ENERGY|BASE International: Six years of successful international cooperation with China, Mongolia and Ethiopia

ENERGYbase International

1.1 General Motivation

Primary energy demand increase permanently and breaks records year after year. Especially in China, it will take a long path until energy politicians will refrain from coal power plants. Due to the raising energy demand, environmental influences are increasingly noticeable. In combination with weather phenomena it repeatedly happens that air circulation stops for some time. Combined with the air pollution it can impose a threat to the people’s health. 60 percent of Chinas biggest cities exceeded the limit of healthy air quality and harm inhabitants consequently. Due to illnesses like cancer and respiratory diseases, caused by air pollution and smog, 700.000 Chinese die annually. The traffic as well as the electricity production contribute to the massive pollution the China meanwhile is known for. As the comfort level rises, so rises the demand of energy consumption in buildings. That is where the project ENERGY|BASE International wants to take countermeasures by reducing energy demands due to innovative technologies. Thankfully Chinese energy politicians started slowly taking first steps towards renewable energies in China.

1.2 EB Original

The ENERGYbase in Vienna was developed in 2008 as a pilot project for sustainable new-buildings and energy efficiency. As the first commercial building, the ENERGYbase was designed to comply with ambitious passive house standards and was granted the certification ´Green Building`”. The building received several awards, like:

  • “Klimaaktiv Gold”
  • Green Building Partner Award 2010 and Austrian Green Building Award 2009
  • ATGA Facility Congress 2009, European Environmental Press Award 2008
  • “Österreichischer Solarpreis 2008”
  • “Innovationspreis Energiespeicher Beton 2010”
  • EU GreenBuilding-Award

Figure 3: ENERGYbase Vienna

Thanks to the optimized regulation system of the ENERGYbase 80 % of the operating costs like heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and hot water regulation can be saved. The specific idea of the ENERGYbase was to create ´Wellness` at working place. Therefore, comfort via radiation heat and high air quality due to intelligent air ventilation regulation including buffer for plants is given. All in all, this pilot project showed how comfort at working place, reduction of health problems by optimized air circulations and energy efficient building can be unified. The concept of energy management is based on the most innovative technologies of the year 2008, when the ENERGYbase was built. Geothermic and solar cooling are used to stabilize the room temperature constantly, while plants are used to increase the quality of inlet air. Smart light control allows a reduction of the primary energy demand, which is partly covered by photovoltaic modules.

Specific motivation of the Austrian team is also the feasibility of such a project in China, as there are many open questions about it:

  • What do Chinese passive house standards look like in comparison to Austrian passive house standards? What does comfort in Yichang look like?
  • “What are conditions of a self-regulating building and how can a self-regulating building be achieved in this project?
  • Which materials and which skilled employees are needed? Are they still available in Yichang, China?
  • What does material and construction costs in Yichang look like? Are Austrian standards transferable to Yichang?

1.3  Methodology

Since the year 2011 student participate in the ENERGY|BASE International project under the supervision of Christoph Muss. The goal is the adaption of the high-quality building standards from the ENERGYbase to different countries like China, Ethiopia and Mongolia. The student groups work together on one an international project. Every student takes on a different task, so all needed planning fields are covered and finally lead to an optimized construction with its main areas at renewable energies, energy efficiency, solar architecture and comfort. The following figure shows the project structure including the Chinese and the Austrian team in the project in Yichang in 2016/17.

An important aspect of the project is the necessary team work and the interconnection of the students that is essential of a good result outcome. The interconnections can be seen in Figure 5: Bachelor students team 2013/14.

 Figure 5: Bachelor students team 2013/14

Typically, as shown in Figure 6: ENERGY|BASE International project process (Muss 2015), the project starts with a kick-off meeting at the university site where the topics and goals for the annual project are defined. After information exchanges with the cooperation team, Austrian students do workshops and meetings locally. During the project process the needed input from supervisors decreases and students get more possibilities to include their own conceptual ideas. The goal is that in a final step, the professional building planners take over the realization of the project to achieve the best result possible. That means ENERGY|BASE International is not only a theoretical project, but also a project to implement.

Figure 6: ENERGY|BASE International project process (Muss 2015)

In the current phase, the ENERGY|BASE International project focuses on the expansion and renovation of two storeys of a building at the university campus in Yichang, China. The fifth floor already exists and needs to be restored, while the sixth floor will be an expansion of the building. A Chinese and an Austrian research and engineering team are working at the same project at the same time.

