La Trobe LEAPs toward Net Zero goal

La Trobe University has been awarded the Tertiary Education Facilities Management Association (TEFMA) 2021 Clever Campus Innovation Award for its work in designing, developing and deploying the La Trobe Energy Analytics Platform (LEAP).

As part of La Trobe’s Net Zero program, the Infrastructure & Operations team collaborated with La Trobe’s Centre for Data Analytics and Cognition (CDAC), to conceptualise, design and develop LEAP - an energy analytics platform which monitors consumption behaviours, predicts solar generation and optimises the energy performance of every building across the University.

This technology platform facilitates actionable insights that reduce carbon emissions, energy costs and human error while also promoting more sustainable practices, all of which collectively advance La Trobe University into our net zero future.

Rolled out across six of its campuses and spanning 300 hectares, LEAP centralises over 1 billion data points from over 6,000 data streams across more than 20 separate digital platforms to predict and benchmark solar generation, emissions, consumption and cost for each University building.

Integrating information including electricity, water, and building usage, LEAP helps combat the complex challenges of managing multiple facilities by translating the billion data points to insights and actions that are presented visually on custom-built energy dashboards, and communicatively via the LEAP chatbot. The LEAP chatbot is currently being integrated into MS Teams so that the entire University community can have access and visibility to meaningful sustainability insights. .

A living lab, LEAP was entirely developed by La Trobe’s award-winning Artificial Intelligence (AI) research team at CDAC, comprising full-time academics, technical architect, data scientists, doctoral candidates and master’s students.

Throughout its pilot year, LEAP’s insights resulted in over $250,000 worth of ongoing benefits to the University through emissions reduction, cost savings and enhanced operational efficiencies.

La Trobe’s win at the TEFMA Awards honours the combination of LEAP’s innovative AI capabilities to the complex challenges of sustainable facilities management and its ability to be replicated.

Andrew Jennings, Director of La Trobe’s Carbon Neutral Strategy, said the win recognises LEAP’s importance in fulfilling the University’s ongoing commitment to pursuing sustainable practices.

“Sustainability and innovation are in La Trobe’s DNA. As we work toward becoming Net Zero across all campuses by 2029, LEAP has combined our staff and students’ innovative concepts with solutions to complex international challenges. Receiving this Award reflects the determination, passion and inventive work of all involved,” Andrew said.

Associate Professor Daswin De Silva, Deputy Director of La Trobe’s Research Centre for Data Analytics and Cognition said LEAP is their flagship AI project that has synergistically evolved to become an ‘AI bootcamp’ for all their students.

“The CDAC technical architect and senior PhDs lead by example in the adoption, advancement and innovation of state-of-the-art AI algorithms and solutions, such as transformers for predictions and microservices for deployment, that are functionally visible and accessible on the platform.

“For new students, this translates to an effective AI learning curve that intertwines theory, practice, application, and AI expertise on tap. This agile approach to LEAP innovation has also consolidated CDAC’s international collaborations, specifically with Lulea University of Technology, Sweden and Aalto University, Finland,” Associate Professor De Silva said.

“The TEFMA award validates our efforts and achievements. We are proud and excited to contribute towards not only our University’s leadership in net zero emissions, but also leadership in AI research and innovation.”

Learn more about La Trobe’s commitment to become Net Zero by 2029 and how the team collaborated with Microsoft experts to develop the LEAP platform.