Town Hall. The project begins with two constraints: the project has to fit within the budget and physical changes to the building are not allowed due to its monumental status.

The project is based on the hypothesis that employees will change their energy-consuming behaviors once real-time information about the energy consumption becomes available to them. Hence, twelve almost identical office rooms(2) had been equipped with electricity and heating/cooling/humidification energy-consumption metering devices in the Town Hall that provide participants (the test group consists of 26 employees) with digital photo frames in each room on the relative amount of energy used. They then receive feedback on an hourly basis via a wireless Internet connection that will help them monitor their basic needs and control their consumption. For example, when they leave their rooms, they are reminded to turn off the lights, computers, and any other energy-consuming appliance that does not need to be running. Employees also receive individual feedback by personalized weekly e-mails.

So how does the display console measure energy consumption? Mr. Maarten van der Plas, a policy officer at Leiden Town Hall, explained it to me in detail. He said that (Plugwise and Sensite) sensors have been installed on the desks, electrical fixtures and thermostats in each of the participating offices. The data measured by the sensors are then collected by Plugwise concentrators and Sensite HBL100 Wireless Network Controllers that communicate with an AnyWi router used in this audit. The AnyWi router connects via Internet to the SAVE ENERGY technical infrastructure. The data is then processed and presented to the users in a digital photo frame. The data is also made available to end-user services, namely Serious Games.

digital photo frame

The hypothesis that by providing such real-time energy consumption information to the employees, the employees will in turn take personal responsibility for their energy-consuming behavioral patterns is still under examination. Experts, Leiden University teachers, and master students continuously analyze the data provided by the meters and they follow the traditional sociological approach (questionnaires and interviews) to obtain data on employee behavior.

Although this metering fosters saving more energy by encouraging Leiden Town Hall employees to change their behaviors, and helping to reduce the public facility's running expenses, this measurement-taking research fund could also benefit those involved in the selling of "energy-saving" devices and "monitoring" tools for such a scheme. It may just so happen that some day every household might be equipped with smart meters that have the same objectives: to provide detailed data on energy consumption by customers, to customers, in order to help them save energy. If this project takes hold on a global scale, it may help to save more energy and it could prove a prosperous business for those who involve themselves with the selling such devices.

1.1 Sensors: Measuring The Energy Consumption of Appliances

Installation of the system, operation and maintenance has been carried out by the subcontractor: AnyWi Technologies. Sensors and concentrators are provided by the following companies: ISA (sensors for lighting appliances), ISTA (technology for heating appliances), Plugwise (sensors for computer appliances) and Z-Wave (sensors indicate that the window is open/closed). The sensors are about 15 euros, the display is 400 euros, the controller and the Ethernet/UMTS Gateway is 250 euros. The gateway is a necessary item in this project as the whole data of the different sensors using distinct program languages are collected by the gateway and transformed into one single format. Experts claim that using ICT (namely real time information and Serious Games) for energy saving in public buildings and spaces may stimulate the employees to change their behavior and could help to reduce the expenditures of Leiden Town Hall by up to 20%.

In his guideline to the project, Mr. Huub Schuurmans states that extra sensors are also placed in the Town Hall to see if extra information might help the user to save more energy. Therefore, it is possible to communicate to the user of a room that the heating is on and the window is open simultaneously. Among many of the extra sensors an infrared sensor indicates if someone is in the room, a door sensor measures if the door is open/closed and a remote controller helps an easy interaction with appliances. The remote controller might be the most useful sensor with which employees can easily shut off all appliances with one button when leaving their rooms. Using this new technology, municipality buildings can become climate neutral while more energy and money will also be saved. The project stimulates innovation and fosters a good PR with the public.

1.2 The Budget and The Expenditures of The Project

According to Alvaro Oliveira, the coordinator of the SAVE ENERGY project, it is important to reduce the expenses of public buildings as they represent 40% of energy waste in Europe. The objective of this experiment is to reduce the running expenses of public buildings by energy saving measures and behavioral changes. The total cost of the project is 4.460.045 euros and the contribution of the European Commission is 2.230.0003 euros. The total allocated budget for the Leiden Pilot is 133.566 euros including the personnel costs (65.820 euros), the subcontracting costs (16.500 euros), the indirect costs for all the consortium (19.746 euros) and the specific direct costs for travel, equipment and other costs for the Consortium (31.500 euros).(3)

1.3 Consortium Meetings and Progress Reports

The representatives of the five cities, who take part in the EU project, "Save Energy", have consortium meetings where they discuss their expectations and the goals of the project. On 30th March 2009 there was a meeting in Lisbon where the project coordinator, Alvaro Oliveira introduced the aims and the objectives of the Save Energy project to the audience. The reports distributed after such meetings represent the progress of the project. The reports also give a glimpse into the setup of the Leiden Pilot which will be discussed here.

