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The big chill - how chilled beams can help create sustainable commercial buildings

Author : Andrew Gaskell, chair of the Chilled Beam and Ceiling Association

16 February 2017

As facilities managers come under increased pressure to reduce energy usage, now is the time to look for a heating and ventilation system that can provide savings throughout the entire lifecycle of the property.

It is estimated that buildings are responsible for almost 40 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions, with commercial buildings contributing a significant chunk of this figure.

Whatever the challenges involved in reducing the amount of energy used, a change is clearly needed.

Upcoming Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for England and Wales will make it unlawful for landlords to let buildings that have an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating below E from 1st April 2018.

Research suggests that around 19% of all commercial property is in danger of not complying, potentially reducing the capital value of each non-compliant building by around 10% and wiping £16 billion of the total value of the UK’s commercial property portfolio.

Modern approach

Modern commercial buildings require a modern approach to heating and ventilation. Picking the system with the lowest purchase price and failing to take running costs into account could end up proving extremely costly in the long-term.

Chief amongst the favorable attributes associated with chilled beam technology is an inherent efficiency that can help building operators to slash energy bills, delivering significant savings over an extended time-period.

Away from the marked improvements in energy efficiency, chilled beams offer other notable advantages. Installation costs are generally much lower, while maintenance costs are often minimal.

This is partly down to the fact that chilled beams systems don’t need a condensate removal system as they operate above dew point (dry cooling), don’t require a filter of any sort, have no moving parts or individual terminal controls and copious amounts of wiring.

These reduced maintenance requirements, along with whisper-quiet operation, help to reinforce the long-term appeal of chilled beam technology.

The latest solutions are also extremely flexible and allow for changes to the internal layout of the commercial building.

By altering settings and making straightforward adjustments to the chilled beam system, building owners, facilities managers and specifiers can restructure without worrying about the impact it may have on the air conditioning and its overall performance.

The full cycle

The typical commercial building goes through many changes over the course of its life. Tenants may change regularly and every new occupant will have their own ideas on setup and working environment.

The facilities manager will need a cooling, heating and ventilation system that can offer long term flexibility on top of long term energy savings.

This is where the latest chilled beam systems come into their own. Offering consistent energy saving over long periods of time, with reduced levels of maintenance, the superior cooling ability of a chilled beam should ensure optimum levels of comfort throughout the lifecycle of the building.

By utilising other energy efficient technologies such as ground source heat pumps and heat recovery devices and having them work in tandem with chilled beams, the facilities manager can develop their sustainability credentials still further.

Further growth

Demand for energy savings in commercial buildings will continue to grow, especially with upcoming Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) legislation and so chilled beams are expected to become increasingly popular in both new and refurbishment projects as facilities managers, building owners, designers and engineers are introduced to the benefits the latest chilled beam systems can offer.

Refinements in chilled beam technology mean that they now boast an attractive combination of efficiency, aesthetic appeal and flexibility, offering a practical long-term heating and cooling solution to commercial building owners and facilities managers around the world.

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