Balancing Act

August 6, 2019

Award Magazine, August 2019, by Natalie Bruckner

Mechanical and HVAC systems and energy efficiency go hand-in-hand. You can’t talk about one without the other. Technology in these sectors has advanced at such a rapid rate that it is no longer a conversation about innovations, but which technologies available today will give your building the highest performance and exceed energy code demands while offering the quickest payback.

“All the technology is there, it’s just a matter of getting integrated solutions from a design team, not just a single discipline, and working toward that same goal. Getting the developers and contractors familiar in how we can address it is essential. We need to continue to build on the knowledge and awareness,” says Mike Dixon, mechanical engineer at Williams Engineering. “Our focus is on increasing thermal indoor comfort but limiting energy use, so we end up with more sophisticated mechanical systems to meet those needs,” adds Dixon.

While just a few years ago the impacts of climate change were considered something we need to worry about in the future, the realities are that we are seeing the effects today. Dixon says that Williams’ building simulations are now seeing the impacts of climate change in the weather data they use to punch into their energy modelling. “We are at an inflection point where most of B.C. won’t be able to use the solutions we used in the past. We need to eek out every bit of energy we can,” says Dixon.

Williams has been involved in a number of projects that showcase energy-efficient mechanical systems. One such project is 1400 Alberni in Vancouver, which, once complete, will be the tallest Passive House development in the world. “The energy modelling for this project is happening out of our office. It’s very exciting,” says Dixon. Williams is also involved in a number of social housing projects and residential care homes that have turned their attention to sophisticated mechanical and HVAC systems to reduce their energy use. “The cost has come down to a point that we can do carbon dioxide demand control ventilation for a residential home and the cost is not significant. We are also seeing a trend in popularity in residential and smaller projects,” he adds.

Another change Williams is seeing is the involvement of utility companies who are stepping up to help offset the capital costs of installing central heating and cooling systems. Operating a mini utility onsite allows the operator to sell thermal energy directly to the homeowners, while offsetting capital costs for the developer, and eliminating maintenance fees for the strata.

Read the full article Award Magazine – Balancing-Act