Evaporative cooling (also known as adiabatic cooling), is an extremely efficient and cost effective means of cooling. It is particularly well suited to warehouses, data centres and other industrial buildings where the manufacturing processes generate relatively high levels of heat.
If you are considering a cooling system for your factory, don’t make the mistake of focusing solely on the initial investment: consider the total cost of ownership of the system and what the critical elements which influence this are.
Natural gravity ventilation is the best cooling solution
The benefits of natural ventilation in large industrial buildings are clear and well accepted: no electricity is needed to operate the system, as it simply uses the energy present in the warm air – and there is plenty of this in a glass factory – and this buoyancy-driven airflow is virtually maintenance free.
Specifying weather louvres is a complex business. In an earlier blog we explained how the key considerations to make fall into three areas: aerodynamic performance (pressure loss through the louvre panel), resistance to rain entry, and exposure and wind loads. We also published a white paper, available for download here , where we explain the EN13030 test standard and its limitations and set out the critical points to cover when writing an effective specification.
We saw in one of our early blog posts that power generation facilities such as Energy from Waste (Efw), Biomass, CHP, and Anaerobic Digestion plants are ideally suited for natural ventilation systems to dissipate heat, dilute fumes, and clear smoke in the event of a fire. In further articles, we covered the design and product selection of natural ventilation systems:
Last September we wrote about a project to develop a bioreactive façade using micro-algae: this is now a reality at the BIQ house, the world’s first pilot project to showcase a bioreactive façade at the International Building Exhibition (IBA) in Hamburg.
From theory to practice: the micro-algae façade is in place
The traditional approach to ventilating big production facilities relied on relatively extensive ductwork in a one-size-fits-all type of solution. Nowadays, however, ventilation systems must meet multiple requirements. On the one hand, they must provide a comfortable and productive working environment for production staff, as well as meeting regulatory requirements in terms of internal air quality, temperatures and humidity levels. On the other hand, plant managers demand energy efficiency, low running costs and low environmental impact.
It is estimated that 1% of the world’s energy is currently used to cool server rooms. And this number is going up fast, as the number of data centres keeps growing, putting increasing pressure on energy supply systems and on the environment because of the consequent rise in CO2 emissions. The ICT industry is responding by moving away from traditional air conditioning systems and looking for environmentally responsible cooling solutions.
Energy efficient and environmentally responsible cooling
As a factory manager you may find that in spite of having done everything to keep your mechanical ventilation system in perfect condition, the temperature in your plant or in parts of it is getting higher. Over the years, the use of your factory building may have changed: for example, with the introduction of lean manufacturing practices, there may be a higher density of production machinery with consequent higher heat load in some areas of your facility, so that the system as it was originally designed and installed is not as effective as it used to be.
Rising energy costs and environmental concerns put factory managers under constant pressure to optimise their facility’s energy performance. This doesn’t need to be a daunting task.
A good starting point is an analysis of the factory’s energy use graphs based on half-hourly meter readings, which most suppliers of industrial electricity will provide on request. Looking at the patterns in the factory’s energy consumption and analysing how they match the activities being carried out in the plant at the time can reveal easy paths to lower energy use. In most cases some minor changes to operating procedures or staff culture, such as encouraging employees to switch equipment off when leaving, can result in significant savings.
How long will it be until buildings consume no energy? Judging by a current project in Germany, it won’t be long at all. As part of the development of the BIQ House for the International Building Exhibition (IBA) in Hamburg, micro-algae are being used to create a so-called bio-adaptive facade. Such a system will provide both solar shading and generate renewable energy using a novel application of an established technology.
How does the technology work?
The bio-adaptive facade comprises bio-reactors filled with live micro-algae. When the sun shines more strongly, the algae grow at a faster rate, which in turn provides more shading for the building. Thus photosynthesis enables the facade to react dynamically to changes in solar intensity.
Data centres tend to be energy guzzlers, using vast amounts of power not only for running the equipment, but also for maintaining the temperature and humidity at the levels required by the servers for them to be able to operate correctly.