Scottish proptech arbnco awarded £300k to trial air quality monitoring platform in homes nationwide

Simon West and Dr Parag Rastogi (centre) from arbnco.

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Glasgow-based innovator arbnco is set to trial a new digital air quality platform with consumers in Energy Systems Catapult’s Living Lab with the aim of reducing indoor air pollution, improving ventilation and safeguarding health.

Around 7 million deaths worldwide, and 40,000 in the UK, are attributed to air pollution each year. Yet indoor air quality – including levels of carbon dioxide (CO₂), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM) – can often be overlooked compared to outdoor air quality linked to vehicle emissions, despite being up to five times worse in places.

With a growing focus on improving ventilation in buildings due to Covid-19, coupled with the need to improve energy efficiency and therefore the air-tightness of homes, the global ventilation market is expanding rapidly, already exceeding £2bn in value and expected to reach almost £9bn by 2027.

The Living Lab trial comes in the slipstream of arbnco being awarded almost £300k in funding from Innovate UK’s Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition, which is supporting innovators in developing and demonstrating new products and services that monitor a wide range of household pollutants. 

arbnco’s digital platform gathers a range of data from air monitoring sensors – including temperature, humidity, CO2, VOC, PM and Formaldehyde – combined with data on the property and occupants to provide analysis on air quality issues and deliver alerts on potential harms and advice on mitigating health impacts.

The air quality platform will be trialled in Energy System Catapult’s real-world test environment – the Living Lab – which consists of over 200 homes around the UK where new energy products, services and business models are tested with consumers, with the aim of improving and scaling innovations for market.

arbnco believes there is a strong market for their solution with housing portfolio owners, such as the private rented sector and with purpose-built student accommodation, as well as with equipment manufacturers – including Mitsubishi, who is aiming to integrate arbnco’s air quality platform into their domestic ventilation systems for testing.

Andrew Stewart, arbnco R&D Manager, says: “Indoor air quality is a problem literally hidden behind closed doors. Issues typically arise from cookers in kitchens, gas heaters and wood burners in living rooms, humidity in bathrooms leading to condensation and mould, while even bedrooms can be a problem with raised CO2 levels building up at night, if not properly ventilated. 

“So, we’re delighted to be testing with the Living Lab – a truly unique facility that dramatically reduces the barriers to product testing with real consumers in a real-world environment. Partnering with the Energy Systems Catapult means we can obtain a wealth of data and feedback from households that will accelerate the development cycle and time-to-market.”

Living Lab business lead Rebecca Sweeney says: “Up to 30 million UK homes need to be made zero carbon in the coming decades. That means making homes more insulated and air-tight to prevent them losing heat. But it also means ventilation and air quality will be vital to ensuring homes are healthier and more comfortable. 

“The Living Lab will provide arbnco with both qualitative and quantitative consumer data from a range of housing types and demographics to help them further develop the user experience of the platform.” 

Innovate UK’s Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition requires solutions to measure, visualise and raise awareness of the potential impacts of air pollution in the home, providing timely and appropriate information so that householders can make effective choices to protect themselves, their families and their neighbours.

The SBRI: Monitor and visualise domestic pollution to safeguard health project consortium, includes:

·       arbnco – project lead and product development. 

·       Energy Systems Catapult – their Living Lab facility of 200+ connected smart-homes will be used to test the solution in a real-world environment.

·       University of Strathclyde – leading international expert on indoor air quality Professor Sharpe and his team will provide expertise and experience in monitoring domestic pollution.

·       Mitsubishi Electric – the project will demonstrate the integration of air quality monitoring with Mitsubishi’s range of domestic ventilation systems.

·       Modulous – an award-winning, construction-technology platform dedicated to delivering quality, sustainable and affordable homes at scale and pace. 

·       SNRG – a Centrica-backed PropTech company that designs, builds, owns and operates the next generation of sustainable rental housing communities using a human-centred approach and modern methods of construction. 

As potential early adopters, Modulous and SNRG will assess the solution for their innovative, scalable housing solutions.

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