Zero energy by exploiting basic principles

Buildings use about 40% of global energy and offer the greatest potential for energy savings using proven techniques and available technologies. TU Delft’s PULSE inter-faculty educational centre has ambitious net zero energy targets.

Andy van den Dobbelsteen, Professor of Climate Design and Sustainability at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, and sustainability supervisor on the project explained how PULSE will achieve this.

Van den Dobbelsteen became involved at the design stage and applied a stepped approach focussed on first reducing the energy demand. “Unfortunately on many projects, sustainability becomes ticking off of measures on a check-list rather than thinking about an integrated total concept,” he said.

He worked in a broad co-creation setting first asking the design team, “Have we done everything to reduce the demand for energy in this building and reach our net zero energy target before thinking of technical solutions?”

“To optimise we looked at the architecture, the building’s skin, the layout, the zoning in the building, compartmentalisation and the building’s skin,” he said.

So educational spaces in the scheme were moved to the north-west so they would need as little cooling as possible. Then they focussed on the south western façade with the greatest solar exposure. Here they sought a customised trade-off between allowing heat gains in winter and limiting them in the summer, while allowing views out depending on the interior function.

In-house developed 3D printed shading elements determined using parametric studies would be the way to optimise these factors to achieve a balance between heating and cooling. Sadly this solution was dropped to stay within budget, but the studies were not wasted as cheaper standard aluminium shades will approximate the optimal design. “It is still innovative because it is purposely made for that orientation and will deliver the minimum energy requirement for that façade,” said Van den Dobbelsteen. After these envelope optimisations, the energy shortfall is made up by solar panels on the roof.

The building will be controlled by a centralised building management system for heating and cooling. But it will not be a typical sealed passive house system where you’re not allowed to open anything. The stability in the energy system comes from using a low exergy solution keeping the building at a comfortable level in summer and winter by concrete core activation connected to underground thermal storage with heat pumps.

Van den Dobbelsteen said TU Delft is gradually using in house expertise and after PULSE he has been asked to consult for other campus renovation projects. He believes such projects involving the TU Delft community are a way to better express the university’s innovative capacity and sustainability ambitions.

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