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Thermal and environmental assessment of a passive building

equipped with an earth-to-air heat exchanger in France


Stephane Thiers, Bruno Peuportier
*
Centre E

nerge tique et Proce de s, E

cole des Mines de Paris, 60 Bd Saint-Michel, 75272 Paris, Cedex 06, France
Received 12 June 2007; received in revised form 20 February 2008; accepted 20 February 2008
Available online 20 March 2008
Communicated by: Associate Editor Matheos Santamouris
Abstract
In France, where a division by 4 of the greenhouse gases emissions is aimed from 1990 to 2050, technical solutions are studied in order
to reduce energy consumption while providing a satisfactory thermal comfort level in buildings. A two-dwelling passive building has been
carried out in Formerie (North-West of France), complying the Passivhaus standard. This building, not yet monitored, has been mod-
eled using the dynamic simulation software COMFIE, which is dedicated to building eco-design. In order to account for the implemented
ventilation system, including a heat recovery unit and an earth-to-air heat exchanger, a specic model has been developed and integrated
to COMFIE as a new module. In this article, this model is described rst. In order to quantify the benets brought by a passive design,
the simulation results are presented for the passive house and a reference house complying with the French thermal regulation for build-
ings. The heating load and thermal comfort level of both houses are compared, showing for the passive design a tenfold reduction of the
heating load and a clear reduction of summer discomfort. Finally, the environmental assessment carried out with the life cycle assess-
ment tool EQUER shows the reduction in primary energy consumption, global warming potential and other impacts brought by the
passive house design. Passive house appears to be an adequate solution to improve the environmental performances of buildings in the
French context.
2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Thermal simulation; Passive house; Earth-to-air heat exchanger; Life cycle assessment
1. Introduction
The Passive house concept has been formalized by the
Passivhaus Institute in Darmstadt, Germany (Feist et al.,
2005). Following the Passivhaus standard, such a building
has to fulll three requirements corresponding to a high
level of performance: heating energy demand
1
lower than
15 kW h m
2
yr
1
, total primary energy demand
2
lower
than 120 kW h m
2
yr
1
, air leakage at 50 Pa lower than
0.6 vol h
1
(Feist, 2004). These requirements can be
obtained by the combination of various techniques such
as bio-climatic design, high insulation level, high perfor-
mance windows, good air tightness and heat recovery ven-
tilation. During the heating period, the low heating load is
mainly covered by solar and internal gains. During the
cooling period, solar protections and passive cooling may
result in a satisfactory thermal comfort (Breesch et al.,
2005). More than 4000 passive buildings have already been
built, mainly in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
In France, thermal performance of buildings has been
neglected for a long time. The primary energy consumption
for heating, cooling, lighting, ventilation and domestic
hot water of the buildings complying with the last French
0038-092X/$ - see front matter 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.solener.2008.02.014
*
Corresponding author. Tel.: +33 1 40 51 91 51; fax: +33 1 46 34 24 91.
E-mail address: bruno.peuportier@ensmp.fr (B. Peuportier).
1
Useful energy per net oor area within the thermal envelope (treated
oor area).
2
Non-renewable primary energy per net oor area within thermal
envelope, including heating, domestic hot water, auxiliary and household
electricity.
www.elsevier.com/locate/solener
Available online at www.sciencedirect.com
Solar Energy 82 (2008) 820831
thermal regulation RT2005 (Reglementation Thermique
2005, 2006) are set between 80 and 250 kW h m
2
. yr
1
according to energy sources, architectural shape and cli-
matic zones.
3
The regulation also sets maximal values to
thermal bridges (between 0.4 and 0.6 W m
1
K
1
), to ther-
mal conductance in walls (between 0.36 and 0.4 W m
2
K
1
)
and windows (between 1.8 and 2.1 W m
2
K
1
) and to air
permeability (0.8 (m
3
h
1
) m
2
at 4 Pa for individual
dwellings), but no heating energy demand limit. These
criteria are far less restrictive than those of the Passivhaus
standard. Although, in France, the development of
low-energy buildings is one of the ways to fulll the
national objectives of reduction by 4 of the CO
2
emissions
between 1990 and 2050 (Loi POPE, 2005), the passive
house concept hardly develops. Up to now, only very few
passive buildings have been built, mainly for experimental
purposes. Due to an inadequate conception and implemen-
tation of unusual techniques, the rst attempt to reach the
Passivhaus standard in France has failed (CEPHEUS pro-
ject in Rennes (Feist et al., 2005)). Moreover, it is essential
to adapt the concept to the French context, particularly
because thermal comfort in summer is an important issue:
there were 15,000 deaths during the 2003 heat wave in
France.
In early 2007, the company LES AIRELLES
4
has com-
pleted the construction of the rst labeled passive houses
in France (Fig. 1). These attached twin houses have been
designed to comply with the Passivhaus standard. Heating
and domestic hot water are provided by a small heat
pump. Cooling is achieved by an earth-to-air heat exchan-
ger (ETAHE). Heat losses are minimized by the use of a
heat recovery ventilation unit (HRV). These houses are
neither occupied nor monitored yet. The Passivhaus stan-
dard corresponds to an excellent energy performance, and
it is interesting to know its environmental performance
over a life cycle (including the production of the materi-
als, the construction and the end of life and not only
the operation phase). Also it is essential to assess the sum-
mer comfort in such buildings. Consequently, the aim of
this study is to assess the calculated energy consumption,
the thermal comfort and the environmental impacts dur-
ing the life cycle of this building and to compare these
performances to those of a standard building complying
with the French thermal regulation in order to quantify
the energy saved and the reduction of various environ-
mental impacts.
2. Method
In a rst step, the two alternatives (passive and stan-
dard building) have been modeled and simulated using
the thermal dynamic simulator COMFIE. This software
developed by the CEP at the E

