HPAC Magazine

Cold Climate HVAC: Challenges and Solutions

November 1, 2012   By Robert Bean

The 7th International Cold Climate HVAC Conferencei, which was held recently in Calgary, AB, was nothing short of impressive with representatives from over 15 countries in attendance. This conference was an opportunity for researchers and design practitioners to share what they have been learning in restoring and retrofitting old buildings, as well as the design and construction of new buildings, in some of the harshest climates on the planet. The conference spanned three full days with over 60 technical workshops and keynote presentations.

As noted by Stuart Dalgleish, City of Calgary’s director of development and building approvals, “The objective of the Cold Climate Conference is to provide key elements of a strategy for scientists, designers, engineers, manufacturers and other decision makers in cold climate regions so they can achieve good indoor environmental quality (IEQ), with a minimum use of resources and energy.”ii It was the first time the conference was held in North America.

There were many highlights amongst the various lectures but of special interest was a key note presentation by engineer Peter Ayres of the United Kingdom who shared his experience working on the newest British Antarctic Survey research station, Halley VI. Having been personally involved in the late 1980s designing a solar system for a McMurdo Station project, I was keen to hear more. Needless to say, quantum leaps have been made by the architectural and engineering teams in creating habitable space, which may as well have been built for Mars or a future set for a Bond movie.iii

Halley VI is a fantastic feat of engineering and construction in a place where temperatures rarely rise above 0C with extreme lows of around -55C. Of special interest at the Halley base is, “buildings on the surface become covered and eventually crushed by snow, necessitating periodic rebuilding of the station.”iv The new modules however, are built on hydraulic lifts mounted on skis for mobility and handling the accumulating snow.

I was particularly interested in the prefabrication process for these cold climate pods, which occurred in Cape Town, South Africa. The pods were then delivered and assembled on-site. I chuckled to myself, recalling contractor reluctance to use prefabricated control appliances when in a far more complicated fabrication-based industry prefabricated is the norm, no matter how custom the project.

Erich Binder, conference chair, noted, “By being open and receptive to new ideas and willing to push our designs beyond our traditional comfort levels, we can learn from each other.” He went on to say, “We can achieve better, more innovative designs that utilize fewer resources and provide superior service or comfort. But such progress does not happen unless we are willing to actively pursue the broadening of our horizons.”v Having chaired one of the conference’s HVAC and Equipment programs, and participating as an audience member in several other lecturers, I was witness to the application of Binder’s words, which are solid advice for the HVAC industry in Canada and all other cold climate regions.

One of the final tasks at the conference was to convene for a special meeting amongst those interested in participating in the assembly of a “Cold Climate Design Guide.” This guide has already received approval for development by the representative associations with hopes of a 2014-2015 publication date.

Kudos to the City of Calgary for stepping up as the silver sponsor. This was evidently the first time a municipality has become this involved in the event. The scientific committee headed up by Bert Phillips (UNIES Ltd.), Bjarne Olesen (Danish Technical University) and Bill Dean (NRC-CNRC) did a great job with the technical program; and thanks as well to the sponsoring manufacturers who stand to benefit from the over 150 000 design practitioners who collectively were represented at the conference by the endorsing organizations and co-sponsors of SCANVAC, REHVA and ASHRAE. < >

Robert Bean, R.E.T., P.L.(Eng.), is a registered practitioner in building construction engineering technology (ASET) and a professional licensee in mechanical engineering (APEGGA). He has over 30 years experience in the construction industry specializing in energy and indoor environmental quality and is the author and lecturer for professional development programs addressing building science, thermal comfort quality, indoor air quality and radiant-based HVAC systems. www.healthyheating.com

i. Source: www.ashrae.org/membership–conferences/conferences/ashrae-conferences/Cold-Climate-HVAC-2012

ii. Source: City hosts International Cold Climate Conference, City of Calgary, Planning & Building, November, 2012

iii. www.antarctica.ac.uk/images/video/player.php?id=7696653c

iv. www.antarctica.ac.uk/living_and_working/research_stations/halley/halleyvi/

v. See note ii

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