HPAC Magazine

Acting Differently

Modern Niagara is partnering with Blue Frontier to bring new sustainable air conditioning technology to the commercial market.

June 7, 2022   Doug Picklyk

Modern

Brad McAninch, CEO, Modern Niagara.

“If we’re going to decarbonize buildings across the country by 2050—and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking we can’t get there with the technology solutions available— how can we all bring our collective skills and resources together to solve this problem?” asks Brad McAninch, CEO of Modern Niagara, one of Canada’s largest national mechanical, electrical, building services, and integrated building technology contractors with six regional offices across Ontario, Alberta and B.C.

In answer to this question, Modern Niagara announced in early March that it has entered into a joint product development, manufacturing, and commercialization partnership with Florida-based start-up Blue Frontier centred around a new energy-efficient packaged rooftop unit technology designed for the commercial building air conditioning market.

The Blue Frontier technology uses a proprietary liquid desiccant solution to dehumidify the air which is then cooled to the required temperature and humidity via indirect evaporative cooling. The desiccant uses energy to recharge, but it can be optimized to recharge during off-peak hours to enhance the system’s efficiency. The company claims the technology uses 60 to 90% less electricity than standard commercial A/C units, and sees the target market for its technology as non-residential buildings that require 5 to 10-ton packaged rooftop units and replacement systems.

In April, Blue Frontier was one of nine global clean-tech companies to win a 2022 BloombergNEF Pioneers award.

“They’ve really done a great job at understanding what the market will need and what their technology can bring to it,” says McAninch. “What led us on this path are clients who are setting very ambitious emission reduction and decarbonization targets, and we believe that it’s going to be very difficult for our clients to achieve these targets using existing technologies.”

Modern Niagara’s role with Blue Frontier will be to assist with field testing in North America. The first two units are set to be operating by mid-June, one in Ontario and the other in the U.S., with two more second-generation units planned for August installations.

“With everything that is happening with decarbonization of buildings and the focus on energy efficiency, we really believe that liquid desiccant—a technology that has been around for a century and primarily used for dehumidification—could be used widely for air conditioning purposes,” adds McAninch.

The company discovered Blue Frontier while doing its own research into liquid desiccant developments, so they called them up and offered to become a part of the technology development team.

“People are going to have to think differently, act differently and behave differently if we’re going to get to where the world needs to get to with regards to emission reduction,” says McAninch. He sees this partnership with Blue Frontier as an example of how Modern Niagara is thinking and acting differently. “We’re out there trying get in front of this and figure out how can we help.”

And earlier this year Modern also partnered with Worldfavor, a global sustainability platform, as the company has set its own goal of becoming net zero carbon by 2030.

“We have ambitious targets, and even though this is our business (it’s what we do every day), it is hard,” says McAninch. “If it’s hard for us, then it’s going to be very challenging for everyone else. And that’s why we are out looking for solutions.

“It’s doable, but it’s going to take a lot of effort and a lot of people working together.” <>

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