Since 2015, the building at number two Rue de Beaubourg in Paris, France has been using human energy to keep warm, rather than the burning of fossil fuels. The building uses the heat generated by the movement of people and trains at a nearby metro station to warm its interior.
Paris Habitat, a social housing construction company, designed the building and its unique heat extraction system.
“A staircase connects the basement of the building to the metro tunnel,” says Genevieve Littot, a climate and energy strategist with the organization. “The installation extracts warm air from the metro tunnel through the existing passageway, as the warm air passes through a heat exchanger to produce hot water, which is used for space heating.”
35% of the building’s heat is generated from the nearby metro station. The system allows for a significant reduction in carbon emissions stemming from the 20 apartments in the building as well as the commercial premises located on the ground floor.
Paris Habitat is not the only organization working on such projects. A real estate company based out of Sweden uses the warmth generated by a nearby metro station to heat an office block in Stockholm as well. By converting the excess heat into hot water, the energy costs of the area have been reduced by as much as 25%.
Minnesota’s “Mall of America” also makes use of human warmth to heat its interior. The busy shopping venue doesn’t need to make use of nearby metro stations, however, its system captures the body heat from the over 100,000 visitors it receives every day. It is a truly self-sufficient heating system.
Buildings and construction projects account for over 1/3 of the world’s energy use. They also account for 40% of total carbon emissions from energy consumption. Unfortunately, the switch to sustainable technologies in this area has been slow. According to the International Energy Agency, renewable heating technologies will need to double by 2030 in order to stand a chance at keeping climate change under 1.5-degree warming. Thankfully, innovative technologies and building designs are bringing us closer to that goal.
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