Human Body Heat to Heat Green Building in Sweden

by , 01/07/08

heat, energy, people, power, alternative, innovative, sweden, stockhold, central station

What is the next frontier in renewable energy? People! And no, we don’t mean them being used as in soylent green, but rather, to use the energy generated from the movement of large numbers of pedestrians through an occupied space. We’ve already highlighted the use of pressure pads to generate electricity, but plans are now afoot to take the heat energy generated by a human being and use it to heat a building in Sweden.

Built in 1871, Stockholm Central Station is the largest train station in the country and in the nordic region. Around 250,000 persons pass through it every day. It is the heat generated from these visitors that the state owned company, Jernhuset, wants to use for heating the new complex which will include an office building, a hotel and a retail section. How does it work? quite simply, the heat generated will warm up water running through pipes which will be installed in the station. The water will be pumped to the new building and used to heat the spaces inside.

“This is old technology, but used in a new way. It’s just pipes, water and pumps, but we haven’t heard of anyone else using this technology in this way before,” said Karl Sundholm leader for the new project.

+ People power to warm new building in Stockholm

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  1. xue April 27, 2010 at 8:01 am

    this is a remarkable achievement in my mind.
    as a matter of fact, i am writing a small article about green energy where i think i can add this shining idea into.
    i have a couple of questions about the new idea. can this idea be implemented in existing building or only in a new construction? how long will it take to install the system? does this idea has a pattern? i\’ll be very grateful if you can answer those question. thank you very much.

  2. felicitous April 9, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    What about using the already existing lava tunnels inside the flanks of the Martian volcanos for habitats once we get there, sometime in the next generation?

  3. Tozzo June 29, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Has anyone heard of green-friendly methods of COOLING buildings? Many places in the summer where I live use massive amounts of energy on air conditioning, are there methods being explored where the heat is instead used to generate energy, or at least create a self sustaining system?

  4. Philippe March 6, 2008 at 1:41 am

    There are thousands of passive houses in Germany, with no furnace at all. You have south facing large insulated windows, very well insulated walls, mostly to the north, totally air tight interior and assisted ventilation, powered by locally produced renewable energy. It has been done on homes and office buildings. The ventilation is the most important part, cold air from outside is heated by contact with warm air blown outside from the house. In our building in Geneva, the 19 degrees C air exfiltered pre-heats incoming air cold winter air to aprox. 15 degrees. Then heating from sun light (even filtered by clouds) and, indeed, body heat and electrical appliances such as lightbulbs and a computer push that up to a comfy 19 degreesC.
    There is a label for passive houses in Germany and Switzerland (maybe more countries) and people are asking for this label to ba standard for all new buildings. The construction costs are not higher, since there is no need for a furnace, pipes, radiators or fuel.

  5. ja January 19, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    I’m in Minnesota and I run an leaky 80 year old Ballroom.Tonight it will be -15f.I will be venting heat once the room fills up with people, and the furnances will not be on.

  6. illan January 16, 2008 at 7:45 am

    Hi Anon.
    First a bath only chills you because the water is evaporating and losing heat through the bath walls. It’s temperature goes towards ambient and because it conducts heat well from you, so does yours. Stop the evaporation with a plastic sheet, insulate the bath walls and you will find you stay hotter much longer. Same applies to the buildings. Insulate them well, and the body heat will be trapped. For example if you sit inside a polystyrene box outside in the snow, you are likely to stay nice and warm (don’t try this at home unless you understand about ventilation). A building is nothing but a great big box and if it is excellently insulated and has some means like a heat exchanger of keeping heat in when it lets the air out (ventilation again) then I see no reason it shouldn’t get stiflingly hot in the coldest conditions, when there are lots of people inside. I don’t know that using the station’s heat is that great an idea – don’t the people in the station need it? To effectively grab that heat you need to have the station insulated too.Rather just insulate the new building really well and try the heat-exchange thing with the ventilation outlets.

  7. Karl Sundholm January 14, 2008 at 4:39 am

    Hi Anon.

    The heat produced by the communters is indeed possible to use. We will use it to preheat the ventilation, via water and a heat exchange system. The outside air (intake) is often during our winters way below zero. This heat might take that air upp to a little bit above zero. That energy is therefore not needed to buy from conventional sources. Of course we have to buy energy to reach the afforded levels, but this system reduces that need.

    The amount of energy used transferred will be somewhere between 5 and 15% of the needs in the new office building.

    If you want some pictures of the building, check out (texts only in swedish, sorry).

    For further information, give me a call at the office. Jernhusens number is +46 8 410 626 00



  8. Dominic January 8, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Anon and Inhabitat:
    Shenanigans indeed! It is an old thought to heat a building with people. The Mall of America, in Minnesota no less, does not have any heat system for the building. The entire building is heated by capturing the heat from it’s occupants and recirculating it around the building. The Minnesota winters are some of the harshest around, so I guess that they got this one figured out already.
    I’m not sure where you are getting your thoughts on cilling the body with the winter, but I know that I can’t survive if by body temp gets much below that 98.6 degrees! I’m disapointed in you Anon, being a reader and not willing to beleave.

  9. Anon January 7, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    I call shenanigans on an obvious PR stunt. Anyone who thinks about this for two seconds should realize that the tiny amount of heat generated by the people in the train station will barely heat up the water in the pipes. I doubt the heat gain in the water will even be enough to make it worth the energy needed to pump it to the other building. To put it another way – if you sit in a bathtub full of cold water, how much do you heat it up? Instead, the opposite happens: the cold water chills *you*. The human body, even in large numbers, just doesn’t generate anywhere near enough heat for this to be worthwhile, even as a partial offset.

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