Renewable Energy in the Human Impact Building

The Human Impact Building’s current heating requirements are supplied by:

  • A 220kW Froeling Turbomat wood chip (biomass) boiler; and
  • A Strebel E500 400kW oil-fired boiler.

The biomass boiler was installed during 2006, as the first step towards The Living Rainforest’s shift to renewable heating sources. This boiler is drawn upon first, when heat is required by the Human Impact Building and current greenhouses, with the oil-fired boiler supplying top-up energy requirements, as necessary.

As the goal of The Living Rainforest is a neutral or negative carbon footprint, dependence upon the oil-fired boiler must be phased out. This will be achieved through the second phase of the Integrated Greenhouse project, during which the new glasshouse will be constructed as a passive solar collector alongside an associated Vertical Soil Heat Exchanger (VSHE) installation. This new, renewable energy heating system will be integrated with the Human Impact Building and other Green Greenhouse structures. The VSHE will then be established as the priority heat source, with the biomass boiler providing additional heat, when required.

In addition, the Human Impact Building features two solar design elements:

  • Passive solar gain
  • Photovoltaic (PV)

Passive solar gain has been achieved by using building materials that absorb the sun’s heat energy and slowly release this into the building. To maximise this effect, the building is oriented so that its longest wall faces south, with the north-facing wall being internal. This allows the building to absorb solar energy for the longest possible period during the day and reduces heat loss.

Floor to ceiling glazing along the south-facing wall has also been incorporated into the Human Impact Building, thereby increasing solar gain. Over this, a canopy shades out unwanted sun in summer. Solar (photovolatic) cells cover the glass section of this roof canopy and help power the building, with the amount of energy gained being shown on an electronic display board mounted beside the canopy (shown right).

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