This seven-storey corner building’s milky white facade blends in well with its neighbours on Rue de Beaubourg, in the heart of Paris. The area is known for its more conspicuous occupants – just a short stroll away is the Centre Pompidou, a contemporary museum and an extravagant 20th-Century architectural statement.
By comparison, the building at number two Rue de Beaubourg looks modest, but it is perhaps even more unusual in its design, though you wouldn’t know it from the outside. Since 2015, the building has been drawing its warmth from the hustle and bustle of human body heat in a nearby metro station.
The air temperature inside the metro tunnel is around 10C (18F) higher than outdoors. This heat mainly come from human bodies moving around the station and the heat generated by the trains, says Genevieve Littot, climate and energy strategist at the social housing construction company Paris Habitat, which designed the heat extraction system.
“A staircase connects the basement of the building to the metro tunnel,” says Littot. “The installation extracts warm air from the metro tunnel through the existing passageway, as the warm air passes through a heat exchanger to produce hot water, which is used for space heating.”
This waste heat provides up to 35% of the heat needed for Beaubourg building’s 20 apartments and a commercial premises downstairs. Littot adds that it helps to minimise further carbon emissions through using a district heating system, which is more efficient than heating buildings individually.
The Paris project is hardly alone in this regard. Different innovative projects with energy saving designs are emerging around the world to mitigate carbon emissions.
Buildings and construction account for over one-third of the world’s final energy use and nearly 40% of energy-related carbon emissions. Currently, only a tenth of energy used for heating comes from renewable sources, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).