Now that roofs of office buildings have been converted into gardens, people need to get started on the greenhouse beneath their feet. A study conducted in China in 2007 indicates managers seriously underestimate how much energy they could save in the basement. Worse still, they may well be making the wrong buying decisions throughout the building as a result.
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Improved modelling and green building design. True, the scientists, from Tongji University, Shanghai, were considering the energy consumed by two data centres in an ICT company. Using software known as Energy Plus, they came up with a completely new building design, demonstrating that the data centres could cut at least a fifth more in energy costs than had been estimated by alternative programs. There was a simple reason for this: they paid more attention to heat re-use. Nevertheless, Pan, Ying and Huang’s findings are relevant everywhere. They could contribute to a radical rethink of green building design.
“They produced a more accurate prediction because they tried to link different energy segments [such as heating, air conditioning, electricity etc] to get a more reliable model,” comments Onno Willemse, global marketing manager at Philips Lighting Controls. Data centres famously generate large amounts of heat. In the days before we started worrying about energy security, climate change and rocketing power bills, ICT companies thought nothing of air conditioning those same data centres - using yet more power.
But in the last couple of years, the heavy energy use of software giants, search engine pioneers and other bright sparks in this arcane business has been exposed. In one back-of-the-envelope calculation, it was said one US search engine needed as much power as Newcastle, UK, a city of 280,000 people. Out-greening your competitors has since become trendy.
The Shanghai experiments showed computers, servers and other office equipment accounted for 84% of total power use and indicated the company would be better off reframing assumptions about heating and cooling. Their findings suggest facilities managers all over the world are missing a few tricks.
Heat capture and planning. Typically, they cut down on energy consumption by reducing the amount of hard disk activity. They could also capture and re-use data centre heat in heating and cooling systems. But Onno Willemse suggests there is still a lot of learning to do to ensure heat capture is integrated into planning. “This is not yet well understood in building design...it’s for most still a big black box,” he remarks. In addition, people managing energy use do not take into account factors like air humidity (which drives up the cost of heating), sunlight and human warmth.
One industry, whose very business depends on heat, does have a handle on these synergies – the horticultural sector whose glasshouses supply the world with tomatoes, aubergines, flowers and a whole basket of fruit and vegetables. Some growers in the Netherlands, Scandinavian and other countries supply heat to neighbouring businesses, sometimes in exchange for CO2 – a naturally symbiotic relationship that saves them all money.
In offices, the potential goes way beyond computers or the data centre. “In traditional lighting a lot of heat is lost via the light beam...it could be put to work,” states Onno Willemse, “it’s a matter of linking the lighting modules to the rest of the energy segments.” Heat from LED lighting could, for instance, be captured and re-used in the water cooling system. Awareness of this issue, he remarks, “would mean you would come up with a completely different [buying] decision.”
Lighting included? Are you seeing more use of whole building energy simulation with regard to lighting?
Obstructions? Are there “cultural” barriers to its adoption in office / workspace design? That is, is there a gap between the disciplines most likely to advocate its use, the building design and lighting specialists who would apply it and the clients who would commission it?
For more insight, download the attached article below entitled, "Energy modeling of two office buildings with data center for green building design," originally published in Energy and Buildings