Friday, November 16, 2012

Green Sustainable Architecture - Heating and Cooling

What does "Sustainable" mean - it means that you are using far less energy produced from fossil fuels that have to be yielded from the earth by drilling, or mining for them. And if you have to use materials that you have to mine and refine that those materials remain preserved and can be re-used at the end of life so that they do not have to be mined again. For example most of the world's aluminium need can be satisfied with aluminium re-processed from scrap. Low load bearing foundations and walls can use crushed concrete for ballast when available. There are many crushing and concrete re-cycling services available today which can easily be found when searching for "recycled crushed concrete". You can also use Recycled Asphalt Pavement and Crushed Concrete as backfill for Mechanically Stabilized Earth Retaining Walls.

In the context of "Green Sustainable Architecture" this can mean correct positioning of a building versus the prevailing wind direction, run-off water management on the property, wall and roof insulation and avoiding roof penetrations. Those are some of the passive measures that can be taken at the design stage of a new building to make it more sustainable.

In the context of "Heating and Cooling" there are slightly different requirements on a sustainable Heating and Cooling Systems depending on the climate-region. There are also significantly different Systems that can be deployed which will have significantly different requirements for the infrastructure the building has to provide.

The most significant factors for both heating and cooling are loss of heat or cool through walls, windows and ceilings. This has to be addressed architecturally by designing with good or very good insulation materials and the really good ones may not be from re-cycled materials but are end of life recyclable as ballast. In preference of performance; Aerogel, Styrene and Two Component Esther Foams. In preference of price; Foams, Styrene, Aerogel.

The plenum between floors should be well insulated to the outside walls and contain the infrastructure for water-loops rather than air ducts (or both) as well as a 48V-DC electrical distribution system which allows the use of 48V-DC based heat pumps and 48V-DC based lighting equipment.

The reason for using DC based systems is that:

    LED lighting running of DC can run with an efficiency of 98% while
    AC based LED lighting systems run with an efficiency of 85%.
    Any Watt in heat generated requires a Watt to pump it out of the building, in the case where the air space needs to be cooled. The energy wasted by lighting has a direct and significant impact on the energy required to cool a building that is well insulated.
    The same applies to the heat exchanger when the heat pump itself is located in the building.
    DC based systems can use Solar and Wind Generators to charge Batteries for storage,
    the Grid or a Generator can supplement the batteries.

The highest loss of efficiency of conventional air conditioning systems for heat or cool is in the air duct. Therefore for highest efficiency and sustainability heat exchangers should be in each room. The heat exchangers may include heat pumps which for noise reasons may use solid state heat pumps which require little or no maintenance other than air-filter maintenance. This is the most efficient way to cool or heat the air in the room.

Any air-cooling system will have condensate at one time or another. This requires the use of heat-exchange / heat-pump systems with built-in condensate pumps or gravity-fed condensate removal and cater for condensate disposal pipes within each floor level of heat-pumps. The disposal pipes should have the usual grade for gravity-fed pipes. The condensate should be guided to one location where it can be re-used by re-introducing it into the environment via the chiller or may be collected in a cistern for other uses.

The in-house water loop can and should be water based as it is the most efficient energy carrying and storage medium on the planet. The only challenge is that you must not allow the water to freeze so the lines carrying the water have to be well insulated where they leave the building to the outside heat exchanger, underground tank or chiller. A heater of some sort has to be introduced into the water transport loop for locations where temperatures can fall below freezing. This can be hidden in a closet integrated into the structure of the building but accessible from the outside so that heating equipment can be maintained and replaced without affecting the living or working space.

I am often asked why not use anti-freeze in the loop? Well it would have to be non-toxic anti freeze which is expensive and not easy to replenish in case of a leak or a repair. If toxic anti-freeze is used, which is cheaper, the piping needs to run inside a bigger pipe that is drained into an outside tank that can take the whole system's anti-freeze without contaminating the environment. So de-ionized or de-mineralized water and measures to keep it from freezing are more attractive and in case a pipe leaks definitely more friendly to the environment.