cole des mines de Paris


is a multi-zone simulation tool based upon a nite
volume method on which a modal reduction technique
is applied (Peuportier and Blanc-Sommereux, 1990). For
the passive building, the ventilation system has been spe-
cially modeled, in order to simulate precisely its inuence
on temperature and comfort. This model described in
the following section has been implemented as a
complement module to the building simulator. Thus, the
simulator has computed the energy loads and the temper-
ature in each building for both heating and cooling
periods.
Then, in a second phase, the environmental impacts
have been calculated for both passive and standard alterna-
tives using the life cycle assessment (LCA) tool EQUER,
which is specialized in LCA of buildings (Polster et al.,
1996). EQUER is directly linked to COMFIE: it takes
COMFIE results as input data.
3. Model
3.1. Literature review
The ventilation system comprises an ETAHE and a
HRV in series with a by-pass for each one (Fig. 2). The
optimization of a similar ventilation device has already
been studied using a one-zone building-simulation pro-
gram (Bojic, 2000) or as a solution for passive houses
within the CEPHEUS European program (Feist et al.,
2005). A lot of models have been proposed for HRV
and ETAHE taken separately. Roulet et al. (2001) have
proposed a detailed model of HRV including air leakages
and Juodis (2006) has discussed the evolution of HRV
eciency as a function of the temperature inside the
building. Here, we limit the HRV model to the most basic
one as later explained. Concerning ETAHE, a lot of
models have been developed, notably by Benkert et al.
(1997), Bojic et al. (1997), Hollmuller (2002), De Paepe
and Janssens (2003), Dibowski (2003), Al Ajmi et al.
(2005), Ghosal and Tiwari (2006) or Badescu (2007),
and the analysis of these various models leads to clearly
identify the main physical phenomena occurring in the
ETAHE. Within the ETAHE, the main heat uxes are
convection in the pipes and radial conduction through
and around the pipes in the ground. We have estimated
vertical and longitudinal conduction contribution to the
global heat ux for typical temperature gradients and
found that they represent respectively only 3% and
0.03% of the radial conduction heat ux. Thus they can
be neglected. Underground, various phenomena aect
the soil temperature and consequently the performance
of the ETAHE: conduction in the mass of the soil, water
inltration, geothermal power, power owing from the
ground surface situated above the ETAHE. In the litera-
ture, either complex dynamic models include most of
these phenomena, or simplied static models include the
only internal ones, through dierent numerical methods
(nite elements, nite volume) and for various congura-
tions (single or multiple pipe).
3
Ratios based on the net oor area as dened in France.
4
See: http://www.lesairelles.fr/.
S. Thiers, B. Peuportier / Solar Energy 82 (2008) 820831 821
3.2. Description of the ventilation device model
The ventilation system is described in Fig. 2. The model
comprises three main parts corresponding to ETAHE,
HRV and regulation. For the ETAHE, the thermal
exchange between the soil and the air owing in the pipes
depends on the structure of the exchanger, the fresh air
temperature and the soil temperature near the pipes. On
the one hand, the fresh air temperature is given by any
meteorological database, but on the other hand the soil
temperature near the pipes has to be calculated. The model
proposed here therefore includes two submodels: a soil
Fig. 1. Top: Plan of the building (rst oor). Thermal zones are identied with Roman numerals. Bottom left: View of the twin passive houses (LES
AIRELLES, EN ACT ARCHITECTURE). Bottom right: 3D representation of the building before simulation.
Fig. 2. Structure of the ventilation device.
822 S. Thiers, B. Peuportier / Solar Energy 82 (2008) 820831
thermal model and the actual ETAHE thermal model. The
rst one allows the temperature to be evaluated at any
point in the soil, without any ETAHE inuence (corre-
sponding to an undisturbed soil temperature). This tem-
perature is supplied as a boundary condition to the second
submodel, which represents a multi-pipe heat exchanger
and calculates the outlet air temperature along and out
of the buried pipes.
The whole model has been coupled to a building-simula-
tion tool, in order to help designing ETAHE systems. It is
notably based on Hollmullers analytic model (Hollmuller,
2002) and GAEA model (Benkert and Heidt, 2000), and
includes both climate and building inuence on the ground
temperature.
3.3. Soil thermal model
This rst part is based on several studies, such as Miha-
lakakou et al. (1997) and Hagentoft (1988). The soil is
assumed homogenous and having constant physical prop-
erties: thermal conductivity k
soil
, density q
soil
and specic
heat c
soil
. Time variation of the soil humidity e.g. due
to water percolation is neglected and no ground water
is considered, so that the soil can be considered as a
semi-innite solid.
The model is built as the superposition of three indepen-
dent phenomena:
1. Propagation by conduction of the thermal signal from
the ground surface (linked to atmospheric conditions).
2. Heat ow from the slab of a building close to the soil
area under consideration (inuence of studied or nearby
building).
3. Heat ow from the sub-soil (geothermal ow).
Each of these three phenomena are associated with spe-
cic boundary conditions. Due to the linearity of thermal
conduction, we can combine them by superposition, as
Mihalakakou et al. (1995) did.
3.3.1. Propagation of the temperature signal from the soil
surface
We consider a time-dependent sinusoidal temperature
signal T
surf
, of angular frequency x, of mean value T
surf
,
of amplitude A
surf
and of phase u
surf
, applied at the surface
of a semi-innite solid:
T
surf
t T
surf
A
surf
sinx t u
surf
1
This signal propagating in the solid, the temperature at
depth z under the solid surface is (Marchio and Reboux,
2003)
Tz; t T
surf
A
surf
exp
z
dx
_ _
sin x t u
surf

