Sustainability in the GEOFIT Project

As part of the GEOFIT project, we conducted a holistic sustainable study of the novel GSHP (Ground Source Heat Pump) concepts on energy efficient building retrofitting, which is taking into account environmental (LCA), economic (LCC) and social (S-LCA) aspects.

LCA aspect

LCA analysis was performed according to ISO 14040-44, using SimaPro v.9.1 software and Ecoinvent v.3.6 database.

The analysis of the 10 selected environmental impact categories of the novel GSHP concepts shows that the heat pump or borehole heat exchanger is the most dominant element in the construction / installation phase, it depends mainly on how many boreholes are installed on site and how much mortar or diesel have been used for the borehole(s) installation. In the case of a heat pump, the main source of environmental impact is steel (in various forms) and copper. However, both are recyclable metals that can be reused again in the production process and therefore they do not present a significant environmental risk, as well as the buffer tank, that has a negligible impact on the environment In addition, from the comparative analysis of the two systems before and after thermal energy retrofitting, we were able to conclude that the reduction of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere at the operational stage is clearly visible, in the case of Sant Cugat buildings it is about 50%, and in the building on the Aran Islands, even more than 80%, Figure 1.

Figure 1: Environmental impact at each stage of the life cycle of the heating systems in the Aran Islands building and the heating systems in the Sant Cugat buildings in relation to 1 kWh of thermal energy delivered to the building to maintain the comfort temperature, considering a study period of 30 years.

LCC aspect

LCC analysis was carried out according to the ISO 15686-5:2017. The results of the LCC analysis show that the expected payback time (PBT) of investment costs can be up to 6-11 years, it all depends on energy inflation (EI), which is not particularly stable, Figure 2.

* Source: OECD data
Figure 2: Payback time of investment costs for Sant Cugat pilot.

The higher the inflation, the faster the return-on-investment costs.

S-LCA aspect

Regarding the S-LCA study on the potential positive and negative social impacts of a novel hybrid heating/cooling geothermal system, it was performed in line with the UNEP/SETAC guideline.

General positive conclusion has been drawn based on the indicators developed for this purpose.

First of all, the new geothermal system will allow to improve the economic and health benefits of the operation phase, which will be mostly well received by the consumers (users). Also, regarding the construction / installation phase, which mainly involves the following stakeholders: workers, local community, value chain actors and society, no deviation from the norm was noted.

By Ewa Alicja Zukowska and Jose Jorge Espí Gallart (EURECAT).

GEOFIT Project participates in “Sustainable Places 2022” within the workshop: “RHC Solutions for Buildings and Industry – 3rd Edition”

Renewable energy technologies for heating and cooling are safe, clean, efficient and increasingly cost-competitive. In its vision 2050 prospective document, the European Technology and Innovation Platform on Renewable Heating and Cooling – RHC ETIP – envisions that 100% renewable energy-based heating and cooling (100% RHC) in Europe is possible by 2050.

This workshop is a continuation of the two previous RHC for Buildings and Industry Workshop at SP2020 and SP2021. Focused on the same topic which brought together a selection of H2020 EU-funded projects involving experts from the biomass, geothermal, solar thermal and heat pump sectors to discuss a common strategy for increasing the use of renewable energy technologies for heating and cooling for buildings and industry. 

Projects are again invited to pitch their progress and achievements to date. Interactive discussion slots will allow for opportunities to identify possible synergies, cooperation on horizontal issues or potential joint dissemination activities to maximise expected impacts. 

Session chair : Andrea Frazzica –  CNR-ITAE ( Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche  – Istituto di Tecnologie Avanzate per l’Energia “Nicola Giordano”)

GEOFIT Project will be part of this workshop in the session “Demonstration actions for RHC in buildings” together with:

To see the presentations and the workshop video, please visit: RHC for Buildings and Industry workshop 3.0 – Sustainable Places (SP)


September & October 2022

The EU-funded project GEOFIT is an integrated industrially driven action aimed to deploy cost-effective enhanced geothermal systems on energy-efficient building retrofitting.

Upon the completion of the pilots, it is time to present and share the results, and bring all the experience accumulated to potential stakeholders.

GEOFIT is organizing three virtual trainings addressed to professionals and researchers in the field of geothermal energy, renewables and construction sector who wish to learn more about Smart Geothermal Systems.