The most effective way to create heat at the lowest cost is using natural gas or propane or from bio-mass when and where available. So for all winter applications except in near equatorial regions, a gas heater is most appropriate. This is based on the assumption that the time of the year that heat is needed there is insufficient sun or reliable wind to produce sufficient energy for heating when temperatures fall below freezing. Of course an electric heater could be used driven from the electric grid but that would be the least sustainable way of doing things.

There is one additional way to be even more energy-efficient and that is using a generator that is natural gas and/or propane driven where the cooling loop of the generator can be selectively heating the air-conditioning loop in the winter and the generator charging the batteries at the same time, basically using all the energy (in the winter) the generator produces, electricity and heat. In the summer the generator has to be automatically de-coupled and have its independent chiller when operated.

Another aspect is fresh air, where new structures should accommodate the delivery of fresh air to living and working spaces via a selective and controlled system that uses CO2 sensors to determine the level of human activity and O2 use. This means air ducts that can deliver fresh air from the outside selectively. Such systems should have pollen filters that are easily maintainable and have the ability to email or warn the parties responsible for building maintenance to replace or clean the filters.

Different climate regions require different approaches, in equatorial regions (+/- 10° off the Equator) insulation, positive pressure and dehumidification of fresh air are the key factors for climate control. There are no heating requirements and all cooling can be mostly supplied by solar and wind energy.

In the regions between 20° and 40° North and South, where ambient temperatures can fall below or rise above human comfort, heating and cooling are key requirements. Here, significant efficiencies can be achieved by exchanging air in the plenum of the structure with outside air depending on the outside ambient temperature.

In the regions above 45° heating and occasional cooling as well as controlled heating of the fresh air brought into the building are the key requirements. Underground or above ground tanks can greatly assist in balancing during most of the year except in the winter season.

In the region above 60° insulation and heating are the only requirements for both the area to be heated and the fresh air brought into the building.

For the regions of 20° to 55°, during the transition times of the year, the sun can heat the roof space yet the outside air can be cold. If for cost or other reasons the roof fabric can not be insulated sufficiently, at least the building infrastructure should offer a set of fans that can replace the roof plenum air with outside air. The intake should be on the North side of the building and the outlet(s) on the South side or on both east and west side. Intake fans should also have pollen filters that are accessible and can warn that they need changing.

Water heating systems can consist of solar heated vacuum tubes as well as a propane, natural gas, bio methane or other combustible materials or liquids as a backup for prolonged periods of no sun or at night.

Underground or above ground closed system storage tanks that require sufficient insulation above ground to not freeze in cold environments and if below ground are just below the freezing line of the region. Deep underground tanks are not recommended as the surroundings in hot climates will just make them get hotter and hotter, the system should be able to relieve heat to the environment by being in surface proximity but below the freezing line.

Klaus Bollmann is a 30 year veteran in energy conservation, resource saving innovative products for a sustainable environment. Click the link If you are interested in Ringdale DC Systems high performance 48V-DC products or ActiveLED 48V-DC capable lighting systems, 48V-DC air conditioning systems using Solid State heat pumps and controls.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Modular Lighting Controls - What To Use, When and Where

Often Facility Managers, Architects and Interior Designers wonder when or when not to use controls for lighting and what types of controls are available.

In today's environment sustainability and energy-saving lighting design should be a natural combination. Over-lighting indoor and outdoor has long been a problem in commercial, municipal and federal buildings.

It is true that 20% of the US energy consumption could be eliminated while maintaining the same quality of life with safe and adequate lighting levels by just selecting the right lighting technology, but few know that another 50% of the remainder used for lighting could be saved when using motion and other sophisticated control devices.

Many of you have been to municipal parking structures, US postal service redistribution centers, covered parking structures in airports, schools, universities, fire stations or hospitals. In those structures, where lights are turned on 24 hours a day, the savings using controls can often exceed 90%.

The energy cost of architectural displays, as used in Dulles Airport (near Washington DC) where the whole atrium is lit with 230 kW of HID lamps per hour, can be significantly reduced if those conventional lights would be replaced with newer technology and the light were adjusted to outdoor lighting levels.