z
dx
_ _
2
where
dx

2 a
x
_
3
is the diusion length of the signal in the solid (m), a being
the thermal diusivity of the ground (m
2
s
1
).
This model applied to the soil, requires to know the tem-
perature of the soil surface T
surf_soil
in function of time,
during one full year. An energy balance on the soil surface
is derived from Mihalakakou et al. (1995), but the solutions
have been partly reformulated. This energy balance
includes various heat ows: conductive ow towards the
soil /
cond
, radiative ow received from the sun /
rad_r
, radi-
ative ow emitted towards the sky /
rad_s
and convective
and latent ows exchanged with air (resp. /
conv_sens
and
/
conv_lat
) (4),
/
cond
/
rad r
/
rad s
/
conv sens
/
conv lat
4
This balance can be detailed with:
/
cond
k
soil

dT
soil
dz

z0
5
/
rad r
1 a
surf soil
G 6
/
rad s
e
soil
r T
4
surf soil
T
4
sky
7
/
conv sens
h
surf
T
amb
T
surf soil
8
/
conv lat
c
lat
f h
surf
a
lat
T
surf soil
b
lat

r
h
a
lat
T
amb
b
lat
9
where a
surf_soil
is the soil albedo, G the global horizontal
solar radiation (W m
2
), e
soil
the soil emissivity coecient,
r the StefanBoltzmann constant (W m
2
K
4
), T
sky
the
sky equivalent temperature, T
amb
the ambient air tempera-
ture, r
h
the air relative humidity. a
lat
, b
lat
, c
lat
are empirical
constants
5
and f a dimensionless empirical parameter.
6
h
surf
is expressed by the empirical formula depending on the
wind average velocity v
wind
(m s
1
), given by Mihalakakou
et al. (1995):
h
surf
0:5 1:2

v
wind
p
10
This energy balance is simplied assuming:
/
conv sens
/
rad s
h
eq
T
amb
T
surf soil
11
where h
eq
is the mean value used by the building model of
COMFIE software.
7
From a Fourier series analysis of the climatic driving
forces (G and T
amb
) on a fundamental period of 1 yr, the
soil surface temperature can be expressed as the sum of sine
functions of time ((12) and (13)), where A
X,n
and u
X,n
5
a
lat
= 103 Pa K
1
, b
lat
= 609 Pa, c
lat
= 0.0168 K Pa
1
(Penman, 1963).
6
For bare soil: saturated: f = 1; moist: f = 0.60.8; dry: f = 0.40.5;
arid: f = 0.10.2. For grass covered soil: this value must be multiplied by
0.7. (Penman, 1963).
7
h
eq
is 12.6 W m
2
K
1
for soil sheltered from wind, 20 W m
2
K
1
for
a soil fairly exposed to wind and 50 W m
2
K
1
for a soil particularly
exposed to wind (Peuportier and Blanc-Sommereux, 1994).
S. Thiers, B. Peuportier / Solar Energy 82 (2008) 820831 823
designate the amplitude and phase of each n harmonic
component for any X quantity.
Gt G

