Scale ZNE

Many of our initial zero net energy buildings revolved around a few key design goals: eliminate the compressor and keep it all electric. At the time, this resulted in pushing the limits of cooling tower systems, making cold water at night, using warmer temperature water (55F to 60F) through chilled beams, radiant slabs, or displacement systems. Lots of pipes and pumps. Low energy, yet at the end of the day, a bit complicated with standard HVAC. Simple in principle, complicated by uniqueness.

Now as the market has nearly fully embraced design-build, we will need some design-build friendly packages to get us there. While the mission is the same, using simple design principles, the market is shifting. Good principles need to scale to the masses and this means, we need products in our shared tool-belt. Key trends and technologies I see that need to become 10x more popular:

  1. Air to Water Heat PumpsAermec needs some competition for being awesome. 250+tons in one machine!
  2. Small DC Powered HRV – Fresh air needs to be quiet and small, distributed around a building
  3. Ceiling FansAeratron is an Australian company competing with big ass fans finally
  4. Packaged DOAS with DX & HRVFresh air, balance moisture, provide neutral air. Need something to be the new “VRF Friendly Intellipack” (You know what I mean!)
  5. Packaged Medium Temp CHW Plant – A system packaged and optimized to make 55F CHW. Integrated economizer, full part load compressor system, on board controls to manage sequences. Come on Trane we know you want to package this.
  6. Packaged Ambient Central Plant – Air to water heat pumps, 55F CHW, 110F HW with booster HX coils (add on) with packaged controls to be stand alone. Aermec again has this down, need some competitors to grow it!
  7. Facade Integrated Ventilation Systems – the A2Panel is making a scene and could use more competition. Singapore is leading this, we are playing catch up.
  8. Occupancy Counters – This Density sensor uses infrared photos to count, pretty sweet and a great MUCH more robust way to adjust ventilation (so cool)
  9. FFE Personal Comfort Systems for Heating & Cooling – a specified range of deg/Watt and comfort range it will maintain. CBE is working on these, we need to be ready in fit outs.


Neil Bulger is a Principal at Integral Group and leads the Building Performance team in the western United States. He provides thermal comfort and low energy system design strategies for award-winning buildings, leveraging world-class simulation tools and years of experience in building science and HVAC.