In March, the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) and various bodies from the construction industry called on the UK Government to impose stricter energy performance standards in an effort to ensure carbon emissions in new buildings are at zero by 2030.
With no change being made to Building Regulations since 2014, the UKGBC want policies to be revised to ensure that adequate investment is made and innovative systems and approaches developed during the next ten years.
If the UK is to fulfil its low-carbon commitments in the Clean Growth Strategy and the 25 Year Environment Plan, it is dependent on the foundations and technological innovations being in place to meet future demand for clean energy and carbon-free emissions. The UKGBC says the Government must now put in place policies that support those ambitions.
With the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) estimating that about 30 per cent of greenhouse gases in the UK are generated by buildings, the UKGBC thinks the construction industry has a large part to play in the drive to reduce carbon emissions.
The Carbon Trust estimates that heating and hot water use around 60 per cent of a building’s total energy, while ventilation can account for between 25 and 30 per cent of heat loss in commercial and industrial buildings.
According to some estimates, air conditioning can increase a building’s carbon emissions by 100 per cent, and air-conditioning systems could make up as much as a tenth of the UK’s total electricity consumption.
Around two thirds of offices and a third of retail premises in the UK are thought to be air conditioned, and this percentage is growing.
So how will the drive to reduce carbon emissions in UK construction impact the HVAC sector?
Changes and developments
Changes and huge advances in green HVAC technologies are making traditional systems more energy efficient and also enabling the development of new, cleaner, smarter systems and those that use renewable sources.
HVAC manufacturers continue to work on improvements in design, management, operation, maintenance, system control and user behaviour. They are embracing breakthroughs in renewable energy and smart technology to develop and refine existing HVAC components and systems, as well as to create new low-carbon ones.
For those working in the HVAC industry, including HVAC engineers and sales people, it will be vital to keep abreast of the changes to new and existing products, as well as staying updated on Building Regulations and energy-saving initiatives, directives and policies.
Some key areas where changes are taking place include:
Wireless technology has been a growing area in many sectors in recent years, and the HVAC industry is no exception. The UK’s drive towards a reduction in carbon emissions looks set to further the growth in the integration of energy-efficient smart systems into HVAC products and systems.
‘Smart’ homes and offices have Wi-Fi capability, internet-based controls, and self-diagnostic and reporting capabilities. This allows consumers to control their heating, ventilation and air conditioning needs through their smartphones or computers, and can also enable monitoring and maintenance to be carried out remotely, again helping to reduce the carbon footprint.
Smart HVAC systems can also detect things like the presence or absence of people, whether windows and doors are open, a room’s temperature and carbon emissions, and the busiest and quietest occupancy times. They then adjust their output accordingly.
Clean energy and renewable technologies
Under the UKGBC proposals, energy would be restricted in new constructions, with any surplus power demands provided through renewable energy.
As the use of clean energy has grown across many sectors, HVAC manufacturers are keeping pace with technology to ensure that products which provide heating, ventilation and air conditioning in our buildings use renewable technologies to keep efficiency high and carbon emissions low.
For example, developments in thermodynamics and the harnessing of solar energy and ice power are helping to improve the efficiency of air conditioning units.
System and equipment maintenance will be a major area of opportunity for the HVAC sector as the drive towards lower carbon emissions gathers pace. To meet energy saving targets, new buildings will require HVAC systems that can be easily maintained to ensure that they perform at their most energy efficient.
Products using smart software give HVAC maintenance engineers and technicians the ability to inspect systems and diagnose problems remotely, meaning they can carry out their work more efficiently.
Upgrades and retrofits
Although the UKGBC is focused on new buildings, there is also a big opportunity in the industry for the upgrading of inefficient, old and badly maintained HVAC systems, through which a huge amount of energy is lost.
There will also be opportunities in the retrofitting of more energy-efficient HVAC components or systems, as well as those using smart technology, to outdated systems in older buildings.
Sustainable retrofit technology can lead to a reduction in energy use of between 25 and 50 per cent, with features such as economisers, variable fan speeds, demand-response ventilation and smart controls becoming increasingly used.
One-product and compact solutions
As demand grows for more cost-effective, sustainable and efficient HVAC elements of new builds, one-product solutions look set to enjoy a surge in demand.
Equally, the trend towards more compact products and systems is also a growing area because of the opportunities offered in the saving of energy, cost and space.
The use of modular HVAC systems – which use multiple separate units – is expected to continue its upsurge in popularity because of their benefits in energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, flexibility and ease of installation and maintenance.
HVAC products which can be built away from the site and easily assembled once in situ provide a more energy-efficient alternative to traditional solutions. The trend for off-site assembly is growing particularly in the new build sector, and looks set to continue under the drive towards lower carbon emissions.
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