N
h
n1
A
G;n
sinn x t u
G;n
12
T
amb
t T
amb

N
h
n1
A
T
amb
;n
sinn x t u
T
amb
;n
13
The soil surface temperature is inferred from the energy
balance:
T
surf soil
t T
surf soil

N
h
n1
A
surf soil;n
sinn x t
u
surf soil;n
14
with
T
surf soil

1 a
surf soil
G h
r
T
amb
h
r
h
e

b
lat
a
lat
h
e
15
and for each n rank harmonic:
tanu
surf soil;n

h
cond
n x h
e
Y
2;n
h
cond
n x Y
1;n
h
cond
n x h
e
Y
1;n
h
cond
n x Y
2;n
16
A
surf soil;n

Y
1;n
sinu
surf soil;n
Y
2;n
cosu
surf soil;n

h
cond
n x
17
where h
e
, h
r
, h
cond
(x), Y
1,n
and Y
2,n
are ve intermediate
variables.
h
e
h
eq
h
surf
c
lat
a
lat
f 18
h
r
h
eq
h
surf
c
lat
a
lat
f r
h
19
h
cond
x
k
sol
dx
20
Y
1;n
1 alb A
G;n
cosu
G;n

h
r
A
T
amb
;n
cosu
T
amb
;n
21
Y
2;n
1 alb A
G;n
sinu
G;n

h
r
A
T
amb
;n
sinu
T
amb
;n
22
Actually, the number of accounted harmonic N
h
is limited,
because the thermal signal is increasingly attenuated in
depth as its period is shorter. For a 2 m deep ETAHE
which is a common depth in France due to regulation
and economical reasons limiting to one fundamental har-
monic may induce a deviation superior to one degree on
the soil surface temperature in some moments in the year.
On the contrary, two or three harmonic components ensure
a sucient precision (Jacovides et al., 1996).
T
soil
, the temperature in the soil is obtained applying the
propagation expression (2) to each harmonic of the ground
surface temperature expression (14):
T
soil
z; t T
surf soil

N
h
n1
A
surf soil;n
exp
z
dn x
_ _ _
sin n x t u
surf soil;n

z
dn x
_ __
23
3.3.2. Building inuence
A model of a nearby building inuence on a ETAHE
has already been proposed by Benkert and Heidt (2000)
in the GAEA software. This model combines a soil thermal
model and an ETAHE model in a same formalism, using
the method of conformal mapping transformation of the
soil. This method is applied for one pipe, and corrective
terms are added to account for possible interaction
between several pipes and for the nearby building inu-
ence. We have preferred to model the dynamic behaviour
of a larger portion of ground, including several pipes,
and to account for the inuence of a nearby building when
evaluating the boundary condition for this system. Thus a
corrective term is proposed, characterized by a building
inuence factor r
bdg
(r,z). This multiplicative factor depends
on the distance from the considered point to the building
slab center, r, and the depth of this point under the soil sur-
face, z we assume that the slab is in direct contact to the
soil surface. It is a linear combination of a plane tempera-
ture prole close to the slab and a spherical temperature
prole far from the slab, varying with r. This factor is
dened as follows:
if z 2 0; Z
0
and r 2 0; Z
0
; then r
bdg
r; z
1
z
Z
0
_ _
1
r
Z
0
_ _
if r > Z
0
or z > Z
0
; then r
bdg
r; z 0:
where Z
0
is the maximum distance beyond which building
inuence may be neglected.
The corrective term supposes that the temperature
straight under the building slab is a constant which corre-
sponds to the mean annual temperature of the lower side
of the building slab. This constant T
surf bdg
is derived
from Hagentofts formulas of heat loss factor for a slab
(Hagentoft, 1988). If the building inuence is equal to 0,
there is no building inuence. If the building inuence is
high the mean soil temperature is close to the temperature
under the slab and the eect of climatic driving forces is
reduced.
3.3.3. Geothermal ow
The contribution of the geothermal ow may only have
a signicant inuence for deep ETAHE or situated in high
geothermal gradient zones, thus it is modeled by a vertical
uniform temperature gradient, whose norm is written geo.
3.3.4. Soil temperature expression
Combining the three terms presented above, the soil
temperature expression is nally:
824 S. Thiers, B. Peuportier / Solar Energy 82 (2008) 820831
T
soil
r; z; t geo z r
bdg
r; z T
surf bdg
1 r
bdg
r; z

