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Radiant future

Studies have shown that the satisfaction of people living or working in radiant-cooled buildings is higher than those who don’t. I’ve listed some of the contributing factors below:

  • Because radiant cooling doesn’t use cold air, occupants will experience a reduction in cold draughts compared to air-based systems
  • Radiant cooling installed within ceiling tiles has the flexibility of creating different temperature zones and when coupled with an intelligent control system, can deliver tailored cooling or heating in different parts of the building, depending on solar gain and occupants’ preferences
  • Radiant cooling can also provide better humidity control than air-based systems, eliminating the ‘drying effect’ which people sometimes experience
  • The temperature fluctuations in a room which has a radiant system installed will also be significantly reduced compared to one using an air-based system – benefiting the comfort of the occupants
  • Finally, occupants will notice a smaller thermal gradient when using a radiant system – this means there will be very little difference in the temperature at floor level, compared to that at head height.

I’m encouraged to see these benefits have been recognised by the International WELL Building Institute, which has created a leading standard for advancing health and wellbeing in buildings. The latest version of the WELL standard, WELL v2 , is currently being piloted and gives specific credits to thermal comfort – specifically radiant climate control systems.

Finally, installation. It’s one thing extolling the virtues of switching to different systems and technologies, but when it boils down to the practicalities and skills required to install something outside of the ‘norm’, enthusiasm can fade. However, radiant cooling systems don’t require any new skills or specialist training. They can be easily installed by HVAC engineers with just a simple explanation from the manufacturer.

The savings and benefits of radiant cooling systems are steadily being realised by the industry. To give one case study example, we worked on a retrofit project for a developer who had been commissioned to carry out a complete refurbishment of the 45th floor of the Pan Peninsula apartment building at London’s Canary Wharf. We were given a brief to provide the end user with the perfect indoor living environment, and were contracted to specify, design, install and commission our radiant ceiling-based heating and cooling system.

When we started our contract, the 45th floor had been stripped back with the original heating and air conditioning systems removed, ready for the developer to begin the refurbishment process. We then installed layered plasterboard Radiana panels across the ceiling of the apartments, connecting up to a mechanical ventilation heat recovery (MVHR) system and controlled via an integrated app.

Our client chose a radiant system because they wanted something which would create the highest level of comfort for residents, but still work with the existing chillers installed in the building. Since installation, a significant 35 per cent energy saving has been delivered against the HVAC fan coils which were previously in use throughout the apartments, which – as I mentioned earlier, has largely been due to the use of an air to water heat pump, which is a far more efficient alternative to the air to air systems used by traditional HVAC systems.

So, what would it take for the UK market to start specifying radiant climate control systems as standard? Systems can be installed into new build projects, or as retrofit. They’re noiseless, can be completely tailored for purpose and depending on which you choose, can be completely concealed within the ceiling.

Based on my own experience, once you’ve stood in a space which has radiant cooling installed, you wouldn’t want to consider anything else. And, I hope that as we look for better, more intelligent ways to manage our relationships with buildings, radiant cooling will become a standard specification for the future.


About Sarah OBeirne


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