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Take the low carbon approach to ventilation

Knowledge is the key to success if contractors are to take advantage of new opportunities in energy efficient systems, argues
Nygel Humphrey, marketing manager - commercial at Vent-Axia, a leading player in low carbon air movement solutions
THE HVAC industry today is a low carbon world. It has to be. Buildings account for at least 40% of the UK's CO2 emissions, with the majority of these emissions generated by the energy-consuming services used in heating, cooling and ventilating.

Government success in reducing carbon emissions from buildings will play a large part in determining whether it meets its targets under the Kyoto agreement. It also has carbon reduction obligations under statutory legislation, such as, the Sustainable Energy Act 2003, the Housing Act 2004 and the Climate Change Programme which sets out how energy efficiency promises to save 10.2M tonnes of carbon (MtC) a year by 2010.

Meanwhile, the regulatory framework is changing to ensure contractors take steps to embrace low carbon technologies. From April 2008, as part of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) will be required for commercial buildings and Display Energy Certificates (DECs) for public buildings. From April 6 2008 an EPC will be required on the sale or renting out of larger commercial premises (total useful floor area over 500m2). Then, from October 1 2008 an EPC will be required on the construction, sale or renting out of all but a few commercial premises.
EPCs will also be issued for new homes from April 6 2008. In this residential sector, the Code for Sustainable Homes complements the introduction of EPCs as an assessment of new housing in England. The code provides a framework within which progressive home builders can be recognized for going beyond the Building Regs requirements and sets standards for a range of other aspects of sustainability, not covered in the Building Regs, but critical in limiting the environmental impact of housing.

This low carbon world presents big business opportunities. But, according to David Frise, chairman of M&E Sustainability, a campaign group formed by an alliance between the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) and the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association (HVCA), 'very few companies have much idea how to exploit them'. As a result, M&E Sustainability is producing contractor-specific guidance covering a range of technical subjects alongside a series of nation-wide seminars alerting contractors to changing legislation.

Leading players, like Vent-Axia, have a role to play. That's why it has introduced a Vent-Axia Lo-Carbon ventilation range with access to technical advice, design and ventilation applications expertise. The VA Knowledge Bank, as it's known, exists to help contractors understand issues around low carbon ventilation, advising on how they can equip themselves to reduce energy consumption and cut emissions on projects. Alongside residential and commercial fans, it includes heat recovery systems, air handing units and Sentinel on-demand ventilation systems.

At the core of the Lo-Carbon range are LoWatt residential and commercial fans. At one end this covers 100mm and 150mm axial fans for bathrooms, utility rooms and kitchens but extends through to commercial fans with a host of energy-saving features as standard.
Building on this offering, the Sentinel on-demand ventilation system is a key component in the Lo-Carbon approach. Sentinel responds to the exact ventilation requirements of a room at any one time providing the right level of supply or extract as required.

It overcomes issues encountered with a traditional fixed volume ventilation system that is either on or off. It also improves comfort, keeping CO2 levels within prescribed limits for school classrooms, offices and lecture theatres. Required airflow rates can also be achieved in office meeting rooms or open plan areas or for spaces which require ventilation for limited periods, such as hotel bathrooms, flats or apartments.

Controlled mechanical ventilation using heat recovery is another energy efficient ventilation offering which deserves consideration. Heat recovery can transfer to incoming fresh air up to 95% of the heat that would otherwise be wasted. Changes to Part L and Part F of the Building Regs make central extract or whole house heat recovery the preferred ventilation solution in the new build market.

Throughout this extensive range Vent-Axia has calculated not just the energy savings that can be made when comparing these high efficiency products to ordinary ventilation units but also the carbon savings that can be achieved based on typical usage. Lo-Carbon ventilation can reduce a building's carbon emission rates from between 7kg to as much as 1795kg a year, without compromising indoor air quality.

While the drive towards energy efficiency promises significant opportunities, as Frise warns, 'unless contractors start investing in the necessary knowledge and skills they could wake up one day and find the market has moved on without them'. Contractors who invest in the VA Knowledge Bank will earn the ventilation knowledge and skills necessary to put themselves ahead of the game.

1 January 2008

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