HVAC is the highest energy consuming part of human life having highest impact on ecology. Hence, it is essential to consider it from totally different perspective related to Reduce-Reuse-Recycle techniques.

A framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design.

The circular economy

Popularised through the concept of the ‘circular economy’, the potential for resource efficiency to reduce environmental burdens and to increase resilience to resource scarcity is increasingly recognised globally.

A circular economy seeks to rebuild capital, whether this is financial, manufactured, human, social or natural. This ensures enhanced flows of goods and services. The system diagram illustrates the continuous flow of technical and biological materials through the ‘value circle’.

Highlights

  • Circular economy approaches could reduce energy use in economic activity by 6 per cent to 11 per cent.
  • Energy savings complement energy efficiency approaches and equal their potential.
  • Large potentials in material efficiency, refurbishment, reuse and construction.
  • Potential benefits enhanced by widespread (level and location) adoption of approaches.

What is a circular economy-based projects?

Looking beyond the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system.

Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles:

  • Design out waste and pollution
  • Keep products and materials in use
  • Regenerate natural systems

Re-thinking Progress: The Circular Economy

There’s a world of opportunity to rethink and redesign the way we make stuff. ‘Re-Thinking Progress’ explores how through a change in perspective we can re-design the way our economy works – designing products that can be ‘made to be made again’ and powering the system with renewable energy. It questions whether with creativity and innovation we can build a restorative economy.

The concept of a circular economy

In a circular economy, economic activity builds and rebuilds overall system health. The concept recognises the importance of the economy needing to work effectively at all scales – for large and small businesses, for organisations and individuals, globally and locally.

Transitioning to a circular economy does not only amount to adjustments aimed at reducing the negative impacts of the linear economy. Rather, it represents a systemic shift that builds long-term resilience, generates business and economic opportunities, and provides environmental and societal benefits.

Technical and biological cycles

The model distinguishes between technical and biological cycles. Consumption happens only in biological cycles, where food and biologically-based materials (such as cotton or wood) are designed to feed back into the system through processes like composting and anaerobic digestion. These cycles regenerate living systems such as soil, which provide renewable resources for the economy. It is need of the hour to extend this concept to HVAC sector by adopting technical cycles recover and restore products, components, and materials through strategies like reuse, repair, remanufacture or (in the last resort) recycling.

Origins of the circular economy concept

The notion of circularity has deep historical and philosophical origins. The idea of feedback, of cycles in real-world systems, is ancient and has echoes in various schools of philosophy. It enjoyed a revival in industrialised countries after World War II when the advent of computer-based studies of non-linear systems unambiguously revealed the complex, interrelated, and therefore unpredictable nature of the world we live in – more akin to a metabolism than a machine. With current advances, digital technology has the power to support the transition to a circular economy by radically increasing virtualisation, de-materialisation, transparency, and feedback-driven intelligence.

Circular economy schools of thought

The circular economy model synthesises several major schools of thought. They include the functional service economy (performance economy) of Walter Stahel; the Cradle to Cradle design philosophy of William McDonough and Michael Braungart; biomimicry as articulated by Janine Benyus; the industrial ecology of Reid Lifset and Thomas Graedel; natural capitalism by Amory and Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken; and the blue economy systems approach described by Gunter Pauli.

Let us consider the example of “Grundfos”:

Grundfos, a pump supplier for heating, air conditioning, irrigation and water treatment, is branching out with a “circular economy takeback experiment” that’s worth following as an example of how to engage with consumers, Pigosso said.

The company, which has a global presence, had to solve a logistical challenge when it piloted a take-back program for circulation pumps.

Grundfos had to provide incentives and means for take-back. The program, spread over many houses, meant the company needed to encourage many customers to participate.

“They got back the pumps and developed a tracking system to understand the health of the pumps,” Pigosso said.

Pigosso listed some challenges facing the take-back program: “After we take back the products, what is the best circular economy strategy to implement? Is it to remanufacture? Reuse? Recycle some of the materials?”

With persistence, Grundfos eventually found success with the take-back program. It provides information about how each product is disassembled and recycled on its website.

Big Data in HVAC: The case of chillers

In a building, the heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system typically consumes about 60 per cent of the building’s total energy requirement. Of this, chiller plants consume 35 per cent — translating to 20 per cent, or one-fifth of the total building energy use.

So, chiller plants must be one of the first logical starting points for any building energy-efficiency initiative. On the average, about 30 operating parameters of a chiller can be monitored. If these parameters are captured and recorded every 15 minutes, it translates into more than 1 million records a year for a single chiller. For a medium-sized building, normally about 600 HVAC equipment and system data points are captured using building automation systems (BAS). If the information is captured every 15 minutes and stored for each building, there will be over 21 million records every year. For 5,000 similar buildings, over 105 billion records will be captured annually, translating into over 4.2 terabytes of data storage.

Building owners and operators can leverage Big Data and Analytics in many ways to create tangible value:

  • Advanced analytics: It can help with better understanding of building and equipment performance. It allows historical trending, pattern recognition and correlation between cause and effect of issues and events occurring in the various building and HVAC subsystems.
  • Intelligent insights: It enables benchmarking of a building’s HVAC system performance against industry standards or benchmarks. Owners and operators can cross check what their energy usage is in HVAC systems and how they stack up against peers.
  • Preventive maintenance: Through proper analytics on past performance data and issue trends, future potential maintenance issues can be identified through simulation and predictive technologies. Such actions will help extend equipment life, reduce operating costs and minimise disruption.
  • Informed decisions: Leveraging Big Data and Analytics, building managers also can model their future energy requirements and simulate their future operating budgets.
  • Value asset: Monetise raw data for parties interested in sustainability such as educational institutes, research bodies and policy groups.
  • Connected communities: At a fundamental level, virtualization of building subsystems allows harnessing dispersed experts by creation of a connected community of advisors to enhance performance of buildings. “Bringing the building to subject matter experts” is now possible through organised Big Data and the Internet.

Big Data and Analytics brings much additional value for HVAC systems manufacturers and service providers:

  • Improve future design by understanding how their equipment and systems are used by customers, facilitating the alignment between product development and customer needs.
  • Anticipate future repair and replacement needs, thus, improving service quality and planning
  • Increase service productivity with more accurate targeting of current and future issues identified by analytics on Big Data
  • Differentiate their relationship and service offerings from organizations that are not leveraging Big Data and Analytics, thereby creating new economic models

Big Data and Analytics helps to understand what is going on with buildings and the HVAC systems in them, the implications of that and what kind of actions are recommended to improve building performance. This is achieved as we progress on the dimensions of understanding the data and putting it in the context in which the data is created. As we get better in moving from data to analytics, we move from more descriptive analytics to predictive analytics.

Conclusions

The circular economy cannot be defined by a singular course of action. Rather, it is a multi-faceted approach to waste and materials management. At a product level, goods are increasingly being designed to become a part of this system, employing materials that can be reused and recycled.