The Engineering building at NUI Galway, which was opened in July 2011, consolidates education and research activities in the various engineering disciplines into one building, which not only provides a learning environment, but itself acts as a teaching and learning tool. It is serving as a ‘living laboratory’ for engineering, where live data sets from numerous types of sensors are being used to illustrate structural engineering and building performance concepts in undergraduate teaching and in the development of full-scale research in structural engineering and energy. The building contains green-building initiatives, which will provide working models for students. Several of the building’s constructional elements have consciously been left exposed, as visual learning tools (RMJM, 2008).

Both energy and structural characteristics of the structure are to be monitored throughout the buildings entire life cycle. The vision is for a building whereby future students will be able to analyse and understand a building’s defining characteristics at first hand and on a personal level. Data measuring the strains, temperatures and movements due to loading of the building are being gathered along with energy demands and performance of the building. Embedded sensors within structural elements are fundamental to the development of the building as an interactive teaching tool, reporting on the evolving dialogue of the structure with its environment (Goggins et al, 2012).

  • Several major structural elements were instrumented in order to provide the interactivity required of the 'living laboratory'. Four elements were selected for instrumentation: a 40-tonne pre-tensioned reinforced concrete box beam, a pre-tensioned double-tee reinforced concrete unit, a novel precast two-way flat slab reinforced concrete system and a structural steel ‘hanging’ system with steel roof truss.spects instrumented as teaching and learning tools include:
  • Light sensors automatically measure LUX in a room and operate lighting accordingly
  • Occupancy sensors adjust temperature and turns occupancy sensors adjust temperature and turn off lights when a room is not in use
  • Room temperature sensors for minimal energy consumption to monitor air quality
  • Passive ventilation will cool room and reduces the need for air-conditioning
  • Meters on water
  • Meter on electricity

Instrumented 40-tonne prestressed concrete transfer beam

Instrumented prestressed tee beam unit during fabrication at Banagher Concrete

Schematic of various sensors in a teaching space in the new engineering building

Strain and temperature sensor (vibating wire guage) installed in the void formed flat slab system in the new engineering building

The NEB uses an advanced CylonBMS to monitor and control the building. This displays real time measurements of building performance, as well as short and long-term trends.

  • Electricity metering: total of 78 individual meters distributed by system and floor;
  • Heat energy metering: total of 12 meters across both the hot and chilled water circuits;
  • Internal environment parameters available in each zone: Temperature, Relative humidity (where relevant), CO2 concentration and window position (where relevant);
  • Extensive sensor measurements of all HVAC systems;
  • Internal slab temperature sensors: 5 per floor;
  • Local weather monitoring station;
  • Water monitoring;


An MySQL database stores long term BMS data from approximately 4,000 sensors and components installed throughout the building. This provides an invaluable asset for research (and education) related to building energy consumption, thermal comfort, and internal enviromental quality.  If you are interested in gaining access to the NEB BMS database for research or education purposes, contact one of the following with your proposal.