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Saving HVAC Energy

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Ashish Rakheja, a seasoned consulting engineer, heads the sustainability division at AECOM India and is the Chairman of ACREX India 2014. He speaks to Buildotech about the event and the energy saving potential in the Indian building industry.

What are some of the new HVAC technologies available to help reduce energy footprint?

Many new renewable technologies are now available for building heating and cooling globally. In fact, the technologies introduced in the developed countries are simultaneously being launched in India. For instance, the recent geothermal systems tap into the earth’s energy to heat and cool the building the natural way. Likewise, passive chilled beams transfer heat transfer mainly by natural convection with a minor part by radiation. The primary advantage of the chilled beam system is its lower operating cost. Alternatively, the new under-floor air-distribution systems provide effective ventilation by introducing supply air at the floor and returning it at the ceiling effectively removing contaminants from the conditioned space.

The green building designers and builders are very receptive towards new technologies as it can help them save energy and costs. However, the hindrance in their significant adoption is the lack of awareness and knowledge of the new systems available.

Are the Indian codes and standards in keeping with the technological developments in the segment?

I have worked with various Government agencies like National Building Code (NBC), Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) and Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) and all these Indian Codes have their own revision cycles, which may or may not exactly coincide with the pace of developments taking place in HVAC sector. Overall, the Indian standards are more or less in-sync with the new technologies. For example, the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) is quite advanced and is doing pretty well. In addition, Indian designers have an advantage of referring to international codes and they have developed their own mechanisms to follow international practices without being in conflict with the Indian standards.

The issue is not the inadequate codes and standards, but the insufficient implementation of the same, which comes under the preview of state governments. Unless, all states adopt these codes, the overall implementation of standards across the country will remain weak.

What are the key factors driving the demand for energy saving systems?

The demand is largely driven by the green building movement, which has created a level of awareness among the building owners. Secondly, we are a country starved of power, many building owners rely on DG set for uninterrupted power supply, which is a costly alternative. Thus, the end user needs systems that can not only save energy but also help reduce operational costs, more so in high energy consuming buildings like commercial, retail and hospitality.

In my experience of over twenty years in design & coordination of multi-disciplinary engineering activities, I have realized the lack of integrated approach towards HVAC and building planning is due to the top down approach, which goes from professionals, designers and authorities to the end users. Instead, bottoms up approach targeting the end users and non-professionals, creating awareness at that level and then going higher up will be more fruitful and make bigger impact in adopting of energy-efficient systems.

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