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Energy> Energy Efficiency 28 Jun 2018

Energy-saving algorithms

Scattered across BBVA City, there are over 50,000 sensors measuring everything from temperature and humidity, to brightness and motion. They were installed to ensure the proper running order of the facilities and employee comfort, but the engineers managing the building have found other ways of harnessing their capabilities to their full potential. By developing several algorithms capable of factoring in the readings they provide and additional data from external sources, they were able to achieve energy savings equivalent to the annual consumption of 200 households.

In 2015, when the 7,000 people that now work at BBVA City first moved into the complex, the climate control units were set to start running at 5:30 in the morning to make sure that employees that got to work really early could start their day comfortably. Decisions about when to turn on the systems were made based on past experiences in other buildings and the architectural features of BBVA’s new flagship building in Madrid.

But, unlike other office buildings that BBVA had occupied in the past, BBVA City was equipped with a network of sensors sending real-time readings of conditions within the complex to the monitoring room, the “heart of the city.”

AI-based management

After spending a whole year looking at the huge datasets generated by the sensors and the three weather stations within the premises, “we realized that it was possible to achieve substantial energy savings without compromising employee comfort,” explained Elías Gómez, Head of Energy Efficiency and one of the promoters of BBVA’s energy savings plan.

To cut electricity consumption, his team developed an algorithm that, apart from the readings from the systems deployed across BBVA City, took into account the forecasts of the Spanish National Weather Forecast to decide when to turn on the climate control units every day. Today, in average, these systems start running about two hours later than what they did when they were first installed, depending on both the season and the orientation of each particular area served by each climate control unit.  Also, the system is capable of learning autonomously, increasing its efficiency over time.

By upgrading the climate control systems with these AI features, “we managed to save about 400,000 kWh, an amount equivalent to the consumption of 111 households,” said Elías Gómez. “The cost of installing these three weather stations and the sensor network when BBVA City was built is minimal compared to the possibilities they enable from a daily management standpoint.”

Photoelectric cells for an adaptive lighting system

The installation of the small photoelectric cells that detect motion and keep track of the brightness levels throughout the day has proven to be another extremely cost-effective decision for the bank in terms of energy savings. With this second initiative of the Energy Savings Project at BBVA City achieved savings of over 380,000 kWh per year (equivalent to the electricity consumption of 105 households).

According to Borja Eugui, Head of Facility Management, Critical Services & Sustainability at BBVA Holding, and another key promoter of the project together with Elías Gómez, “the parking lot’s lighting system had not been customized when we first moved to BBVA City, greatly exceeding our actual needs.” Lights stayed turned on almost 24 hours a day.

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Monitoring room in BBVA City

“After taking a close look at the traffic data,” said Eugui, "we realized that flows peaked at the start and end of the regular workday, and at lunchtime. Also, after 9 p.m. virtually nobody used the parking lot.”

In this case, the goal they sought to achieve was cutting the number of hours during which the parking lights stayed on, without compromising the employees’ sense of security. This was achieved by using a motion sensor system, capable of illuminating people’s paths as they made their way towards their vehicles.

Another matter of concern for the Facilities team was the opinion of the heads of Security of the bank. Against their preconceived notion, the reaction they got was very positive. It turned out that for security personnel it was much easier to monitor areas if they light up when the sensors detect that something is moving within them.

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Motion sensor system is capable of illuminating people’s paths as they made their way towards their vehicles.

BBVA uses 4 per cent less energy than in 2015

“These two initiatives are just a sample of the 102 savings measures that we have implemented at BBVA City to cut consumption rates between 12 and 15 per cent since 2015, something that’s not easy to do in a building already equipped with highly efficient systems. And regarding global consumption across Spain, BBVA spends 4 per cent less than two years ago and already sources 100% of its energy from renewable sources,” stressed Ana Herrero, Head of Sustainable at BBVA Holding.

However, BBVA still has a lot to do to meet the figures envisaged in its 2025 Pledge, the climate change and sustainable development strategy outlined by the Bank to contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  BBVA has committed to source 70% of BBVA Group's global power consumption from renewable sources by 2025, and 100% by 2030. Currently, only Spain meets this target. At the same time, BBVA has set out to cut its direct carbon dioxide emissions by 68 per cent, compared to 2015 levels.