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15 April 2015: Technical Symposium Preview

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The premise: (Good) simple buildings are better (and more sustainable) than (bad) complex buildings

For the CIBSE Technical Symposium, Sergio Fox's paper asked "Are We Over-servicing Buildings ?" and HCNW was treated to a parallel case study by Sergio of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. This neatly previewed many of the ideas launched at the Symposium.


We recalled Derek Clements-Croome's Intelligent Buildings talk to HCNW when Sergio explained how this 1752 structure strongly out-performed the calculations in the model - in part due to simple, vernacular features and materials - very little of the engineering we would recognise today. But it could, and desperately needed, to be improved to protect the artworks. Naturally, there was resistance to invasive and obtrusive engineering features too. 

Investigations of the network of fresh air shafts complimenting the original open fires and large areas of hygroscopic materials in the picture gallery not only explained the unexpected performance, but exploiting those features and using simpler, smaller and more discrete engineering brought a large (c65%) project cost saving - and an estimated 85% reduction in running costs.

Sergio posited that as well as the need for collaborative, integrated design we need a good understanding of vernacular methods of conditioning buildings. Designers need to be incentivised to REDUCE the amount of energy-consuming engineering - in much the same way that many argue that the most effective energy efficiency initiatives simply switch something off.


Sergio demonstrated the basis for the argument with impressive data, including modern data logging results, as well as a client delighted to find such a large saving against a budget planned around (today's) orthodox approaches.

The premise: Have We Run Out of Good Refrigerants?

Graham Wright of Daikin UK explored the latest challenges for building operators, designers, manufacturers and field technicians resulting from the HFC phase-down and the F-Gas Regulations, a segment of Daikin's Future Thinking series.


There's no question that the series of refrigerants used for conditioning buildings have significantly improved efficiencies and reduced the amount of charge. But at the same time, Graham illustrated that some 200,000 split systems are now sold in the UK every year, and the UK is one of the smaller markets.

The flammability of some alternatives has already attracted media interest, we saw some video from the lab and revisited EN378. Rounding off a very balanced presentation, Graham concluded that future refrigerant choices are likely to be much more specialised to suit applications. Also, that an earlier transition to R32/HFO refrigerants is going to be necessary to meet the transition "cliff" we are approaching; that the lower GWP refrigerants tend to be flammable; there will be new servicing regimes and equipment; and that manufacturers are going to train installers because the higher craft-side demands.

Our appreciation to Graham and Sergio for two very interesting papers.