Test facilities

The CSTB semi-virtual laboratory – the only one of its kind in France – assesses building energy systems, such as boilers, heat pumps and cogeneration facilities. The real system is tested in a virtual environment that replicates the behavior of a building and its facilities, which are subjected to the climate and occupant usage. This laboratory is valuable for quickly characterizing the energy performance of innovative products.

Semi-virtual laboratory for assessment of multi-energy systems for buildings

Testing innovative multi-energy systems

The CSTB semi-virtual laboratory at Sophia Antipolis tests facilities and systems that produce (boilers, heat pumps, cogeneration facilities, etc.), store (electric batteries, solar storage, etc.) or consume (household appliances, controlled mechanical ventilation (CMV), etc.) energy. It is designed for facilities and systems that use water, air or electricity as an energy carrier—or a combination of the three—with rated output between 2 and 20 kW.

For manufacturers, the tests performed in this new laboratory are particularly useful for prototype systems. They make it possible to:

  • Learn more about energy performance and robustness of facilities;
  • Improve their operation with respect to needs;
  • Better promote them to end users on the market.

Features of the semi-virtual laboratory

  • Testing performed with quick turnaround (about 10 days). Results are then extrapolated to determine the annual performance of the product.
  • Testing of the actual product rather than a digital model. Testing takes place under dynamic conditions, meaning that system management and usage are included (for example, control parameters).
  • Testing of products in various climates and taking into account different occupant behaviors (usages are simulated with 2,000 standard profiles based on statistical data provided by the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE)).
  • Testing products in extreme climatic conditions, and observing their reactions to specific conditions.

The semi-virtual laboratory consists of three distinct elements:

  • The real system to be tested. Systems can vary in complexity depending on the service offered by the manufacturer;
  • Virtual components representing the environment in which the system operates and that will be emulated (called the emulator). These components are represented as dynamic digital models changing in multiple simulation environments (TRNSYS, Simulink®, etc.);
  • The interface for bilateral communication between the real system and the virtual environment.