1st Training: GEOFIT Training on Ground Source Heat Exchangers and Geothermal Heat Pumps

Date: 20th September 2022 | 10 – 12 CEST

Speakers: Henk Witte (Groenholland) and Michael Lauermann (AIT)

What to expect?

This webinar will present the research, development and assessment of various typologies of heat pumps and ground source heat exchangers (GHEX) studied in the EU-funded project GEOFIT which focuses on geothermal retrofitting across a range of building typologies (residential, tertiary, educational).   

Regarding GHEX, different typologies have been studied such as vertical and horizontal boreholes, slinky HEX, and earth baskets. Test campaigns were performed both in the lab and at the pilots and optimal geometries were studied aiding to the development of an engineering tool for optimal sizing of the GHEX which will be presented.

Regarding heat pumps, different typologies of electrical and heat-driven Heat Pumps (HP) have been optimised and implemented to include high temperature HPs with low GWP refrigerants, off-the-shelves HPs integrated in residential retrofitting projects, and hybrid HPs using gas and heat to supply heating and cooling. Results from analysis, prototyping and fielding will be presented.

2nd Training: GEOFIT Training on On-The-Ground Experience with Four Pilots

Date: 27th September 2022 | 10 – 12 CEST

Speakers: Antonio Galindo (COMSA), Romain Lhomer (NOBATEK), Claudia Fabiani (UNI PERUGIA), Avril Ní Shearcaigh (CFOAT) and Anna Mundet (Sant Cugat Municipality)

What to expect?

This webinar will present the field implementations of four pilots from the EU-funded project GEOFIT.

  • A residential single-family-house on the Aran Island (Ireland). The building was insulated, provided with an innovative radiant floor heating and with an electric heat pump connected to a vertical borehole.
  • An elementary school in Sant Cugat (Catalunya, Spain). A large vertical boreholes field is supplying heat to an electric heat pump replacing some of the existing gas boilers. The horizontal connection boreholes field – technical room was achieved via horizontal directional drilling. A high temperature radiant ceiling system is providing free cooling in summer exploiting the vertical boreholes.
  • An office building in Bordeaux (France). A vertical borehole coupled to earth baskets are providing heat to a hybrid driven heat pump (gas- and electricity-driven) in an office building. The heat pump also provides cooling in summer.
  • A historic building in Perugia (Italy). The Sant’Apollinare Fortress was already equipped with a radiant floor heating system, which is now being supplied by a gas-driven heat pump. The heat pump also provides cooling in summer. Slinky geothermal heat exchangers have been installed.

The pilots in GEOFIT have resulted in a series of lessons learned and validation of scientific progress. Sharing these experiences is a key objective of the webinar.

3rd Training: GEOFIT Training on Radar Technologies for Ground Inspection and Structural Health Monitoring, Thermal Load Estimation of Buildings and Use of Digital Twin Management Software (GeoBIM)

Date: 11th October 2022 | 10 – 12 CEST

Speakers: Guido Manacorda (IDSGEO), Fabio Giannino (IDSGEO), Joan Tarragona (EURECAT), Alessandro Piccinini (NUI Galway), Andrea Frazzica (CNR ITAE), Giuseppe Dino (CNR ITAE), Hugo Viot (NOBATEK), Henrikki Pieskä (KTH), Adriaan Brebels (iLECO) and Mikel Borràs & Juan Ramón (IDP))

What to expect?

This third and final training webinar will present a set of supporting technologies and processes for geothermal retrofitting resultant of work carried out in the EU-funded project GEOFIT. Topics and results to be presented include: 

  • The use of Ground Penetrating Radars for soil inspection and Ground-Based Syntethic Aperture Radar for structural health monitoring / site quality assurance (with respect to risk)
  • Novel approaches and models to simulate the energy load of retrofitted buildings including the validation process
  • An advanced energy management system capable of making decisions based on energy tariffs
  • A newly developed digital twin environment called GEOBIM that including models of ground source heat exchangers

These technologies and their associated services / processes have been validated during the GEOFIT scientific program and pilot activities.

Don’t miss the opportuniy to learn about GEOFIT main findings and results, especially, how you can benefit from this technology!

Model development and performance analysis of Novel Shallow Ground Heat Exchangers

by Henk Witte – Groenholland

One of the key aspects of the EU GEOFIT project is the development of integrated engineering design tools for different types of ground heat exchangers. This toolkit provides design methodologies for vertical borehole heat exchangers, shallow horizontal and slinky type heat exchangers, and earth basket (spiral) heat exchangers.

