The state of play for sustainable MEP design

The state of play for sustainable MEP design

Now, more than ever, industries across the globe are moving towards more eco-friendly and sustainable approaches. But what exactly is sustainability and how does it come into play when considering the future of MEP design?

Sustainable design, also known as green design, involves a combination of environmentally-conscious engineering methods and technological innovations that when applied, can reduce a building’s environmental footprint. MEP fundamentals like electrical, HVAC, water use and the materials used in construction can be modified in more sustainable ways. Although the goal of sustainable MEP design is to reduce a building’s ecological impact, there’s also an attractive financial incentive as less energy consumption directly translates into cheaper operational costs.

Studies show that buildings account for nearly 40% of global CO2 emissions. But, as new eco-friendly technologies are developed, it’s now possible for MEP engineers to track, monitor and lower the environmental impact of structures, big or small.

The basics of sustainable approaches to MEP design

Sensors and smart applications:

With computer-controlled monitoring software integrated into thermostats, energy consumption from HVAC systems can be easily tracked and manipulated from a phone or computer. Building owners can utilise the data collected by these devices to gain a better understanding of their energy consumption and implement smarter, more sustainable approaches to cooling and heating.

Heat recovery with low-energy ventilation systems:

Small adjustments to a building’s ventilation system can have a significant impact on heat loss and recovery. Sustainable heating design recycles pre-existing heat energy from within a structure to maintain comfortable temperatures. Using this method, heat is never lost, and air circulation becomes more sustainable by no longer relying on inefficient heating units.

Solar collection and renewable power:

Water heaters, HVAC systems and lighting design can always benefit from solar energy. Solar panels harvest naturally existing energy from the sun and transform it into electricity so that buildings can sustain themselves without relying on local power grids. This, in effect, can be one of the most environmentally friendly approaches when upgrading or designing a building.

Real world applications of sustainable MEP design

One recent case study by DJHC looked into developing 29 affordable, low energy residential units within a 5-storey tower, designed to Passivhaus standards. Conceived in Germany, Passivhaus is a voluntary standard for energy efficiency that reduces a building’s carbon footprint by implementing strict design and building methods that directly address environmental impact.

Per these standards, the building could only use a maximum of 60 kWh/m2 per year of primary energy for heating, hot water and electricity. This meant the structure didn’t rely on conventional heating and instead employed a low-volume heat recovery ventilation system. Additionally, building envelopes under the Passivhaus standard are required to be extremely airtight compared to conventional construction methods.

In short, the way we think about MEP design can have a major impact on CO2 emissions.  For this reason, smart design choices are critical if we want to seek more sustainable approaches. Using environmentally friendly heating, lighting, ventilation, and air conditioning systems can ensure peak unit performance with low emissions. Additionally, implementing locally-sourced materials, conserving water and constructing with recycled materials are all important factors to consider as we continue developing more sustainable methods in MEP design for the future.



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