Body Heat Warms Office Complex

Donald Holder

People in Stockholm brave freezing temperatures during the winter months. But even in the winter, the main train and subway station in downtown Stockholm is pretty warm, partly because of the heat given off by an average of 250,000 daily travelers.

As the people make their way to departing trains and dance along with their iPods, they warm the air around them.

And the people in a nearby 13-story complex of offices and shops that includes a small hotel benefit from all the body heat.  Engineers in Stockholm have figured out how to funnel the heat from the train station into the building, Kungbrohuset, about 100 yards away, instead of simply expelling it outside through ventilation. The heat from the train station doesn’t meet all the needs of the Kungbrohuset building by a long shot.  But it uses what had been wasted energy to lower costs.

Most of the heat for buildings around the world comes from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil.  In Stockholm, where the environment comes first, engineers have succeeded in reducing pollution from fossil fuels. And the transfer of heat from the train station to the office complex is one example.  It is this sort of innovation that is moving the already low-pollution city of Stockholm toward its goal of fossil fuel independence in 2050.

Other buildings in other places have been heated with body heat. The Mall of America in Minneapolis use the body heat of its shoppers to help keep its huge complex warm.  But according to Time magazine,  Stockholm has taken the idea a step further by using body heat in one building to heat another.  “This is old technology, but used in a new way,” Karl Sundholm, a project manager at Jernhusen, a government owned real estate company, told Time. “It’s just pipes, water and pumps, but we haven’t heard of anyone else using this technology in this way before.”

The system, devised by Sundholm and a colleague, Klas Johansson, the head of Jernhusen’s environmental division, uses the heat from commuters to warm water that is then pumped through pipes to the  Kungbrohuset building where it is incorporated into the main heating system.  The building gets 15 to 30 percent of its heat from the station, Time said.

The hotel in the building has a special system for regulating the temperature and does not use conventional thermostats in its rooms, said Josefina Lundgren, one of the hotel’s staff.  The temperature of her office is a comfortable 23 degrees Celsius or 73 degrees Fahrenheit.  The temperature in the lobby is also 73 degrees.

Lundgren’s colleague at the hotel, Therese Lindberg, said she appreciates this kind of innovation.  “It’s very important to us,’’ she said. “It’s our city.’’ #




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