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20.01.2021

Istema achieves energy neutrality in the largest chocolate warehouse in the world

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Barry Callebaut chocolate warehouse, which, by the way, is the largest in the world, is the fact that the entire building will be kept running without the use of fossil fuels. “In order to compensate the energy requirements with renewable energy, we carefully evaluated the total energy consumption picture in advance.”

An immense amount of study work is required before you can label a building of this size ‘energy neutral’. Istema, an engineering firm in Ghent specialising in building technology and energy systems, took on the job. The engineering firm optimises the control of the installation using an extensive control system that will keep the ecological footprint of the building as small as possible.

“Designing sustainable new construction projects and increasing the sustainability of existing buildings is our mission and specialisation,” Managing Director Piet Delagaye tells us. “Our goal is to limit the CO2 emissions of the projects we work on and to design sustainable, energy-saving models.”

Total transparency

The first step in this trajectory was the analysis of the customer's requirements and the choice of a sustainable solution based on heat pumps. To do this, Istema worked together closely with the construction project's various partners, such as AAVO Architecten, the contractor Alheembouw, Willy Naessens Industriebouw and, of course, the customer, WDP. “Consultation and total transparency are crucial in a project like this. Thanks to the BIM 3D model, we maintained an overview of the project with all parties involved without a problem,” explains Piet.

“Istema's role is to provide advice related to the insulation of the building and to design the technical installations so efficiently that the total energy consumption is kept to a minimum. Of course, we must comply with the energy performance requirements set out in the EPB regulations. We chose a concept that excludes fossil fuels, such as gas, and instead designed an energy-neutral model which allowed us to obtain a BREEAM Outstanding certificate.”

Energy from the ground and from the air

Where exactly does the renewable energy needed to attain this neutrality come from? At the site, heat pumps have been installed that recover heat from the air and from the ground via a so-called BEO field.

In addition, the entire surface of the roofs of both the high- and the low-rise buildings have been laid with modern PV panels with the highest efficiency on the market. In the summer, these panels generate more energy than is consumed but that excess is compensated, of course, during the winter months. When considered over an entire year, as much energy is consumed as is generated.

“Sensors in the warehouse closely monitor the temperature and control the installation accordingly. Furthermore, the amount of energy consumed is continuously measured. That way we can adjust and optimise our energy consumption per heat pump, per air group or per building section. We will also be able to effortlessly predict trends in consumption. We are currently in the installation phase, but soon we will transition to an extensive testing phase.”

“It is the large scale of the Barry Callebaut warehouse that makes it an extraordinary project for Istema,” concludes Piet. “But that just makes the challenge to exclude fossil fuels and to maintain energy neutrality that much more interesting.



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