Active pipe-embedded structures in buildings for utilizing low-grade energy sources: A review

Xinhua Xu, Shengwei Wang, Jinbo Wang, Fu Xiao

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


Low-grade energy sources such as geothermal energy, favorable ambient air and industrial waste heat etc. exist widely. Sufficient utilization of these low-grade energy sources may reduce our daily dependence on high-grade energy sources such as electricity resulting in reduced emission of green house gas for environmental conservation. Active pipe-embedded structure as floor/ceiling usually with water as the medium to carry heat or coolth may utilize these low-grade energy sources for providing space air-conditioning. Compact arrangement of pipes in the structure may significantly enlarge heat transfer surface between the slab mass and water in the pipe allowing substantial heat flows even for relatively small temperature differences. Application of the heat or coolth storage capacity of this structure for preheating or pre-cooling is also one among the advantages of this structure for shifting load and exploiting the nighttime cheap electricity tariff in some regions. This paper presents the technology of the active pipe-embedded structure for utilizing widely existing low-grade energy sources following by a comprehensive review on the heat transfer calculation models of this structure and its practical applications in real building systems for space air-conditioning. This review shows that more works on the active structure, especially simple and transient models for dynamic and accurate performance prediction and easy integration with existing building energy simulation packages, are worthwhile for further promoting the practical application wherever the low-grade energy sources are favorable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1567-1581
Number of pages15
JournalEnergy and Buildings
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010


  • Active pipe-embedded structure
  • Heat transfer calculation model
  • Low-grade energy source
  • Performance evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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