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Looking beyond the green bling

This month many of you in the cooling industry will be visiting the show Ecobuild, that temple to all things environmentally friendly.

The religious metaphor is not all that wild as many developers seem to have bought green technology in the way the Medieval pilgrims used to be able to buy ‘indulgences’ to ensure their ultimate salvation. The way to ensure that the Planning Authorities are happy with your building is to meet their renewables obligations with judicious use of a biomass boiler here or there. Like those pilgrims of old, such purchases didn’t really change anyone’s way of life, you just have to have bought enough of them.

At the same time, plenty of clients have been intent on specifying all the green technology they can get their hands on without giving a great deal of thought as whether it is best for the operational use of the building. Look out for this, well coined as green bling, at Ecobuild.

These two elements have conspired to make life quite difficult for those who operate in the cooling and heat pump industry  - first you have to your  convince your client, then their consultant, and then the planning authority that it is appropriate, that it does the job better than the other stuff, that it is a better investment over its lifetime etc etc. And let’s face it, a stack of heat pumps is just not as sexy as a roof full of Photovoltaic panels is it?

It hasn’t been helped by the insistence by many planners – and the architects of the Renewable Heat Incentive – that heat pumps only comply with the renewables specs if they do not cool. Thus we have the situation where consultants have been specifying heat pumps for heat and chillers for cooling, when the heat pump could do both.

And cooling has been skirted around altogether by many in the newbuild industry – it’s a guilty secret, that you can gauge by looking at the number of Ecobuild exhibitors offering cooling technology.

The good news is this now seems to be changing. Consultants report a shift towards carbon reduction rather than renewables numbers which can only benefit heat pumps – the view from consultants such as ATT – Sustain is so pro the technology that it will have many leaping from their chairs in excitement. And at least one London authority now recognises VRFs as renewables for cooling and heating. Perhaps we have reached the Age of Enlightenment.

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