Frank Taaning Grundholm is a Member of the Eurovent Board and Vice President, Global HVACR Sales at ABB. In our ‘The Board Perspective’ series, he tells us about building sustainability and its connection with Indoor Air Quality.
Frank got involved in the HVACR sector right after completing his college studies, by initially designing ventilation systems for pig stables. He then worked on deploying variable speed for pumps and fans in HVACR which contributed to promoting the immense energy savings, which were and still are attainable when controlling flow by reducing speed instead of blocking it with valves and dampers. Energy Efficiency has been very important to him throughout his career, and it has fortunately become a much higher priority in the industry.
The Eurovent Team managed to ask him a few questions about building sustainability. If you are interested in the topic, don’t miss the 2022 Eurovent Summit in Antalya, where Frank will further elaborate on it in his keynote speech ‘Circularity and serviceability in the HVACR industry’ during the Summit’s flagship event Eurovent Innovation/HUB.
Could you tell us what building sustainability is, the specific requirements for buildings to be considered sustainable and how these requirements are being perceived by manufacturers and contractors throughout Europe?
In many projects, the focus around sustainability is all about adding solar panels, green roofs and insulation of the building envelope. All of this is off course also important, but several studies have shown that just adding, monitoring and visualising the actual energy consumption can reduce energy consumption by up to 15%. If we then add intelligent building management, which compensates for occupancy and takes the weather data and passive cooling capabilities into account, it will save another 15% of energy. Upgrading of our existing buildings will in other words be possible with a few simple means and quickly start reducing the energy consumption in our cities.
If you then walk through a mechanical room and look at the motors. Most of the motors in our existing buildings are IE1 efficiency class and today we can supply IE5. For each class increase, the internal losses in the motor are reduced by 20%, so going from IE1 to IE5 will reduce motor losses by almost 60% with no need to change anything else in the system.
In addition to the energy savings, we have to look at the serviceability and material usage, when talking about a sustainable building. Some systems cannot be repaired, and so if anything breaks or wears out, then the entire unit needs to get scrapped. Maybe it’s just a bearing in a motor, which fails, but then electronics and mechanical is scrapped. This is obviously not sustainable use of our materials, so working the repairability requirements into the legal requirements for our units, is an absolute must.
In some countries we also need a much stronger market control, as some contractors still focus on first cost and I regularly see that in spite of a good specification from the consultant, the actual installed system doesn’t comply with the requirements, or sometimes even the legal minimum.
What impact do these requirements have on the quality of indoor air inside the buildings and from your experience, do you know of a building project that has met all requirements and works efficiently?
I see a lot of renovation projects, where insulation, doors and windows are replaced to improve the energy class of the building, and don’t get me wrong, it works. Unfortunately, at the same time, all the cracks where fresh air previously got into the apartments also disappear. This results in a solution, where the air is not exchanged at the needed levels and the typically central exhaust cannot pull air. If the building envelope is sealed up completely, it will simply create a small vacuum and not move any air. To secure that, either controlled air inlets will have to be integrated in the windows or upgrade the ventilation systems so that a balanced mechanical ventilation is needed to ensure a proper air exchange without simply losing the benefits of the insulation added.
The new energy performance of buildings directive will significantly increase the pressure on incentives for renovation of the existing buildings, which is sorely needed. 90% of all buildings in our cities today will still be in use by 2050, so even if all new buildings are net zero, we cannot reach the climate targets for our cities without renovating the existing buildings. Sure, a building being renovated will be difficult to bring to net zero, but each new building also carries a carbon debt of about 30 years, so a net zero new building will not actually be net zero until 2052, if built today.
I love working with consultants on proposals for innovative solutions, which can solve some of the challenges we have in our buildings today. We are seeing many new solutions come to market, which use less energy, integrate controls with renewable energy and use data to intelligently predict the needs of the building. As an example, active cooling is only applied if free cooling from night-time ventilation cannot cope with the demand.