Campus and Community

Ricardo Gomes, a researcher who wants to reduce the energy consumption of buildings

At the IST Research Center, IN+, Ricardo Gomes develops a digital platform that makes it possible to reduce the ecological footprint in the city of Lisbon.

The exaggerated consumption of energy, with serious consequences for the environment and finances, is what motivates Ricardo Gomes, a doctoral researcher in Sustainable Energy Systems, to study solutions that allow energy modeling in urban areas.

Being a football player was a dream that Ricardo Gomes left in his childhood, to, in his adult life, face the challenges of a specialist researcher in energy modeling of buildings. He graduated in Environmental Engineering and soon began working as a researcher in building simulation. It was there that Ricardo developed his interest in the area of sustainable buildings.

Motivated to obtain technical and practical skills in the area, he decided to enroll in the PhD in Sustainable Energy Systems at Instituto Superior Técnico and developed his activity at the Taguspark campus from 2014 to 2019.

“My PhD went very well, because at the time we had a very large team, which was MIT Portugal, it was very cool, we had colleagues from different areas, the facilities are top, it has a view of the sea, I really enjoyed doing it here my PhD”, he declares. An experience that, according to him, he will carry with him for life, not only because of what he learned, but also because of the experience he had with his colleagues and teachers. However, what the recent doctorate did not imagine is that his stay at Técnico would last beyond his studies.

From a student, Ricardo Gomes became a researcher at the IN+ research unit (Centre for Innovation, Technology and Policy Research of Instituto Superior Técnico), where he currently participates in the C-TECH project, developing a digital platform to reduce energy consumption in buildings. “I model urban areas. I collect information about the buildings that are in a certain area, about how these buildings were built, what constructive solutions they have, which people occupy the buildings, that is, occupation patterns, if they are older people, if they are young people. I collect information on the typology of the building, if it is a school, a university, if it is an industry, if it is a trade… and all this characterization will have implications for the consumption of the building”, he explains.

With the data collected, the researcher evaluates consumption and studies possible measures that can result in the reduction of energy consumption, “whether in terms of implementing renewable energy, or improving the surrounding area of buildings, through insulation, walls , solar panels, more efficient windows. And I analyze, through the models, how much less we consume and how many CO2 emissions we avoid. Hence the sustainable energy system”, he describes.

In Portugal, buildings represent around 30% of energy consumption. Researcher Ricardo’s job is to present solutions that, depending on building standards, can reduce consumption by between 30 and 40%.

“We have goals to meet, we have to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, so it’s very important that buildings have the lowest possible energy consumption, or zero consumption. The objective is to have zero consumption in new buildings, that is, buildings producing their own energy and not consuming anything on the grid. And we contribute to that.”

A contribution that gives Ricardo Gomes great pleasure, both professionally and personally, as he is helping to reduce the environmental footprint in the city where he was born, Lisbon.

“A large part of the buildings in Lisbon were built before the 1980s, and there are even older buildings. The legislation that obliges to put insulation on the walls and to be more careful with buildings in terms of construction dates back to the 80s. Therefore, there is a great need for rehabilitation, and for a rehabilitation in which it makes sense to reduce consumption” , he explains.

However, for the future, the researcher intends to go even further, but without straying from the area of sustainable energy systems: “In the long term, I would like to study areas linked to energy poverty. To help people with less possessions, in the sense of having a better quality of life inside the buildings, I think there is still a lot to be done in Portugal”, he emphasizes.

When not doing science, the 38-year-old researcher likes to be with family and friends. He likes to do sports and reading. Of the books he has read, Ricardo does not hesitate to indicate the work “Behavior” by the American scientist and writer Robert Sapolsky, as the work that undoubtedly left the most marks. “I really like this book because it teaches us to be better people in a scientific way. And that’s funny. It’s being more tolerant of differences, and realizing that we’re not that different from one another,” he argues.

From Ricardo’s perspective, it is equally important for researchers to be open to sharing the knowledge acquired, and for that he recommends taking advantage of the increasingly available tools and communication mechanisms to help researchers get their message across. “There are more and more scientific programs, more podcasts, more online courses, there are more and more tools that allow researchers not to isolate themselves and for their work to be communicated effectively. For example, last week I did the “90 Seconds of Science”, I was so lucky.”, he concludes.