_
T
surf soil

N
h
n1
_
A
surf soil;n
exp
z
dn x
_ _
sin n x t u
surf soil;n

z
dn x
_ _
__
24
3.4. The ETAHE model
This model supposes that the ETAHE is constituted by
parallel, identical pipes, set in a horizontal plane and
equally spaced one another. Air is supplied by a distributor
duct and evacuated by a collector duct. Heat exchange is
neglected in these two ducts. We also assume the soil prop-
erties are homogeneous around the pipes. In order to inte-
grate both dynamic and spatial aspects, the soil and the
pipes are modeled using a nite volume method. This repre-
sentationcontains several cylinder-shaped, coaxial, horizon-
tal axed volumes, standing for the air inside the ducts (air),
the ducts (duct) andtwosoil nodes (soil1 andsoil2). The soil2
node embracing the whole duct layer has been dened in
order to take into account the thermal interaction between
adjacent ducts. The modeled zone is regularly divided in
ten vertical sections (Fig. 3).
The temperature in each volume is assumed to be uni-
form at any time. As already said, conductive heat transfers
in horizontal and vertical directions are neglected. Thus
only radial conductive heat transfer occurring in vertical
planes are accounted for, and represented by thermal resis-
tances. Thermal mass in each volume is represented by the
corresponding heat capacity.
As each pipe is geometrically and physically similar to
the others and as the equation system is linear, the problem
is simplied by considering one mean pipe so that the cal-
culated temperature of the exiting air is equal to the mean
temperature of the air coming out of each pipe. This leads
to a 40 nodes representation. Boundary conditions are air
temperature at rst air node entrance and mean soil tem-
perature at the top and bottom surfaces of soil2 node
(Fig. 3). The numerical model is constituted by a thermal
balance for each longitudinal duct section, for the air node
(25) and for each duct, soil1 and soil2 nodes, written as a
matrix system (26),
c
air
_ m
duct
DT
air
UA
airduct
T
duct
T
air
25
C
dT
dt
A T E U 26
c
air
is the air specic heat capacity (J kg
1
K
1
), _ m
duct
the
air ow through the duct (kg s
1
), DT
air
the air temperature
dierence between the duct section entrance and exit (K),
UA
airduct
the global airduct conductance (W K
1
), T
duct
the temperature of the duct node, T
air
the average temper-
ature of air node owing in the duct section. C is the
diagonal matrix of heat capacities (J K
1
), T is the vector
of node temperatures (K), A is the matrix of heat transfer
Fig. 3. Finite volume model (top: vertical section, bottom: vertical longitudinal section).
S. Thiers, B. Peuportier / Solar Energy 82 (2008) 820831 825
between volumes (W K
1
), E is the matrix of heat transfer
between volumes and driving forces (W K
1
) and U is the
vector of the driving forces (K). C, A, E and U represent
the mean characteristics of the whole ETAHE, expressed
for one duct. The solving method chosen for this system
of dierential equations is modal analysis (Bacot et al.,
1984) but due to the low number of equations (three), no
modal reduction is needed. These equations are integrated
over a time step (e.g. 1/2 h), allowing the outlet air temper-
ature to be evaluated along the simulation period.
3.5. The HRV model
The heat recovery unit allows fresh air to be pre-heated
by exhausting air with a global eciency e
HR
. Assuming
fresh and exhausting air ows are the same ( _ m
HR
, this glo-
bal instantaneous eciency e
HR
dened as (27) is a func-
tion of T
if
, T
ix
and T
of
, respectively the fresh air and
exhausting air inlet temperature, and the fresh air outlet
temperature. The corresponding heat loss P
HR
is (28).
e
HR