The lights in conference rooms in hospitals are often left on and could be turned off automatically using an occupancy sensor, the same with restrooms where the lights could move from a lower level of lighting to a higher level of lighting which is more practical than motion controlled on/off lighting.

Once you have accepted that investing in controls to reduce lighting cost and maintenance makes extreme sense, here are some important issues to consider;

    try to stay with simple systems, which are self-contained so that you do not need a PC to turn on your light.
    A motion sensor / dimmer should be intuitively programmable on the dimming device without further hardware or know how required.
    A street light with daylight sensor or a high bay fixture with motion sensor should be re-programmable from the ground using infrared (IR) from a Laptop with an IR dongle.

Where to use which controls:

In a Hallway use only simple and self-contained devices that can detect motion as well as setting dimming levels, that may be IR controlled via a remote control in a bedroom or the living room. For safety and convenience in the Garage or the Utility Room use motion control devices for. Use daylight sensors and timers for landscape lighting and daylight and motion sensors for perimeter lighting.

Small Office
Only use simple devices that can be motion operated in a hallway, that may be IR controlled via a remote control in the office or the conference room. Definitely motion control for the Printer/Mail Room or the Server Room.

Restroom and other Staff Areas
Restrooms and Kitchen areas definitely benefit from motion controls and Active Rest at 20% or 30% with such simple controls you may be able to light five restrooms and a kitchen area for $34 a year @ $0.11 a kWh.

Large Multiple Office Space
Only use simple devices that can be motion operated in a hallway, that can be daisy chained, that may be IR controlled via a remote control in the office or the conference room. Definitely motion control for the Printer/Mail Room or the Server Room.

A centralized system may reduce the need to personally monitor the locations or enforce rules to the availability of maximum light levels. This can be achieved using LightSpace Concentrators that can be connected to the Internet for remote event and use monitoring and following server applied rules. However, a server managed system should be locally self-sufficient. In case the Internet connection fails, the localized daylight and motion controls should remain fully functional and control the lights via the local LightSpace Controller(s).

Larger In-Door Systems' controls should be battery backed up and better still light fixtures and LightSpace controllers should be able to be supplied by line power and/or 48V-DC power for backup or permanently powering the devices from DC.

Outdoor Parking
For larger un-covered parking spaces the only practical control are timers and/or daylight sensors combined with timed and controlled light output.

Covered Parking (Single Structure)
For a single covered parking structure daylight controls in areas where natural daylight will supplement or totally cover daytime lighting levels and motion control for all other areas.

Covered Parking (Multiple Structures)
For multiple parking structures a centralized system may reduce the need to personally monitor the locations. This can be achieved using LightSpace Concentrators that can be connected to the Internet for remote monitoring. However, the system should be self-sufficient for the case when the Internet connection fails the localized daylight and motion controls should remain fully functional and control the lights via the local LightSpace Controller(s).

Klaus Bollmann is a 30 year veteran in energy conservation, resource saving innovative products for a sustainable environment. Click the link If you are interested in ActiveLED high performance lighting products.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Guidelines for Installing Mezzanine Floors

Firstly, let me outline exactly what a 'mezzanine' floor is. The word mezzanine derives from the Italian word mezzano, meaning simply 'middle'. With this in mind the mezzanine acts as a middle or extra floor. Although architects use this term to explain additional levels in domestic buildings, a 'mezzanine', for the purpose of this topic, relates to additional floors in commercial or industrial applications.

When looking at an area to add additional floor space to, it is important to ensure that the space meets the design criteria requirements. Generally a ceiling height which exceeds 4.5m is acceptable to insert an intermediate floor, however, the physical construction depth of the system should be taken into account. i.e. 2m clear headroom above and below the mezzanine floor should ideally remain so a construction depth in excess of 0.5m could cause issues. The construction depth consists of all materials required to suspend the mezzanine. Usually, a main beam combined with the decking creates the overall dimension. I will come back to these components later in the article.

