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Q-Bot Report Summary

Project ID: 698607

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Q-Bot (Fast and economic insulation of buildings using robotic systems)

Reporting period: 2015-11-01 to 2016-10-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

"Across Europe, there is a large housing stock built before 1945, of which a high proportion have uninsulated floors and/or uninsulated solid walls. In the UK, an estimated 6.5 million (m) homes are designated as "hard to treat" with solid walls; of these an estimated 95% have uninsulated timber floors. Recent studies demonstrate that uninsulated timber floors can contribute as much as 25% of the total heat loss of these period properties. Across Northern Europe, in countries such as France, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Ireland and Belgium, similar construction methods were used while many newer buildings were built with uninsulated suspended concrete floors.

The heat-loss from suspended ground floors includes not just conductive heat loss to the ground and surroundings, but also the infiltration of cold air through the void and floor, driving heat loss through the rest of the property, even if the building has other energy efficiency measures such as double glazing and loft insulation. Such houses are expensive to heat but also suffer cold draughts and uneven temperatures significantly impacting occupants' comfort.

Effective underfloor insulation of existing buildings is one of the greatest challenges to Europe-wide retrofit activity aimed at improving energy performance. Thermal insulation of floors is not only one of the greatest contributor to energy performance of older buildings, but is one of the most challenging measures to retrofit. Current methods for floor and wall insulation are disruptive, labour-intensive and can be very costly. This severely limits the uptake and discourages most property owners from undertaking insulation works.

To resolve the challenges associated with effective underfloor insulation in older buildings, Q-Bot has developed an innovative process using a remotely controlled robotic device that can survey, assess and apply insulation. For underfloor insulation, a robot is inserted through an air vent from outside the building and applies insulation to the underside of the floor. The robot can successfully navigate under floor voids and fit through gaps in sleeper walls by folding/unfolding. For both underfloor and, in the future, solid wall insulation, Q-Bot radically reduces the time, cost and disruption compared to traditional methods.

Q-Bot's solution has the potential to (i) make a hugely positive impact on the welfare of some of the poorest members of society; (ii) remove the health and safety risks for construction workers associated with current floor insulation methods; (iii) improve productivity; (iv) open up new markets; (v) contribute significantly to European targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions; and, (vi) improve the energy efficiency of the oldest and least efficient buildings, where there are currently few practical or cost effective alternatives."

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The progress over the first 12 months is as follows:

1. Development of a Fully Working Demonstrator: The project started by putting together a requirements specification and defining the systems architecture. This was used to guide the product development process and develop the fully working demonstrator. Following the design, detailed engineering, development of the control system and design for manufacture, SprayBot was manufactured and commissioned at the end of September and is now being used to deliver installations at live customer sites. Feedback from the installers using the new robot describes improved manoeuvrability, vision and reliability when compared to the previous prototypes.

2. Customer and Partner Trials: Customer trials are in underway with four registered social landlords. A detailed plan for the trials and monitoring strategy has been put in place and includes data monitoring equipment to gather quantitative performance data as well as structured questionnaires for qualitative feedback from residents, installers and customers. Third parties have been selected to provide independent analysis and assessment of the trials. Initial assessments have been conducted on the installs done to date as well as the impact on energy savings, the building and occupants showing a positive impact in line with expectations. Initial case studies analysing the energy savings realised by the insulation have been well received. Generally the feedback from residents and customers has shown a significant improvement in comfort, good value for money, and with minimal hassle and practical issues. Data monitoring in five preliminary trial sites indicated an 80% reduction in heat loss through the floor and 40% improvement in air tightness for the whole property (nearly half the draughts for the whole house were reduced by insulating the floor).

3. Prepare for Market Launch: Q-Bot has focused on the necessary processes to achieve industry credibility throughout the first 12 months of the project with significant progress and milestones being met to meet health and safety, quality control and training approvals. These achievements will provide the credibility and reassurances necessary before larger programs of work can be delivered. The company’s IP position has also been reviewed with a number of new patent fillings made.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Q-Bot has developed a robotic prototype that can access a confined space, operate over difficult and uneven surfaces, and accurately apply insulation. Over the course of this project Q-Bot has developed the existing platform and control systems (navigation, surveying and mapping functionalities) to automate key functions and improve performance. IP searches have demonstrated that both the approach and the technology of Q-Bot are unique. The innovations developed include: the insulation system, the robotics platform and control systems.

Q-Bot's solution has five unique selling points:
• It is extremely effective in reducing heat loss through the floor and thus significantly improves the energy efficiency of older homes.
• It reduces cold draughts and temperature gradients, which makes older homes much more comfortable, disproportionally to the amount of energy saved (warmer, drier and thus healthier).
• It is much cheaper and less disruptive to install compared with other, traditional methods of floor insulation.
• The survey carried out by the robot can be used as a diagnostic tool for other works.
• It means much improved health and safety conditions for installers.

Compared to traditional methods for underfloor insulation, Q-Bot is:
• Faster (1-2 days rather than 10).
• Cheaper (less than half the cost).
• Better performing (>2x the energy savings, as applied in situ there are no gaps).
• Much less disruptive to occupants (no internal access required).

Compared to other measures, Q-Bot is:
• Cheaper with a shorter payback.
• Much less disruptive to occupants, no internal access required.
• Does not negatively impact the building fabric or appearance of the building.
• Improves comfort (minimises draughts).

Related information

Record Number: 195212 / Last updated on: 2017-02-23
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