Launch of the Horizon Europe project HEATWISE: Computers heat buildings

Press releases, 11.04.2024

Zero heat waste: This is the goal of a dozen European companies and research institutions, including Empa, in the Horizon Europe project HEATWISE. The focus is on buildings with extensive IT loads. All waste heat from these systems is to be integrated and utilized in the buildings.

Hospitals, universities, research and office buildings have one thing in common: They are packed with technical devices and IT infrastructure. Operating these equipments requires energy – and at the same time generates waste heat that often goes unused. In the Horizon Europe project HEATWISE, twelve research and industry partners from eight countries have joined forces to rethink energy use in buildings with extensive IT loads. "The goal is a zero waste principle," explains Binod Koirala from Empa's Urban Energy Systems lab. "This means that we want to recover as much waste heat as possible and integrate it into the building's heating system." The first task of Binod Koirala and his team will therefore be to identify the potential for heat gains using real data from Empa's research building NEST. They will focus not only on the IT infrastructure – from the servers in the basement to the computers in the offices – but also on the influence of the presence of people on room temperature and potential heat recovery from this.

NEST as a pilot plant

The aim is to develop predictive control algorithms that link the energy management of the IT infrastructure with building technology and that can also take other aspects into account. "This includes, for example, the lowest possible CO2 emissions or the most cost-effective operation," says Binod Koirala. These multi-objective control algorithms will then be transferred and implemented in four pilot plants as part of HEATWISE: in an IT research and development center in Poland, in buildings at Aalborg University in Denmark, in a car factory in Turkey and in NEST on the Empa campus in Dübendorf.

Computing power yields hot water

In addition to optimizing energy management, the project is also investigating the use of innovative cooling solutions for high-performance IT systems. For around two years, an edge data center has been operating in the basement of NEST, whose waste heat is already being fed into the medium and low-temperature network and used for heating. The data center, which is currently air-cooled, is now being supplemented by a newly developed on-chip liquid cooling system from Israeli project partner ZutaCore. "This cooling system is designed for optimum heat recovery," explains Koirala. The recovered heat reaches temperatures of up to 70°C. "We can feed this heat directly into the high-temperature network of NEST and use it to power the residents' showers, for example."

The HEATWISE project officially started at the beginning of 2024 and will run for three years. It is supported by the EU as part of the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme and by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).

Further information:

Computers heat buildings

A newly developed on-chip liquid cooling system ensures optimum heat recovery in data centers. Photo: ZutaCore(jpg, 7374kb)

Address for enquiries:

Dr. Binod Koirala
Urban Energy Systems
Phone +41 58 765 46 83


Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research