Date of Award

Spring 7-13-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Moncef Krarti

Second Advisor

Michael J. Brandemuehl

Third Advisor

John Z. Zhai

Fourth Advisor

Wil V. Srubar

Fifth Advisor

Junghyon Mun


A thermo-active foundation system can be a cost-effective technology to utilize ground thermal energy to heat and cool buildings. Indeed, thermo-active foundations, also known as thermal piles, integrate heat exchangers with the foundation elements and thus eliminate the need of drilling deep boreholes typically required by the conventional ground source heat pumps. In order to properly design thermo-active foundation systems, their thermal performance under various operating and climatic conditions are evaluated as part of this study using detailed modeling and simulation analyses. In particular, a transient three-dimensional finite difference numerical model has been developed and validated to analyze thermal performances of thermo-active foundations. The numerical model is then used to assess the impact of design parameters such as foundation depth, shank space, fluid flow rate, and the number of loops on the effectiveness of thermal piles to exchange heat between the building and the ground. Moreover, thermal response factors have been developed to integrate the performance of thermo-active foundations within detailed whole-building simulation programs. In this study, response factors specific to thermo-active foundations are implemented into EnergyPlus to investigate the impact of design and operating conditions. The results from the detailed simulation analysis are then used to develop a set of guidelines to properly design thermo-active foundation to meet heating and cooling loads of commercial buildings.

This paper develops the design guide chart for TAF systems. The design guide chart provides the determination of required heat exchanger pipe length per water-to-water heat pump capacity for certain annual average ground temperature and for certain targeted maximum entering water temperature to a heat pump. Using an example application, this paper presents the usage of the design guide chart as well as shows the potential of the design guide chart for designing TAF system.