SOLAIR Pty Ltd recommends the use of solar air collectors in buildings to enable significant savings on energy consumption and carbon emissions.

The air conditioning system accounts for about 50 per cent of a building’s energy consumption with the balance going towards other services such as common area lighting, domestic hot water and lifts. Therefore, any reduction in air conditioning energy consumption or ensuring efficient energy utilisation will lead to significant savings in total building energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Such buildings should adopt night purging, displacement ventilation, positive input ventilation with 100% fresh air intake using solar air collectors, high thermal mass materials and a co-generation plant to significantly contribute to the health of occupants, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions as well as energy consumption. Implementing all of these initiatives will reduce carbon emissions to 44% of a 4.5 star Australian Building Greenhouse Rated building.

Using a thermal (solar air collector) panel system for both night purging for cooling and daytime solar absorption for heating introduces 100% fresh air into the building, thereby flushing out all contaminated air without mixing. Key benefits include enhanced air quality, health wellbeing and productivity of all occupants as well as significant reduction in maintenance costs from minimal hourly use of boilers/chillers.

As most large-scale buildings are built on concrete and other reasonably good thermally absorbing materials, they are capable of storing and releasing large amounts of energy (sensible heat). In summer, the building will store the coolness of the night and use it to cool the building during the day. Conversely, in winter, the building will absorb solar heat energy during the day and use it to maintain higher core temperatures at night.

Thermal mass, when correctly used, moderates internal temperatures by averaging out diurnal extremes; incorrect use can exacerbate the worst extremes of the climate and become a huge energy and comfort liability.

A ‘green’ building aims to minimise the emission of greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide emissions through efficient energy usage, and is based on effective energy utilisation between sources such as electricity, gas, solar, wind or energy from a co-generation plant.

Key advantages of thermal passive input ventilation systems include reducing CO2 emissions to 40% in a 4.5 star building; enhanced air quality by providing 100% fresh, non-recycled air; equal access to all occupants to the cool ceiling above and floor vents evenly distributed to passively provide a more even temperature throughout the space; and increased productivity through the reduction of noise, enhanced air quality, and even distribution of cool air in addition to healthier and more comfortable occupants.

Buildings using thermal passive input ventilation systems can also reduce maintenance costs from using a system with less moving parts. The lifespan of the chilled night flush system is also extended because of reduced plant loads and less maintenance problems. The thermal heat and night flush systems eliminate the need for additional internal high volume ductwork, minimising ceiling voids requirements and increasing opportunities for refurbishment as well net leasable area opportunities. All solar air collector systems can be retrofitted and adapted to existing air ventilation systems.

Solar air collectors are highly energy efficient with friction losses and lagging eliminated by the system and the building fabric contributing to the cooling system. With solar air collectors, all daytime air has the enormous benefit of dehumidification, greatly reducing the possibility of increased condensation.

A building can also save more energy by using secondary external shading to Northern/ Western walls, thermal (light colour) paints and external screening/shading to glazed areas.