T
if
T
of
T
if
T
ix
27
P
HR
_ m
HR
c
air
T
if
T
ix
1 e
HR
28
In our model, the global instantaneous eciency e
HR
is
assumed to be a constant, independent from T
if
and T
ix
.
It represents a mean global eciency.
3.6. Implementation
The dynamic building-simulation software COMFIE,
has been developed according to an object-oriented pro-
gramming, which facilitates the addition of new modules
(Peuportier and Blanc-Sommereux, 1990). The ventilation
model presented above has been integrated to this soft-
ware, so that indoor air temperatures are calculated
according to pre-heated (or precooled) fresh air tempera-
ture, and ow rate set for each thermal zone. The climatic
data (hourly values of temperature and solar global radia-
tion) are used to evaluate the ground temperature and the
outlet air temperature. For each time step, the ETAHE
model evaluates the heating or cooling power supplied to
each ventilated zone, allowing an energy balance to be per-
formed and the temperature to be calculated by the build-
ing-simulation module for each thermal zone.
3.7. Validation
The complete ETAHE model has been validated by
comparing simulation results with measurements made
on two buildings in Greater Paris area: the living-room
of an elderly peoples home equipped with a 1.6 m deep,
50 m long ETAHE of 8 polyethylene pipes and the oce
part of a tertiary building equipped with a 1.6 m deep,
25 m long ETAHE of 6 pipes (Thiers and Peuportier,
2007). Fig. 4 shows by example the correspondence
between simulated and measured outlet air temperatures
during a 1-yr period in the case of the elderly peoples
home. Maximum deviation is inferior to 2 C during 98%
of the time, which represents the same order of magnitude
than for GAEA results (Benkert and Heidt, 2000). The
overestimation of the temperature during spring and sum-
mer seems to be due to soil thermal regeneration induced
by rainfall. This phenomenon is not accounted for in our
model.
The soil thermal model could not be specically and
completely validated nor calibrated due to the lack of soil
temperature measurements.
4. Simulation of the passive building
4.1. Description of the passive building
The building is located in Formerie, France, a small
town at 100 km north of Paris (49.65N, 1.73E). It is com-
posed of two attached dwelling units designed each for a
family of four people. Each dwelling is two-storied, with
an inhabitable area of 132 m
2
, a garage, a terrace, a bal-
cony and a garden. The rooms are the same for both of
them: a hall, an oce, a living-room and a kitchen down-
stairs (Fig. 1), and three bedrooms, a bathroom and a sit-
ting room upstairs. The orientation is the same for both
dwellings. The timber structure integrates a 22 cm cellulose
layer, and an external 15 cm expanded polystyrene insula-
tion layer is added. The slab is insulated with 20 cm of
polystyrene. The attic insulation is formed by 40 cm of cel-
lulose. High performance windows (triple glazed) and insu-
lated external doors have been carefully set, in order to
obtain good air tightness. Table 1 describes the composi-
tion of the main building envelope elements. The thermal
bridges considered here are 0.1 W m
1
K
1
for the edge
of the concrete slab and attic oor. After a blow door test,
the air leakage at 50 Pa has been measured to 0.58 vol h
1
,
which complies with Passivhaus standard. The ventilation
is controlled as follows for each dwelling:
During the heating period, an earth-to-air heat
exchanger (ETAHE) is connected in series with a heat
recovery ventilation device (HRV). The ETAHE is
composed of one 30 m long polyvinyl chloride pipe
Fig. 4. Comparison between simulation and measurements.
826 S. Thiers, B. Peuportier / Solar Energy 82 (2008) 820831
(diameter: 200 mm) buried at 1.6 m in the soil. The
HRV has a mean global eciency of 70%. The total
air exchange rate is 0.6 vol h
1
.
During the cooling period, the HRV is by-passed and
only the ETAHE is used. The air exchange rate is
1.5 vol h
1
.
The passive house is equipped with a solar water heater
and a heat pump for space and water heating backup.
A 50% solar fraction and a COP of 3 have been assumed
respectively for the solar system and the heat pump, based
upon previous studies.
4.2. Standard building used as a reference
The performance of the passive building described
above is compared to a reference building assumed to com-
ply with the French thermal regulation (Reglementation
Thermique 2005, 2006). Its characteristics are the same as
the passive building (dimensions, orientation, timber struc-
ture), except for insulation, thermal bridges and air tight-
ness, which correspond to the regulation reference level,
and the standard equipment in French houses is consid-
ered: a natural gas boiler for space heating and hot water,
with a global eciency of 78% (including heat generation,
control, distribution and emission). The thermal character-
istics of the envelope elements are given in Table 2.
The thermal bridges considered here are 0.4 W m
1
K
1
for the edge of the concrete slab, plus a standard heat loss
of 0.5 W m
1
K
1
multiplied by the building perimeter,
representing all other thermal bridges (openings frame,
intermediate level, imperfections). During the whole year,
mechanical ventilation provides a 0.5 vol h
1
air exchange
(plus 0.1 vol h
1
inltration), without ETAHE or HRV.
4.3. Thermal simulation and life cycle assessment
The building geometry has been input using the ALCY-
ONE software (Fig. 1). The building model comprises 10
thermal zones, 5 for each building.
In order to distinguish heating and cooling behaviors of
the buildings, two simulations were performed for each
alternative: one for a hot summer period (2003 heat wave
in Paris area) and one for a typical heating period (average
year in Paris area). No air conditioning is considered for
both buildings. Summer discomfort is evaluated using
overheating degree-days (ODD)
8
with respect to a limit
temperature, set at 27 C.
In a second phase, the thermal simulation results as well
as the building description are used to evaluate environ-
mental impacts, using the EQUER software (Polster
et al., 1996). Twelve impacts are studied (Table 3). The
construction, operation and demolition phases are taken
into account. The various materials composing the ETA-
HE, HRV, heat pump and solar panels are not taken into
consideration in this assessment, assuming that the quanti-
ties and related impacts are small compared to the con-
struction materials and the operational energy use.
Table 1
Description of the passive building envelope elements
Wall Description Insulation thickness (cm) U-value (W m
2
K
1
)
External wall Wood structure with polystyrene and cellulose 38 0.12
Slab Concrete and polystyrene (on crawl space) 20 0.19
Attic Gypsum board and cellulose 40 0.11
Solar factor () U-value (W m
2
K
1
)
Winter Summer
Windows Triple-glazed with external Venetian blind 0.52 0.1 0.71
External doors Wood insulated with polystyrene 0 0 0.78
Table 2
Description of the standard building envelope elements
Wall Description Insulation thickness (cm) U-value (W m
2
K
1
)
External wall Wood structure with polystyrene and cellulose 13 0.35
Slab Concrete and polystyrene (on crawl space) 14 0.27
Attic Cellulose 22.5 0.2
Solar factor () U-value (W m
2
K
1
)
Winter Summer
Windows Double-glazed with external Venetian blind 0.66 0.132 1.8
External doors Wood 0 0 1.5
8
Inside a building, the annual overheating degree-days, dened on a
hourly basis, with respect to a temperature limit T
lim
are dened as
ODD
Tlim

