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On the up Down Under

For the second year running, AIRAH’s Future of HVAC conference provided insight into what’s on the HVAC horizon and covered a wide range of topics, writes Matthew Dillon

In July, beneath Sydney’s Australian National Maritime Museum, some of the Australian HVAC&R industry’s brightest minds gathered to ponder what the future has in store.

As part of the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Airconditioning and Heating’s (AIRAH) two-day Future of HVAC 2014 conference, experts from a range of fields, backgrounds and occupations within the HVAC industry shared their knowledge on their individual areas of expertise.

“For the second year running, the Future of HVAC conference was an astonishing success,” says AIRAH COO Neil Cox. “Attendees went home with new ideas, perspectives, and insights to consider. This conference saw some of our most thought-provoking and exciting presentations yet.”

The conference was attended by more than 120 delegates, all eager to learn what is on the horizon for the HVAC industry. There was a focus on new technology and research, design for a changing climate, and the future of manufacturing.

Keynote speaker Paul Stoller, M.AIRAH, spoke about designing buildings to be more resilient. He emphasised the importance of creating buildings, landscapes and infrastructure that can cope with changing weather, more frequent and severe events, and disruptions to critical systems.

He also explored how resilience can be implemented into existing design practices.

“Resilient design can make buildings and landscapes safer and more secure, and increase their long-term value,” said Stoller. “It can be incorporated easily into sustainable design and risk-management processes already widely in use across the property industry, and typically for minimal first cost.

“It is a responsibility of all design professionals, including building services engineers.”

Commenting on the event, Mr Stoller said: “I learned a lot about refrigerants and the logistical consequences of changing them in one of the sessions. “I also appreciated the detailed research done on residential energy use by CSIRO.”

Stand-out speakers

Following on from Mr Stoller’s look at how our buildings stand up to nature, speaker Matthew Webb, M.AIRAH, took audiences through some of the ways our buildings can learn from nature – more specifically, biomimicry in design.

The presentation from Warwick Stannus, M.AIRAH, on prefabricated HVAC systems and the talk from Leon Wurfel, M.AIRAH, on advanced controls were also highlights. Ronald Wood’s presentation on living green walls also created some buzz, as did the manufacturing panel that looked into the state of Australian manufacturing now and into the future. 

Dr Mike Dennis, M.AIRAH, from the CSIRO, presented on three complementary HVAC technologies that are being researched at ANU: solar cooling, modified ice storage and new heat pump technology.

“There is still plenty of development potential left in heat pumps. We expect solar cooling to become both practical and cost-effective,” said Mr Dennis. “Our aim at ANU is to bring together a number of technologies to reduce the environmental and financial cost of HVAC. Practical and effective solar cooling is top of our list for now.”

Dennis says that, for him, the conference highlighted how crucial it was to be forward-thinking when it comes to HVAC design.

“During the conference, someone mentioned in passing that our industry’s designs lock in current practice for the life of that system,” says Dennis. “This might be 20 years for a chiller, but much longer for buildings. This means we absolutely must be thinking about the future of HVAC right now.”

Conference attendees remarked on the breadth of ideas, trends and topics.

“The conference was well-attended, and so provided excellent cross-fertilisation of ideas,” says AIRAH life member Clive Broadbent. “Many speakers were at the top of their respective organisations and could talk with authority.

“There was one aspect that impressed me – that this industry can get its act together, be viable, and lead the way into a better future, feafeafeand can do so without much government support,” says Broadbent. “The future is what matters.”

The Future of HVAC conference was held in concert with a research summit. Hosted at the University of Technology, Sydney, and supported by the Institute for Sustainable Futures, the Research Summit was attended by a range of stakeholders from the HVAC&R industry. On the agenda were subjects such as collaboration with industry, research gaps and funding.

“The research summit really complemented the well-thought-out programme,” says AIRAH CEO Phil Wilkinson, M.AIRAH.

“Bringing together academics, consultants, manufacturers and government, the summit made considerable headway in its discussion around helping our industry establish and maintain a strong culture of research and development.”

Matthew Dillon is communications manager at the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air conditioning and Heating. Visit http://bit.ly/1nSKAf6 to watch the conference video wrap-up on AIRAH’s YouTube channel

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