Canadian Consulting Engineer

CROM Grain Research Centre

October 1, 2009
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Founded in 1997, the Centre de Recherche sur les grains (CROM) conducts research for Quebec's grain production sector. DESSAU was asked to engineer the electro-mechanical systems for CROM's new buil...

Founded in 1997, the Centre de Recherche sur les grains (CROM) conducts research for Quebec’s grain production sector. DESSAU was asked to engineer the electro-mechanical systems for CROM’s new building in St-Mathieu-de-Beloeil, 30 kilometres east of Montreal.

The building has an area of 2,860 square metres, including two floors and three greenhouses, warehouses, offices, a library, a computer room, laboratories, cold rooms, freezing

rooms and growth cabinets used for research.

The challenge was to design a building that uses a maximum of renewable energy with innovative technologies that are readily available. The result is a building in which a majority of the heat originates from solar and ground energy.

The design concept was made possible by high-performance computerized calculation tools such as energy simulation. Several solutions were studied before determining the one that would be the most efficient while also meeting the budget.

Geothermal wells

The CROM building is equipped with 24 geothermal wells, 152-metres deep, coupled with a set of 29 water- air heat pumps. The heat pumps provide heating and air conditioning in the main building and three greenhouses. The heat pumps also heat the fresh air, supplied at 3,000 l/s.

An enthalpy wheel was installed on the fresh air system. It transfers part of the heat and humidity contained in the building’s exhaust air into the fresh air.

A solar captor is also provided. It has an area of 64 square metres and is mounted on the southwest orientation of the building. The solar captor system has a perforated metal wall with an air space behind. The air in the captor is preheated by solar radiation before being trans- ferred in the ventilation unit intake. The system can raise the temperature of the fresh air by up to 10C.

Greenhouse heating

Greenhouses require a lot of heating energy, due to the low heat resistance of the glass envelope.

The method normally used to heat greenhouses using geothermal systems consists of using a direct expansion system. That is to say, the refrigerant (often R-22) is circulated directly in the ground via copper piping. This is a low-cost solution, but the smallest leak of refrigerant into the ground releases a major greenhouse gas into the atmosphere and into water tables.

The fluid circulating in the geothermal wells of CROM is a water-methanol mix, thus considerably reducing contamination in case of leaks.

Economics of energy savings

The combined efforts have produced an annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 347-tons. Annual energy savings are 673,728 kWh compared to a similar building designed in accordance with the Model National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings — a 54% reduction.

The energy efficient equipment cost $559,180 more than standard equipment, but it produces annual savings of $62,968. Furthermore, CROM qualified for incentives from Hydro-Qubec and Natural Resources Canada totalling $218,700. Considering all these factors, the payback period on the investment is 5.4 years.

Despite unexpected occurrences, the deadline was met and construction was completed in 2007 on the $5.2 million budget.

The project won an ASHRAE Technology Award 2009, Honourable Mention at the international level.

Project: CROM, Centre de recherche sur les grains, St-Mathieu-de-Beloeil, Que.

Award-winning firm -mechanical, electrical, structural, civil and geotechnical consultants: DESSAU (Frdric Sauriol, ing., Hlne Rheault, ing., Frdric Lewis, ing., Stphane Sirard, ing., Michel Gendron, ing., Patrick Bourgeois, ing., Claude Lavoie, ing., Daniel Dub, ing., Jonathan Grimard, ing., Charles Julien, ing.)

Architect: Groupe des Sept-Atelier


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