Roundtable: What’s next for heating, cooling and ventilation?

How does our approach to services need to adapt to tackle issues such as climate change? A CIBSE Journal roundtable, sponsored by Mitsubishi Electric, examined the factors influencing the design of heating, cooling and ventilating – now and in the future. Andrew Brister reports

As our shores get repeated batterings from ferocious storms this winter – and households and businesses suffer the misery of flooding – climate change continues to hit the headlines. In December, leaders from across the globe agreed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris to adopt ‘a binding treaty’ that commits countries to making massive cuts in their emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.

CIBSE members in the UK and overseas are at the forefront of driving down carbon emissions from buildings. Indeed, climate change is one of five areas that CIBSE has identified as priorities. The others are whole-life building, systems integration, retrofit and refurbishment, and health and wellbeing (see panel ‘CIBSE key priorities’).

Who’s who around the table

  • Wayne Buckley, business development director, Temperature Control
  • Sebastien Desmottes, product marketing manager, Mitsubishi Electric UK
  • Susie Diamond, partner, Inkling
  • Thomas Doyle, principal mechanical engineer, Capita Symonds Tim Dwyer, technical editor, CIBSE Journal, and UCL teaching fellow 
  • Andy Ford, director of the Centre for Efficient and Renewable Energy in Buildings, London South Bank University
  • Mark Grayston, product manager, Mitsubishi Electric UK 
  • Mitesh Panikker, purchasing manager, Bourne Leisure
  • Alex Smith, editor, CIBSE Journal
  • Philip Todd, managing director, BSE3D

It is within this framework that CIBSE Journal and Mitsubishi Electric convened a roundtable to debate ‘Heating, cooling and ventilating buildings – now and in the future’. A broad topic, perhaps, but one that allowed the panel to tackle issues that matter, including procurement, regulations and system integration.

If one key message was to emerge, it was this: teamwork and collaboration across the supply chain is vital for project success. Hopefully, BIM will prove to be a catalyst.

Wayne Buckley, business development director, Temperature Control

Sebastien Desmottes, product marketing manager, Mitsubishi Electric UK

Change is gonna come

What technologies are we currently seeing in the marketplace, and what can we expect in the future? Horses for courses, perhaps, but some trends emerged among the panel. ‘We see a lot of VRF [variable refrigerant flow] cooling systems rather than chillers,’ said Thomas Doyle, principal mechanical engineer at Capita Symonds. ‘Use of biomass has dropped off; we still see a lot of gas-fired heating, and combined heat and power (CHP) is great if you’ve got the right kind of load profile, because you are then offsetting your electricity consumption from the grid.

‘The reduction in the cost of solar photovoltaic technology means you can use that to help you, too.’

Doyle also raised the issue of grid decarbonisation, which could signal a shift away from CHP to more electric systems.

Susie Diamond, partner, Inkling

Thomas Doyle, principal mechanical engineer, Capita Symonds

‘It is interesting to look at the true carbon effect of different systems,’ said Tim Dwyer, technical editor at CIBSE Journal and University College London teaching fellow. ‘The seasonal efficiencies of VRF are amazingly high, with CoPs [coefficients of performance] of 6, 6.5, even 7, which knock out gas as a fuel. If we do move to decarbonise the grid, we will start to see more heat pumps.’

Inkling partner Susie Diamond raised concerns over such a shift to heat-pump technology. ‘Do we have enough peak capacity to cope, for example in winter, when temperatures are -4°C and heat pump efficiency is at its lowest? How does that square on a city-wide scale?’

Andy Ford, director of the Centre for Efficient and Renewable Energy in Buildings, London South Bank University (LSBU), felt that storage of heat will be important in this respect. ‘Cold water heat networks could be used to deal with the efficiency of heat pumps at different times of year. For example, datacentres reject a lot of heat that could be used elsewhere. The question is, of course, how to do that in a way that is affordable.’

Tim Dwyer, technical editor, CIBSE Journal, and UCL teaching fellow

Andy Ford, director of the Centre for Efficient and Renewable Energy in Buildings, London South Bank University

Legislation will be key in driving change. The HVAC market has been forced to innovate since the Montreal Protocol phased out CFC gases in the 1990s. The latest F-Gas Regulations look set to bring about another seismic shift. ‘Part L and the Eco Design Regulations have been driving up efficiencies, but the F-Gas Regs could have the biggest impact of all,’ said Sebastien Desmottes, product marketing manager at Mitsubishi Electric UK. ‘The amount of refrigerant gas used will have to go down. Hybrid VRF water-based systems are one solution.’

