New systems approach to commercial HVAC simultaneously improves building ventilation while dramatically lowering energy bills

April 7, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Institute for Market Transformation
Alexandra Laney, alexandra.laney@imt.org, 530-645-2539

WASHINGTON, DC (March 6, 2021)—The Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), in partnership with Fujitsu General America Inc. and Ventacity Systems, is conducting demonstrations of a new systems-based approach to commercial HVAC building electrification, air quality improvement, and significant energy reductions. Spanning 25 buildings, the multi-year project seeks to confirm energy savings of up to 70 percent per building and show a path to rapid national building electrification, building performance improvement, cost-savings, and carbon reduction.

This demonstration project will test a systems approach called Very High Efficiency HVAC (VHE HVAC) which is intended to both electrify buildings and dramatically reduce energy use and operating costs. This pilot builds upon impressive earlier demonstrations by the nonprofit Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA). In some of those demonstrations, existing natural gas heating systems were upgraded with high efficiency variable refrigerant flow (VRF) or heat pump systems, yet the buildings showed only minimal increase in annual electricity use. The NEEA demonstration results illustrated that, when compared to a code-minimum system upgrade, this approach can reduce commercial building energy use by an average of 36 percent, and HVAC energy use by an average of 65 percent. Further, indoor air quality and comfort noticeably improved. 

“Demand is skyrocketing for healthier indoor air as real estate seeks to bounce back from the global pandemic. This demonstration project will show that building owners can provide 100 percent outdoor air while also reaping significant energy savings and pollution reductions,” said Lotte Schlegel, executive director of The Institute for Market Transformation. “This is a promising technological approach that could be a game-changer for making existing buildings healthier and higher-performing in a way that makes financial sense to owners, operators, and occupants.”

IMT’s pilots will leverage highly-efficient VRF products from Fujitsu General, heat recovery ventilation equipment from Ventacity Systems, and strict design guidelines. IMT has secured an award of more than $635,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to complete 15 demonstration sites and funding from the ComEd® Energy Efficiency Program in Chicago to determine whether NEEA’s results can be replicated in a wider variety of climates, building types, and sizes. The Energy Foundation provided additional funding to develop the market transformation framework and support initial program research and outreach.

NYSERDA Acting President and CEO, Doreen M. Harris said, “As we accelerate toward a carbon-neutral building stock and help consumers make the shift to electrification, developing and piloting new low-carbon solutions is key to achieving results in many different building typologies. We are proud to support the Institute for Market Transformation’s new systems approach in commercial buildings and look forward to evaluating the demonstration project’s effectiveness at reducing energy use and improving indoor air quality through increased energy efficiency.”

For more information, or to watch the technology overview video, visit imt.org/VHEHVAC.

Program Area(s):

Want to get regular updates from IMT?