The dynamic nature of energy efficiency legislation means FMs must consider climate control requirements over the entire life of a building before specifying a system, says Graham Wright.
26 March 2015 | By Graham Wright
Last year saw a number of changes to legislation, codes of practice and standards covering energy efficiency of buildings, including the new Part L of the Building Regulations in April, updating of the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive in May and an 33 per cent increase in the cost of carbon allowances under CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme for 2014-15.
From 2019, all new non-domestic buildings in England will also have to be built to zero-carbon standards, as part of the government's commitments under the EU's Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).
Additionally, the EPBD will require new non-domestic buildings to be issued with an energy performance certificate.
Part L (which already sets limits on the emissions of new buildings) is expected to be the regulatory vehicle for achieving zero-carbon standards.
Part L requires energy-efficiency standards of new non-domestic buildings to improve by 9 per cent on the 2010 regulations. The rules also apply when specific building services work - including climate control - is carried out.
Energy strategies must consider a building's multiple requirements and any likely changes to use and occupancy levels over its lifetime, which is the approach taken during a BREEAM assessment. As climate control and ventilation are responsible for nearly half the energy consumption in non-residential buildings, it follows that it is essential to choose a highly efficient climate control system that not only delivers environmental and cost benefits today, but will continue to do so over the life of a building.
One of the best ways to improve energy efficiency and lower CO2 emissions, is to opt for a whole building climate control solution incorporating heat recovery As well as running cost savings, some heat recovery systems are eligible for financial incentives, in the form of tariff payments through the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (revised in May 2014 to include air source and ground source heat pumps), and the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme.
The ECA scheme, run by the Carbon Trust on behalf of the UK Government, gives enhanced tax relief for investment in equipment meeting published energy-saving criteria. Under the scheme, 100 per cent of the investment can be written off against taxable profit in the year the equipment is purchased. Only the top 20 per cent most efficient products are eligible, however. These are included on the Energy Technology List to be found on the Department of Energy and Climate Change's website.
Unfortunately, currently neither the ECA scheme, nor Part L, consider the full benefits of a heat recovery system. ECA only considers the efficiency of heating and cooling part of performance at nominal conditions in heating and cooling, while Part L calculations are based on fixed temperatures and factors that relate to systems operating in either heating or cooling modes.
Despite the absence of formal incentives, the benefits of whole building solutions are clear and the financial argument remains very strong - running costs are typically 40 per cent lower than systems without heat recovery.
The modular nature of these systems allows them to be upgraded easily, which could be important, particularly in light of the European phase-out of HFCs (which began with the introduction of the new F-gas regulation and the total ban of R22 in January). The issue is that some new refrigerants will require changes in system design, meaning some becoming obsolete before the end of their working life.
And while the current refrigerant of choice for HVAC systems, R410A, will not be banned under the HFC phase-down, new global warming potential (GWP) limits - plus the fact that it represents 15 per cent of all HFCs - means its use should be reviewed wherever possible.
The likely next-generation refrigerant candidates are R32, HFO blends, and CO2. R32 is already used in HVAC equipment, as it makes up 50 per cent of R410A. But it has a GWP of 675 - one-third that of R410A (2,088) - and is also more energy-efficient, resulting in lower refrigerant charge and the potential to manufacture smaller units. As a single component refrigerant R32 is also easier to reuse and recycle.
Manufacturers are starting to introduce new products and developing ways of adapting existing systems to use the next-generation refrigerants and extend their life span.
Low carbon heating (including air source and ground source heat pumps, biomass and heat recovery systems) will form a key part of any energy strategy for creating sustainable buildings - both new-build and refurbished.
Keeping on top of rapidly changing legislation, while also considering the latest climate control technology, will certainly help owners and FMs to ensure that buildings are sustainable, energy-efficient.
Graham Wright is legislation specialist at Daikin UK