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Strategies for Net Zero Energy, Sustainable Lab HVAC Systems

Grahame E. Maisey, PE, GEMCO Energy Master Planners, Division of Building Services Consultants, Inc.
Good architects design buildings to mesh with nature's rhythms: the hot radiance of the daytime sun, the cold black radiance of a clear winter night and the diurnal temperature swings all profoundly affect building thermal systems. To produce truly sustainable, net zero energy, lab HVAC systems, this foundation must carry through to HVAC system designs.

To develop net zero energy HVAC systems we need design strategies which reduce carbon emissions by over 85% and are able to utilize renewable energy sources effectively. Some strategies: Dynamically integrating radiant temperature thermal control system into building structure disconnecting heating and cooling functions from air system. Using desiccant humidity control system to disconnect dehumidification from refrigeration. Utilizing ground coupling to minimize heating/cooling loads. Simplifying and optimizing supply and exhaust ductwork system to reduce fan energy by 85%. Simplifying and optimizing piping systems to reduce pump energy by 85%.

Benefits: Eliminating refrigeration, reducing energy use, reducing fan and pump energy by 85% provides over 85% electrical energy savings. Using ground coupling reduces carbon emissions by over 85%. Removing, reducing and simplifying equipment dramatically reduces maintenance and increases reliability.

Sustainable strategies need to reduce operating and maintenance costs by over 75% while the HVAC systems maintain a high performance throughout an extended life cycle. Long-term requirements for lab HVAC systems incorporated in the design will generate flexible, adaptable and expandable systems that continue effective and efficient operation for many years.

High performance strategies are defined by high occupant performance. This results from comfort and productivity issues being fully addressed.


By utilizing the design strategies discussed in this presentation, net zero energy HVAC systems become a reality, operation and maintenance costs can be reduced by over 75% while at the same time optimizing the productivity. Proven technology assembled in a unique fashion provides outstanding flexibility and adaptability to extend the useful, efficient life cycle. The life cycle cost can be lowered by 70% over thirty years. These designs create systems that are truly high performing and sustainable while holding costs down. The designs take into account the inevitable changes and modifications to buildings and parts of buildings. All the strategies utilized provide for flexible, adaptable, long-lived, maintainable, expandable, effective and efficient systems.

Labs21 Connection:

Separating the HVAC system controls into temperature, humidity and air volume control, each can now be controlled in an optimal fashion. The extra thought and planning required produces truly huge savings. Truly sustainable HVAC systems are developed that will not only produce a net zero energy but also produce better productivity and a longer life cycle.


Grahame E. Maisey, PE, is Chief Engineer for GEMCO Energy Master Planners, a division of Building Services Consultants, Inc. He has 40 years experience in environmental control engineering in design, construction and commissioning; with practical experience in the USA and Europe. Grahame trained in the UK and was one of the first to receive a degree in environmental control engineering from the University of Strathclyde, Scotland.

He has an understanding and grasp of building energy systems that very few engineers can match, directly resulting from his thorough academic and design training combined with extensive site experience. He is considered by many to be the expert in the area of building HVAC systems and commissioning. Grahame has vast experience, as well, in plumbing and electrical design.

Grahame is a member of ASHRAE, USGBC, NESEA, SBIC, CIBSE. He is the author of technical articles on Total Quality Commissioning, Whole Building Dynamic Integration and Sustainable, High Performance HVAC and Associated Energy Systems for the Whole Building Design Guide ( Grahame is a lecturer on High Performance, Sustainable HVAC Systems and High Performance HVAC Systems for Optimum IEQ (LEED™). Grahame is a LEED™ certified professional.


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