Friday, 29 April 2016

F-words

The EU’s F-gas regulations are aimed at limiting their application and consequent emissions. Mike Nankivell, Chairman of the ACRIB F-gas group, gave a presentation on the latest update to the F-gas regulations at the recent CIBSE Building Performance Conference. Here he summarises the potential impacts of the latest revisions.

Although a year has passed since the government introduced tighter regulations on the use of Fluorinated gases (F-gases) to comply with EU’s F-gas regulations, the refrigeration and air conditioning industry is still struggling to come to terms with the impact of the latest changes.

The latest (2015) revisions to the F-gas rules strengthened existing measures in relation to containment, recovery, certification and sale of F-gases; introduces additional bans on usage; a ban the servicing of certain equipment with high global warming potential (GWP) F-gases; and more critically, a phase down of HFCs in the EU to 21% of a 2014 baseline by 2030. The revisions are intended to help further reduce emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases, which are covered by the Kyoto protocol to limit global warming.

The air conditioning industry will have to adapt to the changes
The most common types of F-gas are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which, unsurprisingly, contain hydrogen, fluorine and carbon. These are generally used in a variety of refrigeration applications including commercial refrigeration, industrial refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps.

The phase-down in HFC use is expected to have an impact on commercial refrigeration systems in particular because these systems tend to be charged with HFCs with the highest GWPs, for example, R404A which has a GWP of 3922. Under the new rules, from 2020 HFCs with global warming potentials of more than 2,500 will be phased-out in all refrigeration systems.

It should be noted that the phase-down still allows production of HFCs with a GWP lower than 2500 beyond 2030, and the regulation actively encourages recycling so it would be incorrect to presume that all HFCs will not be available beyond 2030. Where a system’s refrigeration charge is recovered and cleaned, or recycled, it will fall under a different section of the new regulation that will allow its reuse. Where this is the case, its re-use will not be determined by the phase-down process.

The most common types of F-gas are found in a variety of systems including heat pumps
As a result of the F-gas regulations, refrigerant producers now have maximum quotas based on equivalent CO2 emissions (CO2e) rather than limits on the quantities of specific refrigerant types. Because of this, the presumption is that the production of lower GWP refrigerants, such as R410A and R134a, may increase in the short term. Although, in the longer term, even HFCs with lower GWPs will likely be phased out if the industry is to meet the 21% target.

Unhelpfully for the air conditioning and refrigeration industry, in particular specifiers and installers, refrigerant producers are not making clear the likely availability of F Gases such as R410A or R134a in the next five-to-10 year period as the phase-down starts to make its impact felt.

Over time, as the phase-down continues, currently common refrigerants, such as R134a, will need to be replaced by ultra-low GWP options such as ammonia or CO2 or perhaps hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs). HFOs, Like HFCs, contain hydrogen, fluorine and carbon but as they are derivatives of alkenes they have significantly lower GWP than HFCs and are not included in F Gas quota system.

Installers do not know the likely availability of F-gases ten years down the line
When considering any replacement refrigerant, a variety of properties should be assessed including: operating pressure, energy efficiency, materials compatibility, toxicity, flammability and cost. One of the biggest challenges for manufacturers looking for replacement refrigerants is that many of the alternatives that are currently available do not perform as well in the same application as the HFCs they are intended to replace. Hopefully, this situation will change with future advances in the refrigeration technology.

In direct expansion (DX) systems, R32 would appear to be the preferred option to replace R410A despite the industry standard BS EN 378:2008 Refrigerating systems and heat pumps safety and environmental requirements placing a limit on the size of the refrigerant charge. Currently R32 is being offered as an alternative refrigerant in smaller capacity systems. However, a revised version of the standard, which provides scope to relax the charge limits, is currently out for approval. If the revisions to the standard are adopted, then R32 could be offered as an alternative to R410A in larger capacity DX systems including variable refrigerant flow (VRF) solutions.

It is worth noting that both R32 and HFOs are classed as ‘mildly flammable’. As a consequence, the revised version of BS EN 378 is set to include a new refrigerant category ‘A2L’ for such refrigerants.

Chillers are most likely to be affected by the new rules
Arguably, it will be chillers (charged with refrigerants covered by the HFC phase-down) and not DX systems that will be most impacted by the new F-gas rules. This is simply because the 25-year life expectancy of a chiller is greater than that of a DX system, which might be expected to last 15 years or so. At the moment it would appear that the safest choice of refrigerant for those looking to specify a chiller would probably be R134a, simply because R134a machines can generally be converted to use HFOs, which are not included in the F-gas phase-down.

The EU predicts the F-gas regulations will cut F-gas emissions by two-thirds by 2030, compared with 2014 levels. This legislation is aimed at stabilising CO2e levels of F-gas at roundabout the 100m tonnes by 2030. However, to achieve the EU’s roadmap of cutting emissions by 80-95% by 2050 additional measures will be required. This suggests that at some time in the not too distant future the industry can expect a further tightening of the F-gas regulations. You have been warned.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Drum-roll, please...


Announcing the arrival of a new feature designed to make shouting about building performance easier, CIBSE Communications Executive Matt Snowden introduces the shiny new CIBSE hashtag #Build2Perform, and explains what it's designed to do.