Ground heat exchangers (GHEX) are used to provide a heat source or heat sink used for heating or cooling a building. They are typically constructed of plastic pipes installed in different configurations in the ground. A fluid is circulated in the pipes and the GHEX extracts heat from the ground (heating operation) or rejects heat to the ground (cooling operation).

For the validation of the analytical solutions used in the integrated engineering design toolkit, especially the new finite line source solutions developed for earth basket (spiral) heat exchangers laboratory experiments (figure 1) and detailed numerical simulations (figure 2) have been performed.

Figure 1. Experimental sandbox setup for earth basket (spiral) heat exchanger characterisation (foto: AIT)

The performance of a ground heat exchanger can be summarized to two key parameters:

  1. Pressure drop: A measure of the pump energy needed to move the fluid through the heat exchanger.
  2. Thermal resistance between fluid and ground: A measure of the thermal performance of the GHEX.
Figure 2. CFD simulation of earth basket (spiral) heat exchanger (foto: AIT).

The goal of the performance analysis is to identify key-design parameters affecting the overall system performance. Parameters investigated include:

  • Diameter of the earth basket (spiral) heat exchanger
  • Pipe diameter in relation to flow rate and pressure drop
  • Distance between adjacent rings in relation to total length and buried depth
  • Soil thermal parameters

Evaluation of the results of the performance analysis should take into account the actual effect on system performance. As an example, it can be attempted to reduce the thermal resistance in all cases as much as possible. However, the effect on performance is related to the actual heat rate of the system (figure 3). It is clear that with a low heat rate (5 W/m) the thermal resistance can be allowed to be high without affecting performance. These results will have implications for operating these systems during part-load conditions, which is important in view of the application of frequency-controlled compressors in the heat pumps. In this way, the results of the GEOFIT project not only provide designers with the tools to evaluate different types of ground heat exchangers in one integrated tool but also allows optimization of actual system operational control.

Figure 3. Relation between thermal resistance (fluid to ground) and energy performance degradation for different specific heat rates.


Meeng, C.L (2020). Development of an engineering tool for the design of novel shallow ground heat exchangers – GEOFIT. MSc Thesis TU Eindhoven.

Dörr, C.J. (2020). CFD Analysis of Ground Heat Exchangers. MSc Thesis Montan Universität Leoben, Austrian Institute of Technology.

Kling, S. (2020). Experimental characterization of Helix-Type Ground Source Heat Exchangers Configurations for Developing a Standardized Design Tool. MSc Thesis FH Burgenland University of Applied Sciences, Austrian Institute of Technology.

Novel particle-based drill modelling by LTU

Using numerical modelling for simulating manufacturing processes and predicting final properties is more or less mandatory in many industries. However, it is barely used within the rock drilling market despite being a powerful and cost-efficient method.

This is why GEOFIT will introduce a novel particle-based finite element method for modelling the drilling and excavation process. With this new approach, we aim to assist operators in choosing optimum drilling parameters and tools to reduce wear These simualtions will then be validated by comparing the outcome with the data from some of the pilots.

They key strength behind these simulations is their potential to simulate the rock fragmentation processes. The rock material will be mechanically characterized and finally the numerical approach will be validated by comparing the outcome with the data from some of the pilots.

In this video below you can see some of the numerical simulations developed up to date by the group at the Division of Mechanics of Solid Materials of Lulea University of Technology (LTU) for the GEOFIT project.

Still curious about our drilling innovations? Make sure to read EURECAT’s article on their work on Drilling Bit Materials for an Improved Performance.

Completion of Civil Works at Perugia

Civil works began on December 3rd, 2020 at the Perugia Pilot. At that time, partner IDSGEORADAR performed a ground-penetrating radar measurements survey. Meanwhile, partner R2M operated UAV flights with and without a thermal camera. And all throughout the drilling phase, partner UNIPG completed the Structural Health Monitoring (SHM).

After one week, the works completed the shallow excavations of up to 2.5 meters deep. This meant the area was ready for the 50 centimeters of the sand bed that increases the conductivity on the ground.

Later, on January 11th, the company in charge of the fieldwork started the installation of the slinky GHEXs that go 2 meters deep. It considers 5 parallel trenches, with 1.35 m of mutual distance, 24 meters of average trench length, and 53 rings for each trench.

