How an industrial facility achieved its sustainability goals
In this mechanical system case study, a hybrid HVAC system was used to achieve energy efficiency goals
Sustainable design insights
- The architecture/engineering/construction (AEC) industry is shifting toward sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives, with a trend toward electrification, green rooftops and clean energy.
- A big box retailer used a cutting-edge mechanical system to enhance its buildings’ sustainability goals.
While the architecture/engineering/construction industry is seeing both a significant and rapid shift toward fully electrified systems, there are still instances where electrified systems are not able to meet the unique needs of a project — but there are several hybrid and custom options that can both meet environmental and project goals if full electrification is not an option. As technology and local municipalities continue to shift toward full electrification, we expect to see more innovation and greater use cases for a fully electrified system.
Over the past 10 years, Jordan & Skala Engineers has worked with a leading international big box retailer to design customized hybrid rooftop units (RTUs) for massive industrial distribution and warehouse facilities, keeping in mind both the specific needs of the owner, as well as the overall impact on the environment.
This major retailer has large distribution centers across the globe, averaging about 5 million square feet per facility. With square footage this significant, it was imperative to the owner to maximize energy usage and use as least amount of energy as possible.
In the instance of this owner, using fully electrified mechanical systems did not meet the retailer’s goals, therefore the design team worked diligently with their project team to design a custom variable refrigerant flow hybrid system that met their needs while still assisting with energy savings goals and efficiency.
It was imperative to the owner that their mechanical systems included energy recovery for outside air, specifically due to the outside air dampers — which was not possible using a fully electrified system.
The Jordan & Skala Engineers team worked with the owner and manufacturer to create a hybrid, custom system that included direct expansion cooling and heat pump heating for cold climates. When the facilities reached below a specific temperature, the system would switch to full heat pump mode, which was particularly helpful for locations in the north that reached freezing temperatures in the winter months.
At the time of the system’s design, it was cutting-edge technology and therefore, the very first of its kind. Jordan & Skala worked directly with the manufacturer to achieve the owner’s goals; this system is now being manufactured and is included as a part of the vendor’s standard available systems. As a part of the custom heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system’s design, Jordan & Skala’s sustainability team ran energy models to calculate the exact energy consumption and operational loads that each distribution center will be using (as the mechanical system requirements vary from project site to project site).
In addition to the actual design and type of the mechanical system, a robust controls strategy was also key to this retailer’s energy management and savings. As a part of this, learned controlling — with schedules to operate the heat pumps — was implemented into each of the packaged units.
For example, if the system stays on a bit longer than anticipated, it will trigger load shedding. The massive controls system is operated by service stats, meaning that each distribution facility has a remote building operation system, available for virtual adjustment and monitoring 24/7, across all 200+ project sites. This type of remote controls system can be thought of like the smart thermostats that are used in households throughout the U.S., where the device uses machine learning algorithms to determine energy usage peaks and dips.
Smart controls, such as the system implemented by this owner, assist with maintaining a specific custom temperature for employees within the distribution center, keeping the owner in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.
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