Heating & Cooling

District heating systems provide economies of scale in large cities like Copenhagen.
Photo: Bill Ebbesen. License: CC BY 3.0

Energy-efficient HVAC design is a fundamental of green building, for good reason:

  • The scale of the issue: HVAC is responsible for more than a third of energy use in commercial buildings in the U.S.

  • The scale of returns: Smart designs can easily save upwards of 40% of that energy, often with strategies that offer instant or short “payback.”

  • The human impact: Discomfort from spaces that are too hot or too cold, and lack of adequate ventilation, are an epidemic. Good design that fixes these problems supports healthier, more productive occupants.

Don’t make the all-too-common mistake of thinking of HVAC design separately from building envelope design. Over-glazed buildings lead to oversized mechanical systems, increasing costs on both fronts. A tight, well-insulated envelope may cost a bit more but can pay for itself with less mechanical equipment.

Heating & Cooling

Deep Dives

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  • Buildings on Ice: Making the Case for Thermal Energy Storage

    Feature Article

    Thermal energy storage uses ice to shift daytime cooling loads to nighttime, when electricity costs are lower. You may be able to reduce the size of chillers as a result, saving money and energy and lowering the environmental footprint of a building

  • Ductless Mini-Splits and Their Kin: The Revolution in Variable-Refrigerant-Flow Air Conditioning

    Feature Article

    Ductless split systems using heat pumps and variable refrigerant flow offer an energy-efficient alternative to conventional heating and air-conditioning systems for a variety of settings, from homes to hotels and schools. Three major manufacturers-Daikin, Mitsubishi, and Sanyo-offer the greatest variety of products.

  • The Challenge of Existing Homes: Retrofitting for Dramatic Energy Savings

    Feature Article

    Greenhouse gas emissions associated with residential energy use account for a fifth of all emissions in the U.S. Retrofitting existing houses to achieve a two- to three-fold reduction in energy use is necessary if we are to achieve the emissions reductions scientists say are required for avoiding catastrophic climate change. Here's a look at how it can be done.

  • In the Pipeline: District Energy and Green Building

    Feature Article

    Very common in northern Europe, district energy systems use a network of buried, insulated pipes to distribute centrally produced steam, hot water, or chilled water to heat or cool multiple buildings. These systems can make use of waste heat from power generation (combined heat and power) or renewable fuel sources to help reduce the environmental impacts of buildings and communities.

Quick Takes

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  • Radiant Floor Heating: Wrong Choice for Green Homes?

    Primer

    While very popular, radiant-floor heating is not well-suited to highly insulated, green homes.

  • Comparing Fuel Costs

    Primer

    One would think comparing the costs of different heating fuels would be simple, but figuring out the amount heat available in a given quantity of fuel-and the associated cost-can be tricky.

  • Evaporative Coolers

    Primer

    As water evaporates, it absorbs heat. Direct and indirect evaporative coolers use this property to cool homes efficiently.

  • How the Sun's Path Can Inform Design

    Primer

    Designing a building with the sun in mind can help reduce both heating and cooling loads.

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  • Climate Analysis for Architects

    Webcast

    For a lot of people, computer modeling is synonymous with energy modeling, and climate data is something you just input to your energy model. Kjell Anderson wants you to do energy modeling for your buildings, and he wants you to do it early—as BuildingGreen has advocated—not just for "keeping score" at the end. In this webcast, Anderson will demonstrate tools that are so easy that they can be used on every project regardless of budget or sustainability objectives, typically taking 3 to 5 hours once you have your system down—and almost no time for projects in a city where you have already done an analysis.

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