Crazy idea, but it might just work
Body warmth to power heating. Trucks that run on chocolate. Floors coated with cheese. Bibi van der Zee looks at new ways of turning our waste to good use
In Stockholm, they are going to capture the body heat generated by all the passengers at the central train station to heat water, which will be piped to the next-door office and used to heat the building.
It is an inspiration in terms of lateral thinking, but it was also done with such ease and lack of discussion and argument that it feels as if it should be contravening some obscure unitary development agreement, or some other typical obstacle to common sense. Karl Sundholm, of building managers Jernhusen AB, explains: “We were just sitting in a meeting, chatting and drinking coffee, and the idea popped up. Someone pointed out of the window to the railway station and said, ‘What about all that heat over there?’ We did a couple of drawings and that was it.”
They have finished the design stage, and are now finalising the details. Work is due to start in the autumn. The predicted cost is about £23,000, and they expect that it will reduce their heating bills by about 15%. “It’s not so complicated,” says Sundholm. “Just a couple of pipes and water pumps. Actually, I’m surprised no one thought of it before.”
It is kind of a vicious circle, but at least Dutch company Road Energy Systems is deriving some benefit from heavy traffic. It has developed a road that has an asphalt layer (which is very effective at conducting heat) on top of a system of water-bearing pipes. The water absorbs heat generated by vehicles on the road surface and from the sun. It is then piped away and stored thermally until needed. It is then piped to buildings, where it is used to heat the air. There is already one system in operation that powers four office blocks in Scharwoude in the Netherlands, but whether it will be used more widely remains to be seen.