Achieving optimum heating and cooling in the design of buildings

James Griffiths, Project Development Director at Uponor, discusses the importance of installing optimum heating and cooling solutions

In the UK’s current climate, building developers are required to focus on demonstrating energy savings from heating and cooling systems. As such, sourcing high efficiency heating and cooling systems that are suitable for buildings is increasing in importance for architects, specifiers and contractors, who face ongoing pressure to deliver spaces that are both eco-friendly and comfortable for users, whilst dealing with growing time and budget constraints.

Due to this, heating and cooling can no longer afford to be an afterthought. The systems must integrate seamlessly into developments, without compromising aesthetic appearance or risking noise disruption. Clever systems can be used to achieve this, but in order to do so, the systems should be considered at initial design stage.

By investing more money at the design stage, cost-effective and energy-efficient heating and cooling solutions can be implemented, that are both sustainable and achieve end user comfort. In turn, we will begin to set a standard of developments which are truly fit for purpose, and which last longer than current solutions.

Tried and tested systems

Thermally Active Building Systems (TABS) use the concrete mass of the structure to store and exchange thermal energy, warming and cooling water as it is transported through pipes fitted in ceilings, floors and walls. This noiseless process can be arranged so that the system is exposed on both sides, meaning that in the colder months, heat is radiated to the space above and in warmer months, cooling is provided to the space below.

TABS can be installed in the floor, walls or ceiling, offering additional flexibility. Being installed in this way means that TABS are invisible by nature and therefore allowing for greater freedom when it comes to design and layout of spaces.

There is a common misconception that TABS emulate air-conditioning systems, but this is not true. Additionally, they should not be used to replace ventilation systems. However, basic loads can be handled, meaning that TABS can be used as a hygienic, health-based minimum requirement to achieve an ideal indoor climate.

Requiring lower upfront investment and minimal overall maintenance, TABS achieve a low total life-cycle cost. Additionally, as savings can be made during the construction and installation phase as well as during the lifetime of the system, TABS can become integral to achieving complete building sustainability.

An ambient room temperature is one of the most important aspects of any space, allowing users to feel comfortable. Whilst this area of building design and maintenance has historically been considered as energy intensive and expensive, advances in technology have allowed heating and cooling solutions to save costs using advanced systems, and utilise waste heat to be more eco-friendly.

How do we achieve this?

In order to achieve a total shift to heating and cooling solutions which integrate seamlessly into the design and build of developments, the design and specification process of buildings requires an overhaul – but this is not just an issue native to heating and cooling. In general, as we are forced to build faster and higher, agreements need to be made early on, on what makes a perfect specification.

To learn more about what can be done to ensure this beneficial shift occurs, download ‘The M&E Role in the Future of High Rise Buildings’ Report here