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High Efficiency HVAC Systems to Help Buildings Go Green


When you look at a large building, let’s be honest, you aren’t thinking about HVAC efficiency.  We see a large, shiny structure bustling with people coming in and out, workers in air conditioned (or heated) rooms busy keeping the wheels of commerce rolling.  But it’s rare that anyone considers the environmental cost of keeping the huge spaces in that building at the right temperature.green building

Well, times, they are a changin’.  There’s a move now, albeit slow, to more energy efficient buildings.  Reducing the carbon footprint of a large building is smart for the environment and much appreciated by the bean counters on the 24th floor.  Creating energy efficient HVAC systems is key in this change.  Just like a residential home, a large chunk total energy cost is used for HVAC.  Keeping a space of any size cool in summer and warm in winter costs a lot of money in energy and upkeep.  There’s a ton of moving parts, ducting, etc., that eventually will need to be repaired, upgraded or tweaked in some way.

High efficiency HVAC systems will be crucial to moving the green building ball forward.  Katrice R. Jalbuena of Ecoseed.org, reporting on a Pike Research paper states:

[...]the market for high-efficiency HVAC systems is seen doubling from $3.1 billion in 2011 to $6.4 billion in 2017.

Using high-efficiency HVAC systems, along with better lighting technologies, is seen as among the best ways of lowering energy consumption in buildings, especially those used by businesses and governments.

Building a better skyscraper

So what makes a more efficient building?  Epa.gov has a page devoted to all things green building encompassing energy efficiency, renewable energy, water efficiency, environmentally preferable building materials, waste reduction and indoor air quality.

Wikipedia’s page on green buildings here, sums it up nicely:

Green building brings together a vast array of practices and techniques to reduce and ultimately eliminate the impacts of buildings on the environment and human health. It often emphasizes taking advantage of renewable resources, e.g., using sunlight through passive solaractive solar, and photovoltaic techniques and using plants and trees through green roofsrain gardens, and for reduction of rainwater run-off. Many other techniques, such as using packed gravel or permeable concrete instead of conventional concrete or asphalt to enhance replenishment of ground water, are used as well.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory

This is an excellent example of a green tech building.  It’s a “zero energy” or “net zero” office building that purports to consume no more energy than it produces in a year.  Here’s the lowdown from forcedgreen.com’s article Setting a Green Building Example:

National Renewable Energy Lab Net Zero

The National Renewable Energy Lab is Net Zero

Designed with two long narrow wings of office space positioned along an east-west axis to catch maximum light and with only a 60-foot width allows lots of natural daylight to illuminate interior spaces of the RSF. That centuries-old building practice is coupled with smart technology that constantly compares interior and exterior temperatures, and even sends messages to occupants’ computer screens when its time to open or close the windows for optimum natural light and climate control. Traditional passive heating and cooling techniques are enhanced by radiant heating/cooling systems that uses water pipes embedded in the floor to circulate either hot or cold water rather than forced air systems. Black painted corrugated metal panels on south-facing walls funnel heat to an underground maze, or labyrinth, for use as winter heating.

Slowly Moving Towards Efficient Buildings, Homes, and Cars

While we won’t see our cities, homes and cars change overnight, it is very interesting to watch how we slowly move from outdated technology–the current electrical grid goes right back to the beginning, with Tesla–to “smart” grids, roofs with grass on top, better building materials that hold cool or warm air better, and more advanced high-efficiency HVAC systems that use far less energy.

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