Underground Buildings - Potential in terms of energy reduction while maintaining indoor environmental quality

Name of student: ir. C. (Chris) van Dronkelaar
Supervisors: J.L.M. (Jan)Hensen, dr. D. (Daniel) Cóstola, R.A. (Rizki) Mangkuto, MSc
Chair research belongs to: Building Performance
Strategic area: Energy
Project year: 2013


Underground buildings are pointed out as an alternative to conventional aboveground buildings for reducing the total energy requirements, while alleviating land use and location problems. This paper investigates the potential in reducing the energy demand of underground buildings compared to aboveground buildings. Monthly calculations based on EN-ISO 13790 are performed to obtain the annual energy demand of an aboveground building and underground building. By comparing the annual energy demands for different climates, building functions and underground depths, deductions can be made to quantify the energy reduction potential of underground buildings. Introducing variable input parameters allows identification of the influence of design options on the annual energy demand of a building. Results identify that a variety of the underground building cases can almost be considered to be zero-energy buildings (annual energy demand below 10 kWh/m2a). In contrast to the aboveground counterpart where the energy demand is up to 100 kWh/m2a higher. The low annual energy demand for these underground building cases originates from the balancing energy flows. The transmission losses of the underground building are at a stable value annually in comparison to the aboveground situation, where it varies with seasonal weather changes.

Underground buildings can help to reduce the energy demand in comparison to a conventional aboveground building by using beneficial soil temperatures and large amounts of earth cover as insulation. Energy reduction is achievable for all climates and functions, but the magnitude is related to the combination of different design elements. Sensitivity analysis shows that building functions with high internal gains induce an inefficient balance in tropical to warm climates for underground buildings, but strongly reduce the heating demand in cold climates. Furthermore, ground properties have a small influence on the energy demand of an underground building.  Also included is a discussion of the many potential benefits and drawbacks associated with underground buildings, while discussing the effects different functions and underground building concepts have on them. Some design strategies are identified to alleviate the negative psychological and physiological effects. The main objective of this literature study is to perform as a fundamental basis for the practical part of the research, which involves building performance simulation to assess the sunlight penetration and quantification of the thermal advantages concerned with underground buildings.