Blue planet, green ideas | A converted convent will heat itself with recycled heat

A real leap into the future is being made in the former convent of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family in the city of Sherbrooke, leaning against Mount Bellevue. At the heart of the foundations of the former nuns’ gymnasium, a gigantic heat recycling matrix is ​​about to be activated and will make it possible to completely heat a new real estate project, notably housing housing reserved for single mothers. Where does this heat come from? Of a powerful quantum computer.

You have to go through a maze of corridors, pass through the old large chapel, go down some stairs, then take an old elevator to discover the facilities in the old gymnasium. In appearance, the room resembles a computer server room of a large technology company. But in reality, it is the central nervous system of an energy loop operating from the heat releases of a hybrid quantum computing center. A computer whose operation releases a lot of heat, which will therefore be recycled.


Matthieu Cardinal, promoter of the Humano District real estate project, in the rapidly transforming neighborhood of the former convent of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family, in Sherbrooke

One day – perhaps in the not-so-distant future – we may think that it will be possible to heat an entire city using recycled heat, according to the developer of the Humano District real estate project, Matthieu Cardinal, of First Real Estate Services. The instigator of the project has joined forces with several partners to recycle heat, notably the University of Sherbrooke and firms specializing in quantum physics.

Like recovering heat from an oven

“It seems surreal, but it’s the start of a great story. It’s a bit as if someone set out with the idea of ​​recovering the heat emanating from cooking a dish in the oven to redistribute it in other buildings,” explains the vice-rector for valorization and development. partnerships of the University of Sherbrooke, Vincent Aimez, directly involved in the project with his team of university experts.

Christophe Rodrigues is head of technological design at Exaion Groupe EDF, whose ambition is to produce energy that is neutral in greenhouse gases (CO).2). All by recycling heat. He oversees the Humano District project in collaboration with several experts, including those from the NPO PINQ⁠2 (Québec Digital and Quantum Innovation Platform). The organization is mandated by the Quebec government to accelerate the digital transformation of businesses. It’s PINQ⁠2 which operates the quantum computer at the heart of the real estate project in the former convent.


Christophe Rodrigues, head of technological design at Exaion Groupe EDF, in the gymnasium of the former convent which houses the heat recycling system

By revealing to The Press the heat recycling system which will soon be put into operation, Mr. Rodrigues explains that it is a center cooled in a closed circuit with water. Concretely, the recovered heat will heat the former convent, the housing and the premises of organizations with a social mission. Each unit will have its own heat pump.

“We are tackling the waste of heat,” summarizes Mr. Rodrigues.


Mr. Rodrigues explains that the main issue for expanding this system to other real estate projects, or even entire neighborhoods, is financing. “It’s extremely expensive,” he said. Currently, around twenty projects are underway in Quebec, particularly in hospitals and agricultural greenhouses.

There is a significant initial investment, but it pays off in the long term.

Christophe Rodrigues, head of technological design at Exaion Groupe EDF

Vice-rector Vincent Aimez adds that the University of Sherbrooke already recovers heat from computers and fireplaces to heat its large campus.

“We have a system of pipes connecting the different university buildings. That’s good, but we decided to ask ourselves how we can go further. In Quebec, we are known for our low-cost electricity, our clean electricity. It is more expensive to recycle it than to let it escape into the sky. We are developing solutions [à ces problèmes], thanks to this real estate project. »

Volcanic geothermal energy to heat Reykjavik

Elsewhere in the world, several projects are underway, notably in Denmark and Germany, he adds. “In Iceland, for example, we are already using volcanic geothermal energy to heat the entire capital, Reykjavik. »

Promoter Matthieu Cardinal adds that the partnership with the University is essential to this project. “The electrical power of the computing center belongs to the University of Sherbrooke,” he explains. It is so high in quantum terms that it has the potential to propel this technology into all industries in Quebec. » Big advantage: the computing center is so powerful that it could manage the heat recycling of all industries in Quebec.

Learn more

  • The future of heating
    The government of Quebec announced in spring 2023 funding of 162 million to recover thermal waste from large industrial installations. Industrial and other emissions in Quebec alone would have the capacity to heat the entire province.

    Source: energy transition. govt. sth. That

    Humano District in brief
    The project is located on the site of the community of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family, in Sherbrooke, on the edge of the University campus and the future Mont-Bellevue university nature reserve. Land area: 25 acres, including 10 acres given to the City for public use and 15 reserved for the development of the new district. Buildings to be built: 600 new multi-family housing units, plus 150 units in the former convent and a few commercial buildings for local businesses. Investment: 210 million dollars for the real estate part and 20 million for the energy loop.

    Source: First Real Estate Services

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