HVAC Systems, TABS, Thermal Comfort

The Benefits of Thermally Active Building Systems

The use of thermally active building systems (TABS) started in Switzerland in the early 1990’s. Mostly used in new office buildings, TABS have been installed in offices across Europe, North America and Asia.

TABS are water-based heating/cooling systems in which pipes are embedded in concrete slabs of buildings. The main advantage of using this system is that it reduces the peak load by activating the thermal storage capacity of the buildings concrete slabs.

In this blog, we will take a simple look at how TABS work and the main benefits of using this system in new construction projects.

How TABS Work


When planning an office or commercial building, architects and designers need to include heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). Each one can be a considerable task and investment in itself but can now be simplified by including the HVAC system into the construction itself.

The thermally active building system (TABS) utilizes the concrete’s thermal mass by embedding pipes carrying water for heating and cooling in the building’s structure. This way, ceilings, floors or walls contribute primarily to the sensible cooling, and secondarily to the base heating of the building. The embedded pipes activate the concrete core in the building mass for storage and discharge of thermal loads. While the TAB system is not an air-conditioner and is not a substitute for a ventilation system, the task of conventional technologies is reduced to a minimum. This helps ensure the best possible thermal comfort for building occupants, in an invisible, inaudible way without draughts.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • Operation at temperatures that are close to the ambient environment. Perfect for integration of renewable and free cooling sources.
  • Complies with sustainable building certificates like LEED, BREEAM and DGNB.
  • Easy to combine with conventional heating, cooling and ventilation systems.


The Upside to Using TABS


The main benefits in short and long term use of TABS is increased comfort, more reliability with less moving parts and reduced energy use.  Thermal comfort is ensured by delivering optimal temperatures with the use of a silent system that does not circulate air: no dust, no draughts – ensuring a healthy indoor environment. The invisible system also gives architects and designers the freedom of space and flexible indoor design as ducts are significantly reduced.

The reliability of the TAB system has been confirmed in many building projects worldwide, with safely embedded heat exchangers in building constructions. Low energy use is achieved by a mean operating water temperature (18–28°C) that is close to the ambient environment. This increases heat-source efficiency and enables the use of renewable and free cooling sources in accordance with a low-energy design principle.

Finally, the TAB system is cost effective. This starts in the construction phase and lasts throughout the life of the building.

  • Low installation costs: 30 –50% savings due to smaller refrigeration, smaller heating units and reduced air-conditioning ducting to hygienic volumes.
  • Low maintenance and operating costs: Up to 50% savings compared to conventional air-conditioning systems!
  • Fast installation and improved quality control due to prefabricated construction technique.
  • Perfect for the integration of renewable energy sources.
  • Ideally suited for modern sustainable buildings incorporating efficient insulation and solar shading.
  • Reduction of building height and fewer materials due to lack of suspended ceilings.
  • Invisible system that gives maximum freedom for architectural and indoor design.
  • Avoid the “Sick Building Syndrome”: The TAB system creates neither noise, draughts nor dust

Thermally active building systems have become a standard for energy efficient use of renewable energy for heating and cooling due to the excellent thermal comfort it offers. It can be best applied to a variety of projects that include commercial and office buildings, showrooms, libraries and museums, healthcare centers and hospitals, and schools and universities.


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