2.1   China

In 2011, a young researchers team presented a concept of modular construction method at the China Three Gorges University (CTGU) in China. As module constructions are not common in China, this construction type was focused and explained to Chinese guests at the workshop. 

Figure 8: Asutrian Team 2012/13 / Figure 9: Austrian and Chinese Team 2011/12

In 2012, modular building from the pervious team was simulated for the region of Yichang, China. Thermal simulations were used to visualize overheating. Conceptual modules were designed without any specific building plans. In 2013, the young researchers firstly tried to apply the modular concept to a university building at the CTGU and necessary upgrading were added. Furthermore, a booklet about the project was designed. In 2014, Letz Phillipp focused in his master thesis on ventilation systems, heating and cooling systems, energy supply systems and room-side devices at the university building at the CTGU. In the year 2015 the planning phase of a refurbishment on the CTGU campus started. 

Therefore, two Chinese guests, Tang P. and Yan K., were invited to an internship at the University of Applied Sciences Vienna. At a workshop in January 2016 a group of Chinese partners and their supervisor Li Yunjiang could further enhance the design. 

Figure 11: Workshop at UAS Technikum Wien / Figure 12: Austrian Team during an internship in Yichang 2015/16

After this workshop, five students started an internship in Yichang to further support the planning process on-site. In a further workshop in March 2016 an energy-efficient concept developed in cooperation of the Chinese and Austrian team was developed.

These figures show a high-quality passive house solution. It focuses on high comfort, while being energy efficient. Atriums were designed for a higher air quality produced by plants inside the glassed towers. The south side pitched roof is optimal angled for the best photovoltaic yield.

2.2 Mongolia

2013 a modular building concept was developed for the Mongolia University of Science and Technology (MUST), which can be seen in Figure 14 containing 12 stories.

Figure 14: Planned MUST university building

Following the research in Vienna, four students made an internship in Ulan Bator. Furthermore, an intensive workshop was organized that allowed further to enhance the building concept. Resulting of the internships and the workshops, two master students developed a detailed HVAC and building physics concept in their theses.

Figure 15: Mongolian and Austrian Team 2013/14

2.3 Ethiopia

The cooperation with the University of Addis Ababa’s Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development took place in 2014/15. In the course “Advanced Building Science 2”, local students were thought about good building standard, climate appropriate building, building physics, thermal and visual thermal simulation, etc. Additionally, Workshops were done to exchange ideas on modular building and to discuss about possibilities of adaption of the ENERGY|BASE in Addis Ababa.

Figure 16: Ethiopian Team

Results of a document about the workshop in Ethiopia show the plans of the Futurebase Addis Ababa like in Figure 17 and its aims. The building is meant to be “open” so enough wind and light can come in. Specialty of the building is its roof shape, as it is a solution for the rain water management of the local area. Furthermore, a tour of Ethiopia was done to experience the Ethiopian culture and the historical buildings.

Figure 17: Plans of the Futurebase Addis Ababa

2.4 Austria

In 2014 not only Ethiopian, but also an Austrian construction side was targeted. Between the UAS Technikum Vienna building, ENERGYbase, and the TECHbase, a neighboured building, students developed a concept for the energy system for the so called Futurebase. Here the architectural design does not consider the shadowing on the surrounding building, the ENERGYbase, which is negatively affected concerning its electricity yield form the PV system. Nevertheless, the students team 2014/15 proposed to implement energy saving technologies and sustainable measures:

  • Thermal heat pump and concrete core cooling
  • Ventilation system with heat recovery
  • Photovoltaic system on green flat roof
  • Modular building design, with flexible wall elements
  • Photovoltaic system with a large integrated battery-storage-system
  • General the possibility to use or see it as a research project

Figure 18: Graphical Design of the Futurebase

In 2016 the Futurebase project has started and will presumably be finished in 2018.

The main goal of this year’s research team is the comparison between a high standard passive house refurbishment and a simple self-regulating renovation of the last years analysed refurbishment in the fields of energy-efficiency, costs and feasibility. The advantage of the high standard passive house version is next to the lower energy demand that it can be used as a education site for innovative technologies to promote future‑oriented and forward‑thinking architectural style. The simple solution on the other hand can be easier and cheaper transferred to other buildings and requires a lower amount of installations and often error-prone regulation equipment meaning less resources and less costs. It could be a solution showing that an energy-efficient low-tech approach can provide a comfortable indoor environment.

The following workshop in Yichang between 3.4.17 – 8.4.17 will give the possibility to exchange knowledge between the Austrian and Chinese team to further enhance the project to a feasible and sustainable solution.

ENERGYbase International