Call for a transition to reduced refrigerant usage and lower impact HFO options

Buro Happold has published an authoritative new white paper calling for building owners and designers to use less refrigerants and more environmentally friendly options in HVAC systems.

Row of large industrial fans on condenser of ammonia NH3 or Co2 refrigeration system used for cooling chillers and freezers
Used for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, refrigerants are significant contributors to climate change, and one of the most impactful factor in the construction industry. Image: Adobe Stock

Used for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, “refrigerants are significant contributors to climate change, and one of the most impactful factor in the construction industry,” say the authors led by Julian Parsley, Sara Kingman and Yensi Izquierdo of Buro Happold and their co-authors from Autocase, a maker of analytical software for environmental decision making.

In the white paper, Quantifying The Social Impact Of Refrigerant Choices, the authors lay out a case for moving immediately to the use of HFOs, the newer class of refrigerants that are less harmful to the environment in terms of ozone depletion (ODP) and global warming potential (GWP), as compared to the traditionally used refrigerants called hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs.

“The most impactful and simple way for the construction industry to decrease its carbon footprint is to eliminate the use of harmful refrigerants with high GWP,” according to the authors. They note that California has begun to address this issue, mandating HFC phaseouts starting in 2024, but emphasize, “There is no reason to wait until 2024 to stop using harmful refrigerants though, seeing as improved alternatives already exist.”

There is no reason to wait until 2024 to stop using harmful refrigerants

The transition to hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), which have significantly lower GWP values than those of HFCs, has been a priority for Buro Happold, and the firm continues to educate owners on what is available in the market and what the impact in specifying HFO can be. The firm is also encouraging HVAC equipment manufacturers to expedite development of systems that are compatible with HFOs and to minimize refrigerant leakage, which causes global warming, as well as to boost energy efficiency of all their products and components.

The report’s lead authors Julian Parsley, Sara Kingman and Yensi Izquierdo from Buro Happold.

As the Buro Happold authors summarize, “While most HFC refrigerants, including R-134a and R-410A, must be discontinued for commercial use in new chillers by 2024, there is no reason to wait until then to start finding ways to incorporate more environmentally friendly refrigerant systems into our buildings.” They note “reasons for choosing HFCs are quickly diminishing.” The main reason? Because HFO alternatives are becoming more widely available.

Making this change is the easiest way to make a big impact on the sustainability and environmental footprint of our facilities.

Sara Kingman, Buro Happold

The new white paper is among many resources available from Buro Happold to reduce the environmental impact of today’s new and renovated buildings.

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