1
24

8760
h1
T
int
h T
lim

, where T
int
is the indoor tempera-
ture and the superscript + designates the positive part of the enclosed
quantity.
S. Thiers, B. Peuportier / Solar Energy 82 (2008) 820831 827
5. Results
5.1. Energy consumption and comfort
The annual heating load of the passive building is evalu-
ated at 7.5 kW h m
2
, which complies with the Passivhaus
standard, (15 kW h m
2
yr
1
), the heating degree-days
being around 2700. It is about twelve times lower com-
pared to the standard building (Table 4).
The ETAHE improves the summer comfort compared
to the standard building: 22 ODD
27 C
vs. 56 ODD
27 C
for the standard building.
Assuming a hot water consumption of 40 l inhabi-
tant
1
day
1
, low-energy domestic appliances and a family
with low electricity consumption (2000 kW h per year and
per family),
9
the nal energy consumption would be
5404 kW h, therefore 20 kW h/m
2
for the passive building
and 35,219 kW h, therefore 133 kW h/m
2
for the standard
one. Using the Passivhaus primary energy factors
(2.7 kW h primary energy per kW h electricity and
1.1 kW h primary energy per kW h gas), the corresponding
primary energy consumption would be respectively
55 kW h
PE
and 171 kW h
PE
for the passive and standard
building. Thus the passive building also complies with the
Passivhaus standard, (120 kW h m
2
yr
1
).
The actual electricity mix varies according to the season:
electric heating and heat pumps increase the peak demand,
and induce the use of thermal plants whereas more
constant electricity usage like hot water and domestic
appliances correspond more to a base production. In this
study, the considered electricity mixes are given in Table
5. The resulting primary energy factor is 3.13 for heating
and 3.18 for other uses. Considering a gas eciency of
1.28 primary kW h/kW h
th
(from Ecoinvent Database
10
Version 1.2), the energy assessment for both buildings
(Fig. 5) shows that the primary energy consumption
of the passive building (65 kW h m
2
yr
1
) is about a
third compared to that of the standard house
(200 kW h m
2
yr
1
).
5.2. Environmental impacts over the building life cycle
The environmental assessment shows that the passive
building impacts are lower than those of the standard
building, except for the various wastes (Fig. 6). This
improvement is especially visible for impacts related to
the use of gas (global warming, resource depletion, acidi-
cation, summer smog. . .). The non-radioactive waste pro-
duction is quite the same, due to similar material
quantities in both alternatives. The radioactive waste pro-
duction increases (+29%) due to higher global electricity
consumption in the passive building (heat pump) than in
the standard one (gas boiler).
These various impacts for the whole life cycle have been
normalized using average national impacts per inhabitant
during 1 yr for France (Table 6); thus the normalized val-
ues are expressed in one same unit: the year-inhabitant
equivalent (Popovici, 2006). This is a mean to compare
these impacts on a same scale, which helps to distinguish
the preponderant impacts from the less signicant ones.
For instance, here, water consumption is high for both
building designs (Fig. 7), showing that the passive design
has a limited inuence on it and, consequently, that some
additional measures would be required to reduce signi-
cantly this impact. Fig. 7 shows the importance of energy
and global warming potential (GWP) for the standard
building and the corresponding reduction induced by the
passive building. The relative contribution of the construc-
tion phase to indicators related to energy consumption
(energy, GWP) is increased for the passive building
(Fig. 8). Nevertheless, for both standard and passive build-
ing, the operation phase (including domestic appliances)
remains the main contributor in the global environmental
impact over the whole life cycle, except for waste genera-
tion for which the demolition phase is dominant.
6. Discussion
The planned monitoring of the Formerie houses as well
as other passive houses in France will allow a more exten-
sive validation process, complementing previous compari-
son exercises (Peuportier, 2005): three experimental
validation tests (passive test sells in Stuttgart, Cadarache
and Zurich) and several software benchmarks (e.g. IEA
Table 3
Impact indicators observed
Impact indicator Unit Legend
