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ARBS: how the new HVAC rating tool works

Bryon Price

By Sandra Edmunds

22 May 2014 – A world-first design and performance rating method for HVAC systems is a step closer with the imminent release of an online tool for industry comment.

“Calculating Cool” is set to transform the airconditioning industry when it is released later this year, the ARBS trade exhibition heard in Melbourne on Tuesday.

At the Calculating Cool: Revolutionising the Air Conditioning Sector panel event, Bryon Price, strategic development director at A.G. Coombs and a non-executive director of AIRAH and the Facility Management Association of Australia, said the benchmarking tool would reward and encourage best practice in the HVAC life cycle.

The online calculator will assist professionals in the HVAC industry to save energy, take effective control and extend the life of systems. It is designed to align with NABERS and Green Star Design.

“This has never been done in the world,” Mr Price said. “We are keen to not keep the data to ourselves but provide the data to Australia and the world to better drive change.”

The Calculating Cool project is being funded by the federal government Department of Industry on behalf of the Council of Australian Government Commercial Buildings Committee. Sustainability Victoria is managing the project and Team Catalyst is delivering it.

Sustainability Victoria project advisor energy skills Inge Sarunic said the project was 80 per cent completed and had reached the pilot stage. Ms Sarunic is looking for up to five office buildings on which to test the tool.

“We are very keen for industry to get involved,” she said. “It is so important – the quality of the tool at the other end will be in proportion to the contribution.”

The online tool will rate new HVAC design (final design documentation), new HVAC system installation (less than 12 months in operation) and existing HVAC systems (more than 12 months in operation). At present, its scope is NCC Class 5 – commercial office buildings.

PC Thomas

Team Catalyst director PC Thomas said the tool asked a series of questions covering areas such as climate, gross floor area, HVAC plant type and building type.

The rating is broadly driven by a quantitative score taking into account measured (metered) HVAC performance or predicted (energy simulation) performance and a qualitative score (attribute based).

Users are provided with a quantitative rating – for example: the system’s performance is consistent within the range of performance considered “Good”. It uses 46.83 per cent more energy when compared to threshold of “Excellent” performance.

The qualitative rating is a percentage score derived from attributes such as commissioning, maintenance, tuning, documentation, design and user satisfaction.

Mr Thomas said in the past there was caution about asking users how they felt about a space.

“We are encouraging people to start asking, ‘Have you considered what the user feels like in the space?’” he said.

The rating tool will help to:

  • coordinate operation and maintenance practices
  • capture operational and maintenance information
  • facilitate the long-term monitoring and analysis of the comparative performance of systems, particularly as building uses change and systems are upgraded or altered.

“The idea is that once you fill it out… you have some idea of where to attack,” Mr Thomas said. “What are the steps we need to take to answer ‘yes’ to these questions?”

Mr Thomas said the tool could be used for education and communication, due diligence, a basis for specification, to encourage monitoring and sub-metering, and as a checklist for energy efficiency.

“It could be a way of starting an energy efficiency journey,” he said.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of October. The BETA version of the app is available at: calculatingcool.com.au

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