After the GHEXs installation, on January 18th, GROENHOLLAND came to the Perugia Pilot to install the fiber optic cable (FOC) monitoring. This technology has a particular approach that allows remote checking of the new system’s performance while matting underground temperature.

To increase the innovative aspects and the scientific relevance, UNIPG installed on the first two trenches, two parallel tubes of a drip plant that allows experimental evaluations and comparisons that consider different boundary conditions and configurations, such as with varying ground hydration content.

Drip plant in the first two trenches.

Finally, civil works were completed on January 28th as soon as all the excavated area was backfilled with an additional 50 cm of sand. Also, the ground excavated material was reused on-site.

Backfilling the area with other 50 cm of sand.

Furthermore, all the heating/cooling system components: heat pumps, boilers, tanks, are available on-site. And today, FAHRENHEIT’s chiller also arrived at Perugia!

Presently, UNIPG is working to complete the whole installation by the end of March and to move forward with the commissioning of the system.

The GEOBIM Platform

In the GEOFIT project, heating and cooling components design and integration are developed for the different layouts and demo-sites and comprise a detailed design and description of the different subsystems or components to form a complete system.

Key elements and components, as well as their specifications, are being developed and inventoried as part of the GEOFIT project activities. As in previous work, the deployment of low-invasive risk assessment, site-inspection, and worksite-building monitoring techniques extend its use as a monitoring tool for geothermal based retrofitting operations and deploy novel tools enabling the view of assets in a cartographic or a geographical environment and comparing with the information stored into GIS collectors and the Web Map Services (WMS).

A common data environment containing GIS/BIM models/sensor data allows users to locate, map, update and share objects and subsurface utility information simultaneously, contributing to the realization of a new “GEOBIM platform”. The objective of the GEOBIM platform is to assess and verify the integration of the GEOFIT solutions in specific cases developing the respective different BIM models over a geographical information layer, aiming at replication and modularity of the solutions, outputs for exploitation, impact assessment, and dissemination of the results.

The implementation of the previously defined system is addressed for buildings with different typologies and energy demands. Then, integration of the conditions and the building’s engineering specifications are defined within the GEOBIM platform.

The GEOBIM platform considers the scalability and flexibility of the data integration and analysis tools development to support interoperability among the elements installed. The design inputs come from:

  1. Boreholes and ground excavations information
  2. Geothermal heat exchangers designs
  3. Ground source heat pumps designs
  4. Heat pumps designs
  5. Heating and cooling systems designs
  6. Sensors information
  7. Simulations data

By covering the 7 dimensions of the #BIM approach, the GEOBIM platform implements the following functions:

  • Project visualization
  • Data management
  • Demo-site analysis functions
  • Geothermal performance
  • Heating/Cooling performance
  • GEOFIT assets management
  • The lifecycle of systems and assets

Within the GEOBIM platform development (understood as a common data environment), model-based cooperation is the advanced portrayal of the general GEOFIT development process. This portrayal is made in collaboration with the different partners involved in the design, modeling, construction/fabrication, installation, and commissioning, who utilize different CAD-based tools. The Common Data Environment (CDE) is characterized as a typical advanced task space, which gives very much characterized collaborative territory to the undertaking partners joined with clear status definitions and a strong work process portrayal for sharing and endorsement forms and objects data.

Written by Sergio Velasquez, from IDP

Want to learn more?

Click on this link to have a look a the 10 Geobim videos posted on the project’s Youtube channel and thank you for watching!

Videos produced by COMET

Ground Penetrating Radar Analysis at Perugia

On the 6th of October, IDS GeoRadar was at the pilot in Perugia to perform a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey over the area where excavation works will be executed. 

Nowadays, GPR is commonly used to detect both metallic and nonmetallic underground objects, as well as providing 3D location, reporting depth, and “X,Y” location.  

However, this technology has some drawbacks. Mainly, that it requires an expert, typically a trained geophysicist, to interpret the scans. In GEOFIT this issue was addressed and an algorithm, capable of detecting most of the buried utilities, has been developed. 

At Perugia, IDS GeoRadar used a recently developed compact GPR array solution designed to provide a 3D mapping of underground utilities. This is called STREAM C and uses a massive antenna array with two polarizations that provide a huge amount of data, thus dramatically increasing the detection performance and the level of accuracy of the survey.  

The analysis of the collected data will therefore allow avoiding damages to the buried infrastructures when performing the excavation for the heat-exchanger installation.