Although the management of the Town Hall of Leiden had decided to join this energy-saving program in 2007, the project started on 1st March 2009, so the speaker of the Leiden Pilot could not deliver full information about their development in Lisbon. The representative of CeTIM, Erwin Marges was talking about the key objective of the Leiden Pilot. The meeting in Lisbon ended with a brainstorming session.(4)

The next meeting was at the end of June 2009 when the representatives of Leiden were asked to provide information about the energy audits status. The project manager emphasized the need to deliver their plans before September (project M6) to avoid problems. Bernhard Katzy explained that the delay in distributing information about the Leiden Pilot was a result of initial difficulties and he stated that Leiden team was committed to be in line with other pilots. At the end of the session, Maarten van der Plas presented the characteristics and the objective of the Leiden Pilot and he asked a few questions about the use of reward or punishment to achieve behavior transformation. During this session, the implementation plans were negotiated and agreed by the municipality to go ahead without constrain.(5)

At the end of August 2009, Maarten van der Plas provided a detailed description of the Leiden Pilot to the project coordinator. He was writing about the members of the project team, the technical layout of the Leiden Pilot and the measurement process. He provided a time schedule of Leiden Pilot at the end of his report.(6)

In the Periodic Progress Report (01.03.09-28.02.2010, M1-M12), Huub Schuurmans states that energy use depends on many factors, so there is a lot of 'noise' in this measurement. He says they installed the Plugwise and the Sensite sensors for the desks, lighting and temperatures, but they still need to work on to present the data provided by the meters to the users.

In 2010 several meetings were held in Brussels and Manchester. Representatives of the cities participating in the project were talking about the starting of the reference test phase, the problem solution phase and the experimental phase of the project. The experimental phase requires a year to collect enough data for reliable further analysis. The project is going to end with a final report on the results of the investigation.

The "Save Energy" project will run over a 30-month period, so it will probably be terminated in August 2011 when experts might provide more information to the public on their observations. Experts are in the process of analyzing the data provided by the appliances used in this project. Erwin Marges claims that it is extremely difficult to actually state how much energy is "saved", less usage of energy is what they can measure, but it is very dependent on the factors such as weather, outside temperature, time of year (daylight), work pattern (meetings and coffee breaks), type of work and the presence of users. They have already found that employees switch the light off more often and that there is less heating energy consumed when there is no one in the room. It is also recognized that the employee reactions to the measurement are positive and the management is rather enthusiastic; there is a growing media interest, but the costs of this project are higher than estimated.

Author Notes:

(1) The official website of the Save Energy project: (access: 27.06.2011) provides more information about the five cities involved in this project: Helsinki, Leiden, Lisbon, Lulea and Manchester.

(2) In her essay, The experimental set up for the Leiden Pilot published on 02.11.2009, Anne Strube provides a detailed description of the rooms chosen for the experimental execution. She says that eight rooms are chosen for the experiment and four rooms act as reference rooms. The rooms have nearly the same conditions. Four rooms are located at the outer-side of the building and four of them at the inner-side. So, the persons of the rooms are either influenced by the weather or the temperature of the atrium.

(3) The European Commission covers the 50% of the expenditures of the whole project. The project budget of the Town Hall is 133.566 euros. Therefore, 66.783 euros will be paid by the EC and the other half will be the contribution of Leiden Municipality. Although there is a detailed description of the budget above, more information about the expenditures is provided here. The internal costs consist of the overhead (19.746 euros) and personal expenditures (65.820 euros) such as the costs of the project management, the facility manager, the staff of the Town Hall, the PR & Communication staff. The external costs include travelling costs (7000 euros), equipment costs (24.500 euros - sensors, actuators, controllers, server and accessories, integrated prototype, smart metering and validation equipment, public displays, PDA's and mobile devices, Advanced lighting) and services costs (16.500 euros -Programming controllers and interfacing with Save Energy Server, Testing, Installation, fitting, wiring equipment).

(4) More information can be found in Minutes of Meeting by Denis Hickel. It is a report on the Consortium Meeting between 30th March, 2009 and 31st March, 2009.

(5) Information is delivered from Minutes of Meeting (29.06.2009-30.06.2009 Lulea) by Denis Hickel and Alvaro Oliveira.

(6) SAVE ENERGY Pilot Group Progress Report 1 / M6, Covering Period 01.03.09-31.08.09 by Fernandes Joana et al.


Hickel, Denis (2009) Minutes of Meeting, Consortium Meeting between 30th March, 2009 and 31st March, 2009.

Hickel, Denis; Oliveira, Alvaro (2009) Minutes of Meeting (29.06.2009-30.06.2009 Lulea).

Joana, Fernandes; Arne, Gylling; Asko, Kippo; Plas, Maarten van der; Martine, Tommis (2009) SAVE ENERGY Pilot Group Progress Report 1 / M6, Covering Period 01.03.09-31.08.09.

Schuurmans, Huub (2010) Periodic Progress Report (01.03.09-28.02.2010, M1-M12).

Strube, Anne (2009) The experimental set up for the Leiden Pilot.

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