In May 2010, the European Parliament and Council established a renewed energy recast. This Directive requires all member states to ensure that all new buildings from 2020 are “nearly zero-energy buildings”.

Nearly zero-energy means that still a portion of energy must be provided. Smart Geotherm is convinced that the remaining energy demand can be provided in a sustainable way in the form of geothermal energy. Through open groundwater systems or heat exchangers which are applied in the soil or in underground concrete structure elements, thermal energy can be exchanged between the building and the ground. This energy can be used for the building to be heated during the winter and to be cooled down during the summer.

Thermal energy can be stored in the soil for a long period. Although the focus lays on geothermal energy, other sources of thermal energy in the project are considered in order to regenerate the soil thermally or to provide this energy in the short or longer term after buffering. Thermal energy can indeed be stored for a shorter period of time in the structure of the building (known as concrete core activation) or in flexible buffers as containers filled with water or Phase Change Materials of Thermo Chemical Materials.

Particular attention will be paid to underground structures such as pile foundations which are integrated with heat exchangers. These energy piles combine both the bearing and exchanging energy function.

A dynamic control algorithm will be developed to meet the need for cooling or heating and to match the supply of thermal energy with the buffering capabilities. This algorithm will be validated during the project with the monitoring data of pilot projects.

Besides the part of research and development, much of the time and energy will be spent on the transfer of knowledge of geothermal energy to the market. Flanders has indeed a big catch up regarding the use of this form of renewable energy. Together with partners, guidelines, codes of good practice, demonstration projects, etc. will be developed and disseminated to the market.