Mitsubishi Electric UK product manager, Mark Grayston, added: ‘F-Gas is forcing us to make changes that people don’t readily like to make, so we are trying to talk to them early. We developed the Hybrid VRF to maintain efficiency and comfort, while still complying with the requirements of F-Gas and the need to reduce refrigerants in occupied spaces.’

The educated client

As purchasing manager for Bourne Leisure, Mitesh Panikker decides which building services go into facilities for Butlins, Haven and Warner Leisure Hotels. What is he calling for from the supply chain? ‘We are looking at total life-cycle costs of systems. We need to meet criteria such as comfort conditions, ease of control, maintenance requirements and energy efficiency, and we need stability of costs. For our market, the supply chain needs an understanding of the guest interface.’

Mark Grayston, product manager, Mitsubishi Electric UK

Mitesh Panikker, purchasing manager, Bourne Leisure

For Panikker, it’s not just the capital cost of kit that is important, but installed cost and methods of delivery. ‘In cities, we want to minimise hot works for safe site practice, so some solutions will be more attractive than others,’ he explains. ‘If we are looking to refurbish existing stock, then the method of delivery is crucial. And if a new system is not easy to use for our guests, it might drive up energy consumption.’

Philip Todd, managing director at consultant BSE3D, has spent time on the tools, and thinks this has proved invaluable as a designer. ‘I’m lucky – not many have had that opportunity. When you are designing a project, that experience helps you to consider installation and maintenance procedures, and the needs of those running the building.’

Bourne Leisure has built up a trusted supply chain, with long-term relationships. But not all projects are run this way. Outside of his day job, Todd is director at a Sussex-based school academy. ‘Life-cycle costing does not come into the equation when we look to replace infrastructure such as a boiler – it’s all about the capital costs.’ He called for support from government when it comes to life-cycle costing for cash-strapped bodies.

‘The industry has lost its way,’ said Wayne Buckley, business development director at contractor Temperature Control. ‘With design and build contracts, we see costs taken out at every stage. We get more successful outcomes when we can engage with the client early, offer open-book tendering and demonstrate a value, not cost, approach. Too much is pushing the risk down the supply chain.’

Alex Smith, editor, CIBSE Journal

Philip Todd, managing director, BSE3D

Ford agreed: ‘At Fulcrum, we tried to share the risk on projects, but clients preferred to contain that risk with a contractor who would guarantee the result. It’s frustrating, because you want to design something holistically.’

Diamond hoped that research into procurement routes – being conducted by Hoare Lea and expected to be unveiled at CIBSE’s next Technical Symposium – will shed light on which pathways lead to successful project outcomes and could be used to enlighten clients. ‘The client brief has died over the past 10 years,’ said Doyle. ‘The in-house skills have been outsourced and the client’s representatives may not fully understand the client’s needs.’

Dwyer agreed. ‘Clients don’t know what they want. Engineering is too often about problem solving, rather than defining what the problem is. Properly informed engineers are the way forward. We have been dumbing down the industry too much – it’s becoming something of a box-shifting industry.’

Desmottes said that, often, manufacturers are invited to the table too late. ‘London’s Zetter Hotel is an example, where we were able to move the client away from an air-source VRF solution to a water-based system, which has many benefits, including lower running costs and the fact that it takes up less roof space for the condensers. This meant extra rooms for the hotel – a huge asset.’

Joined-up thinking

Ford outlined work by LSBU and other universities, alongside the Royal Academy of Engineering, on how we should teach architects and engineers in the future. Initiatives such as the multidisciplinary construction industry competition Teambuild will also engender collaborative working across the supply chain. Doyle felt that building information modelling (BIM) has the potential for closer integration between architects and building services consultants and the supply chain, but the benefits will only really be felt when Level 3 BIM is adopted. ‘That’s when it will get interesting.’

‘Information really is power,’ said Dwyer. ‘Everything we’ve heard today revolves around more efficient information exchange. “Real” BIM is not about protocols or a glitzy front end, it’s about sharing information – and that could be a major force in solving a lot of the issues we’ve heard about today.’ 

About the sponsor


 
Mitsubishi Electric is a pioneer of energy efficient HVAC and has sponsored this round table to promote the need for new thinking that will help us achieve sustainable buildings. Legislation, including MEES, F-Gas and ESOS, demands a joined-up approach, and new products, such as the Hybrid VRF (which removes the need for leak detection while delivering the best of two-pipe VRF and four-pipe fan coil). Visit www.hybridvrf.co.uk/consultants for more.