How HVAC can step up to a net zero world

Data centers sharing waste heat with the next-door swimming pool, super efficient facades, renewables, storage, phase-change materials, solar cooling, natural ventilation and personalized comfort control. Welcome to the future of net zero HVAC as predicted by experts.

The path to net zero commercial buildings is on the tip of the industry’s tongue, and will require changes to building construction techniques, materials and technologies.
A key building technology in need of transformation, currently responsible for about 40 per cent of a building’s energy use, is heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC).

Buildings will change

  • “Buildings will be more modular and flexible, integrated and automated,” the report says. “They will be built with better materials; phase change and thermal storage will be normal, and all building envelopes will be thermally efficient and well-sealed.”
  • Buildings will also become energy generators and energy storage infrastructure.
  • Technologies that will help reduce HVAC consumption include smart facades, better building sealing, building-integrated photovoltaics, batteries and energy storage, and phase-change materials to stabilise building temperatures

Renewable powered and efficient

  • HVAC systems will be powered by renewable energy, battery storage, and thermal storage.
  • Ventilation systems will also be key to the net zero goal.
  • “Ventilation is key in net-zero buildings and natural cross ventilation, hybrid ventilation, ventilative cooling and evaporative cooling all have roles to play. Refrigerant based systems will be efficient and low GWP [global warming potential] but alternatives to vapor compression refrigeration will also be common.”
  • Solar cooling, natural and mixed-mode ventilation systems, non-vapor compression chillers, seawater cooling and heat recovery technology will also be part of the solution.

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