Cumulative energy demand GJ ENERGY
Water consumption m
3
WATER
Abiotic depletion potential kg Sb-Eq RESOURCE
Non-radioactive waste creation t eq WASTE
Radioactive waste creation dm
3
RADWASTE
Global warming potential at 100 yr
(GWP100)
t CO
2
-Eq GWP100
Acidication potential kg SO
2
-Eq ACIDIF
Eutrophication potential kg PO
3
4
-
Eq
EUTROPH
Damage caused by the ecotoxic emissions
to ecosystems
PDF m
2
yr ECOTOX
Damage to human health DALY HUMHEALTH
Photochemical oxidant formation
potential (Smog)
kg C
2
H
4
-
Eq
O3-SMOG
Odour M m
3
ODOUR
Table 4
Results of the thermal simulations
Unit Heating load Summer discomfort
kW h yr
1
kW h m
2
yr
1
Degree-days
Passive house 1978 7.5 22
Standard house 19,885 75.3 56
9
Derived from Cabinet Olivier Sidler (1997).
10
See: http://www.ecoinvent.ch/.
828 S. Thiers, B. Peuportier / Solar Energy 82 (2008) 820831
Bestest procedure). The LCA tool EQUER has been
compared to seven other building LCA tools in the frame
of the European thematic network PRESCO. The calcu-
lated CO
2
emissions for a case study were diering by
10% between the tools, but other environmental indica-
tors like toxicity are more uncertain. Further work is
planned to progress towards harmonization of the
methods.
The present work focuses on the building envelope and
the ETAHE. An average coecient of performance has
been considered for the heat pump. Coupling heat pump
and ETAHE models is under way, allowing a more precise
evaluation of the electricity consumption of such systems in
the future.
The present study has focused on the thermal balance
(energy consumption and temperatures) of the building.
A more global evaluation of the comfort could constitute
a further investigation.
7. Conclusion
In order to assess the energy and environmental perfor-
mance of a passive house in Greater Paris area, a model has
Fig. 6. Comparison of the two alternatives for twelve indicators (refer-
ence = standard building). Indicators and unities are derived from
(Popovici, 2006).
Fig. 5. Simulated annual energy balance for both buildings.
Table 5
Considered average European electricity mixes and corresponding primary energy factors (from Ecoinvent Database Version 1.2)
Production type Nuclear Hydroelectric Gaz Coal Fuel Equivalent primary energy factor
Heating mix 37% 15% 10% 28% 10% 3.13
Other uses mix 78% 14% 4% 4% 0% 3.19
Primary energy factor 3.52 1.24 3.25 3.45 3.47
Fig. 7. Contribution of each phase of the life cycle for both alternatives and for four indicators, expressed in year-inhabitant equivalent in France.
Table 6
Year-inhabitant average in France for four impacts (Popovici, 2006)
Impacts Year-inhabitant average
in France (1997)
Unit
ENERGY 175 GJ inh
1
yr
1
WATER 339 m
3
WASTE 10 t eq inh
1
yr
1
RADWASTE 0.51 dm
3
inh
1
yr
1
GWP100 8.68 t CO
2
-Eq inh
1
yr
1
S. Thiers, B. Peuportier / Solar Energy 82 (2008) 820831 829
been developed for innovative ventilation systems and inte-
grated in a thermal simulation tool. The model, including
the main phenomena occurring in the ETAHE, has been
validated against experimental results.
Simulations have shown substantial reduction of energy
consumption and summer discomfort for the passive build-
ing compared to a standard building. Thermal comfort can
be achieved most of the time using appropriate measures
(solar protection, ventilation and possible ETAHE, ther-
mal mass).
Moreover, during its life cycle, a passive house allows
the reduction of most environmental impacts compared
to a standard building, and in particular, the GWP and
exhaust of natural resources. Further improvement regard-
ing e.g. the choice of building materials and renewable elec-
tricity production could be studied in order to improve the
environmental performance on other aspects (waste, toxic-
ity. . .). Night ventilation could be studied to reach a higher
comfort level. Therefore, the passive concept seems to be a
valid and ecient solution to improve the environmental
performance of the dwellings in the French context. The
building presented in this article will be monitored, in order
to check simulation results and conclusions.
Acknowledgments
This study has been supported by ADEME (French
Agency for Environment and Energy Management),
CANADA CLIM (Design and Construction of earth-
to-air heat exchangers) and LES AIRELLES (Construc-
tion of passive houses).
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