Innovative heating & cooling products tested in living labs

Queensland Children’s Hospital will become one of two Queensland-based ‘living labs’ where emerging or early commercial technologies that enhance a building’s energy efficiency and enable renewable energy solutions to be researched in a live setting.

  • Four living labs from the healthcare and education sector will test new products design to cut energy use
  • Testing of products that cut energy use in heating and cooling eg smart glass, innovative lighting
  • Products evaluating in occupied buildings that have high energy costs and impact on the national electricity grid
  • Results will help increase acceptance of innovative, new products.

Four living labs, an iHub (Innovation Hub for Affordable Heating and Cooling) initiative, focused on healthcare and education buildings, will be established: the Queensland Children’s Hospital, Brisbane and the Fernhill Residential Aged Care facility (under construction) in Caboolture; Warrigal Aged Care facility in southern NSW; and some schools.

QUT’s Dr Wendy Miller leads the iHUB living labs research as part of a wider project by the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH), partially funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Dr Miller said new and innovative products designed to cut energy needs to cool or heat large buildings would be tested and evaluated in real-world situations.

“The aim is to investigate the performance over time of a range of new products and methods to use, store, manage and share renewable energy in buildings,” Dr Miller said.

“The test results could accelerate the uptake of innovative products by addressing barriers such as lack of familiarity, risk aversion and distrust in supplier chains.

“We have chosen education and healthcare buildings because these types of building are found in all jurisdictions and climate zones and a large portion of their energy use is determined by external temperatures. Such buildings have significant energy costs, and impact on peak demand and the national electricity grid.”

Dr Miller said the Fernhill Aged Care facility was quite well-designed to provide comfortable indoor temperatures and natural daylight for occupants in all areas of the complex.

“It is already equipped with a range of energy efficient technologies, such as efficient cooling systems and the ability to capture and re-use waste heat,” she said.

“As it is still under construction, we have the opportunity to install and then test some new products, such as glass that is able to change its insulation and shade levels in response to heat (from the sun) or a low voltage electric charge.

“Tests on the glass’s response to outdoor temperatures and its ability to control heat transfer in and out of the building will be compared with rooms within the same facility that are fitted with ‘standard’ energy efficient glass.

“We’ll be measuring indoor and outdoor temperatures, as well as the energy used by the air conditioners, to compare rooms with and without the ‘smart glass’.”

Dr Miller said smart software that could learn how a building used energy and responded to future weather forecasts was also likely to be tested.

“If, for example, we know the temperature will be 38 degrees in two days, the smart software will be able to manage indoor temperatures and occupant health during the heatwave through efficient use of air-conditioning based on prior ‘learning’.

“The iHUB’s Living Labs will evaluate at least eight emerging products and services over a two-year period. For example, we are also likely to test the performance of innovative lighting and occupancy systems, smart ceiling fans, insulating blinds and double glazed louvres and their viability to work in tandem with renewable energy systems.”

The initiative is led by AIRAH in conjunction with CSIRO, QUT (Queensland University of Technology), the University of Melbourne and the University of Wollongong and supported by ARENA. The aim is to facilitate the Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC&R) sector’s transition to a low-emissions future, and to demonstrate this sector’s role in electricity demand reduction and the enabling of renewable energy in buildings.

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