What is the Thermal Mass?
The ERC combines concrete’s Thermal Mass with advanced technologies to produce an environmentally-advanced facility that operates at optimal energy efficiency. Concrete’s Thermal Mass — its ability to store energy — helps moderate indoor temperatures, which reduces peak heating and cooling loads and produces energy and construction cost savings — all while making building occupants more comfortable. Thanks to this combination, the ERC’s energy efficiency is 42% better than expected in the original design and has seen additional annual energy savings of 10% since completion in 2006.
How do we use it?
Approximately 4000 m3 of concrete were used within the structure, inside the insulation layer. This heavy mass acts as a thermal battery, slowly storing and releasing heat. This means that the building’s spaces can “coast” through temporary spikes or dips in outdoor temperature without the mechanical systems having to immediately respond. The building uses a radiant heating and cooling system. Some 22km of glycol-containing tubing are embedded in the concrete slab with 3,400 m2 of exposed ceilings acting as radiators to heat in the winter and cool in the summer. This design minimizes cooling loads.
Thermal Mass properties are also used to help condition the fresh air supply through the use of concrete earth tubes. The nine, 20 meter long pre-cast concrete tubes warm winter air and cool summer air, requiring very little mechanical energy for fresh air delivery.
How does it make us more sustainable?
The ERC’s Thermal Mass construction has allowed extremely efficient heating and cooling strategies. The building is heated and cooled through a ground-source heat pump system, reducing our carbon footprint by almost 40% when compared to natural gas-fired heating. This system forms the bones of the building. But concrete was chosen as the construction material of choice not just for its thermal qualities, but also because of its longevity and its comparatively low impact on biodiversity.