How Energy Storage Design Saves Energy and Building Cost

Oct. 23, 2013
Green building requirements create a challenge for architects, capital project managers and engineers. This article highlights how energy storage helps with the design of super-performing buildings that cost no more than conventional construction.

This second article in a five-part editorial series, sponsored by Termobuild, which explains how thermal energy storage along with energy harvesting and green building design principles can make your next commercial build more comfortable and energy efficient. Best of all, these building principles cost no more than conventional construction.

The market demands that new buildings be ever more comfortable, energy efficient and safe. They also must be smart, taking advantage of the latest technology to monitor and manage peaks and valleys of energy use. They must be responsive to energy markets, adjusting power consumption as price signals change. And they must be reliable, maintaining indoor comfort and keeping on the lights during storms and grid failures.

These requirements create a sizable challenge for architects, capital project managers and engineers in the early planning stages of a project. While the industry has the technology and design know-how to produce this kind of building, it comes at a high cost. ‘Green buildings’ and ‘smart construction’ can carry a significant capital and maintenance price premium. Is there a way to design super-performing buildings that cost no more than conventional construction?

Yes, Termobuild’s supercharged building offers all that is expected of today’s smart construction, yet at a lower capital cost. How?

  • First, Termobuild creates a unique form of energy storage and distribution that uses only conventional building materials, with particular reliance on concrete.
  • Second, Termobuild’s design combines three mechanical systems into one. So heating and cooling, ventilation, and energy storage become one system. As a result, Termobuild requires half the mechanical equipment – chillers, boilers, ground-source heat pumps or simple roof top units – as in a conventional building. This is important because mechanical systems represent a significant expense in building construction, as much as $25 to $40 per square foot.

These two hallmarks of Termobuild design – use of standard building materials and less mechanical plant – create super performance at a cost no higher than conventional construction. And Termobuild does this while at the same time capturing the Holy Grail for modern electric power systems: energy storage.

Of course, there are other forms of effective energy storage now in use, particularly for existing buildings. But they typically come up short when matched against Termobuild in new construction. For example, compare Termobuild’s system to one that uses ice to achieve energy storage, an equipment-intensive and energy-intensive undertaking. The ice is made at night. By day, fans blow air over the ice to cool the building. Ice storage systems require pumps and ice-making equipment, along with fans to move the cool air to the building interior, often from the distant rooftop. This can require significant duct work, which not only adds to costs, but also takes up space that could otherwise be used for additional floors.

Termobuild, on the other hand, stores and radiates energy not by adding extra equipment and complexity, but by incorporating an element already, and always, designed into any building: the floor.

How Termobuild’s smart floor works

Termobuild’s engineering feat begins with its unique ‘smart floor’ kit, which includes hollow concrete slabs paired with a ventilation system. The ventilation system activates the dormant concrete placed between the building’s walls and floors. The slabs store heat and coolness to be gradually released as needed.

In summer, if the temperature is cooler outside than inside at night, a simple ventilation fan draws in the cool air, circulates it through the hollow slab and supercharges the concrete. The concrete efficiently absorbs the coolness and then behaves like a battery; it stores the free, cool air and gradually discharges it by day as the building warms up. This radiant cooling dramatically cuts back on use of the building’s air conditioning system.

What if it is warmer outside than inside at night? Then, the Termobuild system stops drawing in the cool air and goes into mechanical cooling in re-circulation mode to supercharge the concrete floor.

What’s significant here is the timing. The air conditioners are working at night when they operate most efficiently. Think about what a building is like at night. The sun is down and the building is empty. So the air conditioners can cool it down without fighting against solar radiation or the heat generated by bodies, computers and lights. Thus, the air conditioning equipment is able to cool the building more easily, using less electricity than it would during the day.

Most conventional buildings operate in the opposite way. They cool by day when everyone is at work, so the air conditioning system must work hard. As a result, they use excessive electricity.

Equally important, by running air conditioning mostly at night – rather than mostly by day – Termobuild takes advantage of the low night-time pricing offered by many utilities. Power prices drop at night because demand minimizes on the electric grid. Again, conventional buildings do the opposite; they operate cooling equipment most intensely when the electricity prices are highest. Termobuild offers a better, lower cost way to manage electricity use.

Winter and energy harvesting

During the winter, Termobuild incorporates energy harvesting, which takes advantage of the natural heat generated by a building’s occupants, electrical equipment and lights. Conventional building design often ignores this considerable heat resource, and as result incorporates more heating equipment than is needed for comfort. Termobuild’s engineering takes into account this natural heat, which further minimizes mechanical equipment, and therefore lowers not only capital costs but also energy bills.

Termobuild’s design also incorporates other favored technologies – which will vary based on location and building needs – to achieve maximum energy performance. These include on-site generation, ground source heat pumps and solar thermal energy. Pairing Termobuild smart floors with these technologies can reduce energy capacity needs by 40 to 50%.

The bottom line is that Termobuild’s distributed energy storage system does more with less. It achieves super performance using only standard building materials, requires less mechanical equipment than conventional buildings and reduces energy bills. But increased energy efficiency is only one advantage offered by Termobuild Comfort is another. It simply feels better to be inside a Termobuild structure. The next article in this series will explain how radiant heating and cooling increases worker comfort and productivity.

If you prefer, you can download the full whitepaper “The Supercharged Building” here.

About the Author

Kevin Normandeau | Publisher

Kevin is a veteran of the publishing industry having worked for brands like PC World, AOL, Network World, Data Center Knowledge and other business to business sites. He focuses on industry trends in the energy efficiency industry.