In addition to the height, the sub floor should also be considered, for example, the floor of which the mezzanine shall be built. This should be strong enough to accept the load of the mezzanine columns. In most cases mezzanine floors are bolted on top of concrete slab floors. Structural calculations that the slab will take the point loads should be carried out prior to the installation and are required as part of the local authority building regulations submission. In order to determine the physical strength of the concrete when construction details are not available, core samples can be taken from the slab and 'crush' tested.

Once these two elements are suitable, you can then begin to design a mezzanine floor for your area. The first thing to decide is how far apart the columns (supporting pillars) are. This is largely dependent on the results of the slab calculation which would tell you the maximum permissible load down a column, as well as any obstructions in the way, i.e. floor joints, machinery, doors etc. If the area is completely clear of obstruction it may be an idea to design the mezzanine floor from an economical point of view and make sure that the columns are set out in the most cost saving manner. The typical size of an economical design can vary between manufacturers, however, as an example, a 4 metre grid pattern in both directions is very common.

There are various types of decking material available to use on mezzanine floors, however, the most common by far is chipboard. There are a few environments where chipboard is unsuitable such as damp or wet workspaces as well as areas that have very high point loads on them. Other examples of flooring types are durbar or chequer plate, which are very strong but can be noisy and expensive. Open grates are good for letting light through but again noisy and also difficult to use with picking trolleys.

Any open edges of the mezzanine, i.e. sides of the floor not butting up to a wall, should be protected. The most common way to do this is by means of installing handrails. In addition to a handrail, a knee rail must be added and usually a toe rail to avoid kicking anything of the floor. There are regulations surrounding handrail and these should be adhered to.

Access for personnel to the mezzanine level can be achieved in several ways such as lifts or

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Living And Working In Sustainable Environments - Electrical Challenges

Electricity is convenient but also not as efficient to generate or transport as you might think. Electricity will become a more and more expensive commodity and for this reason more efficient ways of using and storing electricity will have to be employed. If you are moving towards a more sustainable office or home environment you may simply use load shifting storing lower cost energy in the night for use during peak hours or you are likely to employ alternative energy generation techniques which may reach from Solar or Wind to Propane or other Combustion Engines.
There are more than one reason to use an off-grid system and often a mixed system allowing you to use the grid as a backup is an appropriate implementation.

If you have native DC devices such as computers, LED lighting and other DC capable systems delivering the energy in form of DC is mostly 15% more efficient than delivering it in form of AC which requires AC to DC converting power supplies. For this reason it will become paramount that electricians and Electrical Engineering companies understand this and plan new construction with AC and DC systems in mind. The most appropriate voltage for DC based systems is 48V.

There is the tri-generation environment where typically Grid-Power, Propane Generation and Solar and/or Wind are all feeding the same system. This is for mission critical applications where power will always be available at the lowest cost and as much renewable power as generated is used. Also this system benefits greatly from separating DC capable devices from higher energy-consuming devices that may have to be supplied from and AC source like the Grid or a Generator.

On-Grid System
An On-Grid System is based on Solar or PV Generators feeding the grid via a separate meter, the energy supplied to the grid is credited to your account. The energy used by you from the grid is charged as usual. There is no backup to the grid, if the grid fails there is no energy.

Grid Assist or Solar Assist
A Grid Assist System is typically based on Solar and Wind Generation coupled with the grid charging the storage batteries when insufficient wind or sunlight is available. Solar Assist is normally used for mission critical systems where security is the main concern, in this case the equipment is powered by the grid at the same time as it is powered by an alternative energy charger, it will consume most of the energy provided by solar or wind but also a small amount of grid power.

Load Shifting
In cases when at certain night times power is at a significantly lower cost outweighing any losses in the charging of batteries and conversion to the form of energy required in peak times, a Load Shifting system is a way to save financial and fossil resources.

Off-Grid System
The reasons to employ a system that is totally off-grid can be the cost to get a remote location on the grid or requiring mission capability when the grid fails. An off-grid system can be Solar and Wind Generation only or coupled with a Propane or other Combustion Engine / Turbine Generator to allow seamless energy during spells of no wind or sufficient sunlight or exhaustion of battery storage.

