Better performing buildings are on the horizon thanks to improived systems and better integration, says John Burton and Jose Laloggia, enabling all building systems to operate in harmony
The world of indoor climate solutions has changed dramatically over the course of the past century, due largely to technical innovations that make buildings better and help owners and operators accomplish their missions and achieve their most critical goals.
No doubt the next century will bring about innovations every bit as influential as such technology as the convector radiator, turbo-vacuum compressor, unitary air conditioning and building automation controls.
There seems no sense in waiting for the ‘next big thing’ when we have the technology and know-how today to extract the tremendous energy reserves that exist within millions of underperforming buildings.
Industry leaders like Trane continue to explore concepts that apply to both new and existing buildings and promise to take energy efficiency to new heights in the next several decades:
The biggest leap forward in building efficiency will come not only from improving the performance of individual systems such as HVAC, lighting and access control, it will also come from enabling all building systems to operate in harmony.
Advances in control technology, wireless communication and the continuing move to common operating systems will enable unprecedented interoperability of key building systems and allow more sophisticated building control strategies.
Innovative HVAC approaches will either come on line or grow in popularity as the drive to reduce energy consumption continues. Examples include geothermal heat pumps, thermal storage and modular HVAC systems. Performance of even the best-designed and operated buildings degrades over time.
More organisations will adopt commissioning, recommissioning and continuous commissioning strategies to help realise the full value of their high performance building investments.
The move to “intelligent services” and predictive maintenance models will accelerate as building owners and operators strive to improve reliability, reduce operating costs and do more with less.
Intelligent services combine technology, access to unprecedented levels of data and sophisticated analytics to continuously collect, interpret and act upon data from building systems and controls to optimise operational performance.
Sensors and smart controllers built into HVAC equipment and connected to the internet will fuel this analysis. Intelligent analytics will be able to study equipment usage patterns and to ‘learn from past experience’.
In such a way building operators can focus resources on other priorities and reduce the challenges associated with a shortage of qualified HVAC specialists.
Building modelling and analysis software has come a long way since its introduction and the science of modelling continues to advance.
Features enable building owners and their energy services partners to compare the impact of various choices and use net present value (NPV) based cost analysis, which provides a more realistic picture of the total savings that energy conservation measures will generate over a building’s lifecycle.
Modelling also helps designers accurately match building system capacity to requirements.
The new generation of building occupants has different expectations than their older colleagues.
They expect to interact with building systems using their smart devices, for example – which is changing the way the building industry thinks about user interface. This has implications for building owners and operators and the systems they choose for their buildings.
The combination of automated controls, wireless communications and more sophisticated electronic sensors will make it easier for operators to personalise comfort settings for individuals and to reduce energy costs by avoiding cooling or heating vacant areas to the same level as occupied ones.
Water scarcity is likely to become one of the pivotal environmental concerns of this century and HVAC system providers will no doubt be challenged to develop systems that operate with less water.
And like manufacturers of other equipment, HVAC companies will need to thoroughly examine their products’ environmental end-to-end footprint.
Many of tomorrow’s high performance buildings will generate some or most of the energy they use onsite, often using alternative generation methods such as solar, wind or fuel cells.
The demand for energy in the developed and developing world continues to grow exponentially, with no end in sight.
Finding sustainable energy solutions is a complex problem. Solving them will require us to continue to develop safe and efficient methods to find, develop and produce fossil fuels while also exploring alternative forms of energy generation.
John Burton is country leader for Trane UK & Ireland and Jose Laloggia is EMEA vice-president of the manufacturer’s controls, turnkey solutions, services and parts business