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CBCA highlights role of chilled beams in improving IAQ

The Chilled Beams and Ceilings Association (CBCA), part of the Federation of Environmental Trade Associations (FETA), is urging architects and facilities managers to consider the importance of indoor air quality (IAQ) and future energy cost savings when choosing a heating and air conditioning system for a new building.

Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures and its effect on building occupants.

The push to make buildings more energy efficient and compliant with the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) is resulting in more air-tight buildings and more pollutants being trapped inside. Single or repeated exposure to indoor air pollutants can have both short- and long-term effects on a building’s occupants, and this can have negative repercussions on a company’s staff.

A study in 2015 by Upstate Medical University and Syracuse University, supported by United Technologies, demonstrated that improved indoor environmental quality doubled cognitive function test scores. Allergic reactions, fatigue, headaches and eye irritations are just some of the problems caused by poor IAQ, and businesses could be discouraged from renting an office space if it is likely to have an adverse effect on staff productivity levels.

Andrew Gaskell, chairman of the CBCA, said: “A common problem with HVAC systems that take air from ceiling voids is that ceiling voids collect dust and debris, which lowers air quality. This problem can be avoided through the use of active chilled beams, as they only induce air from the room and not from the ceiling void. Radiant chilled ceilings and radiant chilled beams can be used with displacement ventilation to achieve better air quality.”

In the wake of Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent speech on science and modern industrial strategy, the technology behind chilled beams and ceilings is well-placed to play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions and the UK’s dependence on imported fuel. In her speech on 21 May, Mrs May said: “By making our buildings more energy efficient and embracing smart technologies, we can slash household energy bills, reduce demand for energy, and meet our targets for carbon reduction.”

Chilled beams can offer an unobtrusive and energy efficient solution. Other energy efficient technologies, such as ground source heat pumps and heat recovery devices, can work in tandem with chilled beams, making them an ideal long-term heating and cooling solution.

Mr Gaskell concluded: “A happy, healthy and committed workforce is a productive one. The choice of HVAC system should therefore play a much more prominent role in the future of workplace design. Chilled beams provide consistent energy saving over long periods of time, together with optimum levels of comfort throughout the life of a building.”

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