When becoming more energy-efficient you will have to consider running a mixed DC and AC system unless you are willing to go all out for latest technology advancements in air conditioning, heating and cooking, you may want limit yourself to lighting systems for now which can be made super efficient and you can go off-grid with lighting due to the significantly reduced energy required to produce light with some LED lighting products.

Large energy users are not so readily replaceable, so for cooking or big electrical machinery the grid or a generator supply is often necessary as the conversion loss from DC to AC is not attractive. Also heaters and cooking equipment could be replaced with propane or methane apparatus which is significantly cheaper to run.

In office and industrial environments additional controls such as motion sensors, daylight sensors, dimmer and programmatic control can save very significant amounts of energy. This means bringing a low voltage and a high voltage junction box to the light switch location, a feature all electricians and Mechanical Engineers should keep in mind.

Klaus Bollmann is a 30 year veteran in energy conservation, resource saving innovative products for a sustainable environment. Click the link If you are interested in Ringdale DC Systems high performance 48V DC products or ActiveLED 48V DC capapable lighting systems.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wide Format Document Scanning - The Advantages

Wide format document scanning and the digitisation of large documents is one of the most used services these days by the likes of architects and local authorities and with good reason.

Even the largest and most successful businesses in the world are finding that they need to save as much space as possible as well as bringing in the need for resources as much as is physically possible. Scaling back has become a familiar thing for so many businesses but when you have a lot of large documentation or large format drawings, plans or blueprints this can be a difficult task. More often than not these types of wide format files are either kept rolled in hard cardboard tubes or are left in a particular room unrolled where they take even more room than the cardboard tubes do. Cardboard tubes help to recude the amount of space that can be taken by large format documents but they are still heavily bulky things that take a lot of room especially if you have a large quantity of larger wide format images.

The best way to reduce the amount of space taken by these drawings is to simply get rid of them altogether but, as with most things, it's not as simple as that. This is where wie format scanning comes in.

Much like traditional document scanning, wide format scanning is a way to make digital versions of physical files but in this case on a much larger scale. Obviously you can do a large format drawing on a standard office scanner and they are more often than not done on a specialist large format scanner by a professional company.

But in doing this you can gain room that you might never have even realised you had. If your organisation is thinking of downsizing this can make a huge difference or even if you're just looking at giving your team some much needed space, wide format scanning is the ideal solution. This can have untold impacts on people's morale as well as the potential to use the new found room however you wish.

With wide format scanning files can be converted to numerous file formats of your choice whether this is PDF, TIFF or JPEG plus it's also possible, thanks to modern software innovation, to then convert the scanned files to fully editable CAD files which can be modified and used again and again.

With wide format scanning you're not just getting a way to save space and reduce your paper usage it also makes for a more flexible way of handling your documents. As with most PDF, JPEG or TIFF files, you can do pretty much anything you wish with them; modify them, email them, put them online to download and virtually anything else you can think of. This is the true beauty of digitisation.

Once the wide format scanning is completed you can then dispose of the large files either by sending them for secure shredding or to recycle. Usually the document scanning company that handles the conversion of you documents will be able to help out with these needs.

It might be surprising to realise that wide format document scanning is also something that doesn't cost a great deal. Most companies are in a position where they can process files

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Simple Contrast in the Sokyo Restaurant Interior Design

          Blending two cities in worlds apart is no mean feat, much less when the distinctive style felt in those different places comes into one design, the Sokyo restaurant interior design. Beautifully simple, the design allows for minimal and unobstructive furniture and lighting, to create a minimalistic feel of two cultures and philosophies in one room in perfect harmony with each other. The stunning use of Japanese and Australian heritage leaves an impression of a beautiful marriage between two ages, and harmony between worlds that were once irreconcilable. The modern ways of Sydney are not pushed aside meaning the inside looks and feels like modern Australia, but to the Japanese eye, the choice of design philosophy evokes a deep sense of being home.

