Major test facilities

At the Sophia-Antipolis technology park, the CSTB semi-virtual laboratory - the only one of its kind in France - evaluates energy systems in buildings. Real components are tested in a virtual environment which simulates the behavior of a building and its equipment, subjected to climatic changes and the varying usages of its occupants. This asset is particularly useful for rapidly characterizing the energy performance of innovative products.

Tests of equipment and multi-function or multi-energy systems

The CSTB semi-virtual laboratory is used for testing equipment/systems which produce energy (boilers, heat pumps, cogenerators, etc.), store it (electric batteries, solar storage, etc.) or consume it (household electric equipment, Controlled Mechanical Ventilation, etc.). The only laboratory of its kind in France, the CSTB’s semi-virtual laboratory is capable of testing systems combining energy carriers: water, air and electricity.
This facility is particularly useful as numerous innovative systems are being developed to improve the energy performance of buildings. Examples include multi-energy systems using several energy sources (thermal and electric), either separately or combined. It is also used on multi-function systems combining heat, ventilation, air-conditioning and domestic hot water.

Tests in the semi-virtual laboratory allow an assessment of annual energy performances and/or the assessment of the robustness of complex systems in just a few days. The tests are reproducible because the testing conditions are perfectly mastered. This type of test is especially useful when an innovation is at the prototype stage, before onsite testing.

Real-life experiments in a semi-virtual laboratory

The semi-virtual laboratory has three distinct parts:

  • the real system to be tested. It may be more or less complex, depending on the manufacturer’s proposed offer.
  • virtual components representing the environment in which the system will be used and which are emulated (known as emulators). The components are represented in the form of dynamic digital models functioning in multiple simulation environments (TRNSYS, Simulink, etc.).
  • the interface which enables bilateral communication between the real system and the virtual environment.

Compared with digital simulation alone, this method has the advantage of testing a real product rather than a model of the product.

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  • The semi-virtual laboratory is suitable for equipment/systems with rated output between 2 and 20 kW.
  • The climatic chambers were designed to allow testing of airflow equipment/systems at any latitude on the globe.
  • The behavior of building occupants is also taken into account. More than 2000 standard profiles have been developed from statistical data supplied by INSEE, to represent the usage of equipment in French homes.