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Inside the Building Technology Showcase: Heating | Cleantech Notes – Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems

Inside the Building Technology Showcase: Heating

A Viega radiant heating system being installed at the Building Technology Showcase.

Viega’s radiant heating system is installed at the Building Technology Showcase.

Fraunhofer CSE’s Building Technology Showcase is a far-reaching, energy-efficient retrofit of a 100-year-old historic structure in Boston’s Innovation District. In this new series, we look ‘under the hood’ to explore some of the systems and technologies driving this project. 

Our last look at Fraunhofer CSE’s Building Technology Showcase focused on the many innovative, energy-efficient cooling and ventilation systems being deployed in the building. This time around, we’re looking at how our lab teams will be beating the infamous New England winter chill when the Showcase opens later this year.

Radiant Flooring

Several floors in the Showcase use radiant flooring in the form of an in-floor heating system donated by Viega. Like many of the cooling systems deployed in the Showcase, Viega’s flooring is hydronic, heated via warm water that flows through tubing buried directly in the floor. Once warmed, the floor then transfers heat to the Showcase’s occupants via radiation and convection. Conversely, by substituting cooled for heated water, radiant flooring can also be used to contribute to the cooling and conditioning of the BTS office space.

Radiant flooring in action.

Supplying heat to the system using water rather than air allows occupant comfort to be maintained at a lower energy cost. However, as with some of the other hydronic technologies used in the Showcase, there are more upsides to radiant flooring than just energy efficiency. The technology is quieter and creates a uniform level of warmth in a given space. Installing the heating system directly in the floor also eliminates bulky radiator elements, freeing up more space for furniture and employees.

Closeup view of the tubing used to heat radiant flooring in the building.

Closeup view of the tubing used in the radiant flooring system.

Limiting Heat Loss

The building envelope – the walls and windows, roof, and floors of the building – can be a major area of heat loss. Good insulation not only keeps occupants warmer, but reduces the amount of heating needed during the long winter months. For this reason, CSE is using the Showcase as a platform to measure the performance of a range of insulation techniques. Specific solutions deployed in the BTS include vacuum insulation panels from Dow Corning, rock wool provided by Roxul, and polyisocyanurate roof insulation donated by Hunter Panel.

Features like improved windows also help retain heat where insulation is at its weakest. These are supplemented by radiant baseboards from Smith’s Environmental Products, which are used in perimeter zones to replace heat lost through the windows and walls. We’ll be exploring the technical aspects of these and other products in future posts.

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