A major innovation in energy conservation
As part of a BuroHappold-sponsored Engineering Doctorate, Gideon Susman, in collaboration with our partners at Brunel University, developed NewMass, a phase change material cooling system that minimises energy use and enhances thermal comfort.
The design of a new low energy cooling system arose through identification of a number of flaws in the way phase change materials (PCMs) are used to cool buildings. Passive systems, such as wallboards and ceiling tiles, cannot be relied on for year-round temperature control. Active systems, for example insulation tanks with PCM modules, do not save energy overall. Our aim was to develop a solution that would offer a significant energy saving when compared to a passive chilled beam system of the same capacity.
Designed in response to deficiencies in current active and passive cooling systems incorporating PCMs, the NewMass system represents a highly efficient alternative.
Gideon Susman, Associate
Formed from a number of finned tubes, NewMass is designed to sit below the ceiling of an occupied space. The tubes are filled with a phase change material that absorbs excess heat and transforms it from a solid to a liquid. Then, at night, the absorbed heat is either passively discharged into the night air or put through a chilled water loop.
To test the design and fully understand its capability, the team built a prototype that was trialled in a custom-built test chamber at Brunel University. The testing revealed excellent temperature control results, with a prediction of 34% energy savings for a typical UK office building.
The NewMass system is modular and robust so units can be installed, removed and installed with relative ease.
Gideon Susman, Associate
Following analysis of the prototype, we partnered with ICE Architects to install the first NewMass at Brentfield Primary School, giving us the opportunity to understand its performance in a fully operational building. After carefully analysing its operation, we found that it offered an impressive 36% energy saving when compared to chilled beam systems, which was higher than the results observed during the prototype testing.
As well as offering energy savings, the team found that NewMass provides comparative or even improved thermal comfort when compared to existing passive systems. We also demonstrated that, when switched to heating mode, it acts as a radiator, negating the need for additional heating and reducing the levels of embodied carbon contained in the HVAC system.
Further adding value, NewMass is modular and robust, so units can be moved and installed elsewhere with relative ease, reducing the need for recycling. The units do, however, utilise materials that can be fully recycled. In addition, the system uses no moving parts, which greatly reduces the need for expensive maintenance.
The unique design of the NewMass system means that carbon is reduced in two ways, firstly by passively absorbing excess room heat and secondly by releasing the absorbed heat when ambient temperatures fall. Both the heating and cooling units rely on electricity to supply energy when required rather than using natural gas. As electricity can be purchased as 100% renewable power, this allows installation to become carbon zero, minimising environmental impact.
Demonstrating the innovation of its design, NewMass went on to be awarded runner up in the 2012 Ecobuild Innovation Zone competition and win the CIBSE Performance Award in February 2018.
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