          Above the dining area modern lighting with throwback lamp shades from Japanese architecture gives the hall an air of modernity interspersed with a simple traditional style. Teasingly simple chairs take their place next to dark wooden tables, creating a feeling of sitting on the traditional Japanese sitting space. Candles adorn the tables, adding a romantic quality that's borrowed from the pre-modern era before Thomas Edison gave us the humble light bulb. The windows are well covered with hanging curtains clearly made from a Japanese inspired style, simple ropes with brightly colored top halves and dark contrasting lower halves, and with a flowing pattern that gives the sense of a flowing wave of color.

          The kitchen area has a transparent and appealing counter-top, with chefs preparing meals in full view, but yet not paraded in front of customers, creating a sense of homeliness, and trust between the chefs and the diners. Dark high-placed chairs at the front of the kitchen with an accompanying table create a beautiful merged effect with the background of bright ceilings and walls around and above the chefs. Distinctly made walls made from traditional Japanese paper and wood makes the separation between the various sections of the restaurant look like the traditional Japanese dining area.

          The walls are not completely obscuring, with the paper only waist high, enough to give privacy to the average diner, but low enough to keep everyone from feeling isolated. The wooden floors give the restaurant an attractive, but simple elegance that is hard to achieve with modern tiles and polished ceramics, or sophisticated carpets. This simple effect leaves the diner feeling like they are in an authentic and cultured place.

          A brightly colored tile-like under-counter in the bar area gives the room a bright ambience without leaving the undesirable afterglow from bright lights that is common with overhead lights. This is done without leaving the diner brightly lit and exposed to too much light. There is a well designed dining area, with a dark ambience and furniture inspired by Japanese simplicity that is hard to beat. All in all this is a professionally done design that will appeal to the modern and contemporary individual looking for good taste and style. Good design never fails to inspire, and in this instance, one can clearly feel the inspiration than went into the creation of this work of art, at truly well thought, planned, and executed exercise.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Restaurant Design: How to Do Interior Design on a Budget

If you are thinking about opening a restaurant, or thinking about doing a renovation on your existing restaurant, but have a very limited budget, there are lots of creative and affordable ways that you can make a big change without spending big money.

A few simple ideas can help you transform your restaurant operation into a brand new place. The ideas below are also all DIY, so there is no need to have to deal with the headaches of hiring a contractor.

1. Clean it up

First and foremost, a complete detailing of your restaurant should be done before any big or small renovation jobs are done. Wash and clean each and every single wall, corner, countertops, display shelves, drawers, cabinets, table, chair, window, washroom, etc. in your entire operation. When things are clean, they can look new again.

2. Paint

A good paint job can change the dynamic of any operation drastically. It is the easiest and most inexpensive way to make an instant change to the interior design of your restaurant. Choose colors that are related to your brand, and the type of food that you serve. Paint your bulkheads in bright colors to attract attention. If your tables, chairs, cabinets and counters are looking a bit shabby, repaint those as well.

3. Make deals with artists

Can't afford to buy expensive artwork for your walls? Why not help local artists in your community get some exposure instead? Use your restaurant operation as a gallery for new and upcoming artists. If a piece sells, the artist can give you a percentage of the sales. This way, artists have an outlet to display their work to the public, and you get to have beautiful pieces of art in your restaurant for free.

4. Avoid restaurant supply stores

Restaurant suppliers tend to charge a fortune for shelving units, display props, food display ware, cookware, smallwares, etc. Consider shopping for these items at stores like IKEA, Pier 1 Imports and other inexpensive home d├ęcor stores that offer such items at a much lower price.

5. Wallpaper

Wallpaper is a great way to add texture, color and depth to your operation. Today, you can buy wallpaper with any type of print imaginable. For example, if you want to give your operation a wood feel, but can't afford to use real wood, use a wood-themed wallpaper instead. Contrast your painted walls with strips of wallpaper to make your walls more interesting. Wallpaper can also help you relay to your customers the atmosphere of your restaurant.