We have an exciting new development we’re introducing here at CIBSE, and I have written a short blog on the topic for you to introduce you all to our new hashtag:

#Build2Perform

Building performance is at the heart of what CIBSE does, and we’re passionate about giving building services professionals the tools they need to create the next generation of high performing buildings. We believe that through the work that CIBSE does by training and certifying professionals, carrying out research, producing knowledge, giving awards and speaking out in the press, we are  helping to bring a world of high performing buildings to reality.

Innovative new ideas are key to future building performance
As built environment professionals, you are well placed to solve some of the greatest puzzles of the next fifty years. Hundreds of global social problems from homelessness to climate change can be mitigated by the work you do, and that power comes with responsibility: We have a duty to do the best we can to create high performing projects, and put performance first.

So CIBSE does a lot of exciting things to further the cause of building performance but, as Fiona Cousins of Arup said in the CIBSE Annual Lecture, if we are going to save the world we have to go further than our own building performance to make that happen. We need to be evangelical about building performance, we need to be confident enough to call for better approaches to sustainability at the highest levels – to politicians, scientists, engineers and the media.

In order to make this easier, we have selected a hashtag that embodies this principle and acts as a call to action for building performance. It will tie all of the knowledge and opinion that CIBSE produces together in one easy to find place, and proudly states what we all want to see from the future of the built environment.

CIBSE brings together some of the foremost and influential experts on the built environment, including the Rt. Hon. Lord Deben (above)
CIBSE will be using the new hashtag on all content on Twitter related to building performance, and we’d like to encourage you all to use it too. Any content you’re sharing relating to CIBSE or building performance is welcome, and will help to increase our collective knowledge on building performance and make it more accessible for anyone who wants to learn.

But don’t worry, it will not replace any of our existing or yet-to-come hashtags you have been using so successfully in the past such as #CIBSEConf, #YEA or #BPA2016. I hope that you will find the new hashtag useful in making our building performance content more accessible, and more confident in nailing your colours to the mast and speaking out in favour of building performance!

Friday, 15 April 2016

Taking strides

Despite great advancements in the last 30 years, women in building services engineering and the engineering industry in general often struggle to get their start, and then to move forward in their profession. This week Laura Dunlop, Chair of the Women in Building Services Engineering group, turns the spotlight onto the group working to change the status quo and help women to advance in the sector

WiBSE’s vision is to inspire the next generation and create the support network that will enable more women to join, stay and progress within our industry and institution. This makes us rather an unusual CIBSE group, as our ultimate aim is to create a situation where we don't need to exist: we have defined a finite remit to render the group unnecessary as gender disparity issues are ironed out.

As well as organising events that bring people together and help towards achieving  our vision, our volunteers speak at educational events and get involved in cross institute events and networking, as well as supporting our institution at regional and national events / meetings and with government inquiries. We are members of the CIBSE diversity panel and have had influence over policy towards further inclusiveness that stretches across everything the organisation does, from a regional to a national level.

Our LinkedIn group currently has 900+ members and we have over 1000 twitter followers (@CIBSEWomen), where you can find plenty of news and information relating to events, initiatives, opinion and facts relating to the support of women in engineering roles. We have been active with CIBSE in supporting Women in Engineering, the Women's Engineering Society, Ada Lovelace Day and many other campaigns, all of which contribute to creating a powerful network of women engineers who are helping to change perceptions of diversity in the industry.

The all-women panel on wellbeing at the 2015 Conference and Exhibition 
And this is where you come in. While our overarching aim for the industry is broad - gaining better representation of over 50% of the population in building services engineering - our agenda is intended for the benefit of individual women in advancing their careers, giving them a voice and raising the issues that matter to them. Only by taking part in this process by giving us feedback, joining the group or even getting involved in running it, can you do your bit to ensure that our agenda remains helpful and relevant for all women in our industry.

This year we are taking stock and planning our activity for the next few years. Our run of self – development, management and leadership training / coaching style events that we have been running for the last few years have come to an end and we are considering how best to take this program forwards. Our steering group is evolving as some of our members move onto work with other groups in CiBSE (such as Resilient Cities) or take time out for work commitments.

We are therefore looking for new people to join the group and get involved as much as they want / are able. You can get in touch with us and register your interest at wibse@cibse.org.

WiBSE vice chair Susie Diamond writes in the Guardian about the group's aims
Our steering group meet between three and four times a year to review a program of events and activities that will help us to get closer to this vision. Since our launch event in May 2013 we have put on a yearly program of events such as management and leadership taster courses, confidence building programs, peer to peer mentoring courses and general networking events.

We had a great site visit and networking event with Women in Property at the Medical Institute in Liverpool in March and we are planning an event in Leeds with Alison Lowe, CEO of Touchstone in June and WSCP. Our network grew out of London and has spread outwards from there; we now hold events in London, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Scotland, and our new UAE group has started to hold events in Dubai. We plan to expand further and wider as we find partners to work with in new locations.

Our current focus this year and leading into next year is on industry engagement and coordination with other industry groups, learning from others as regards good practice e.g. what works and what doesn't and we are looking to hold speaker led events that are interesting and informative. We are discussing potential joint events with NAWIC (National Association of Women in Construction) and WICP (Women in Construction and Property) and we retain links with Women in Architecture and the Fluid Diversity mentoring program.

A WiBSE event at the Medical Institute in Liverpool
We’re open to working with other organisations championing diversity within our sector – just get in touch!