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ASHRAE gives individual attention to data centre cooling

ASHRAE President Tim Wentz, in an exclusive interview with B Surendar, Editor, Climate Control Middle East, speaks on why data centres have merited special attention from the Society.

| | Apr 10, 2017 | 10:41 am
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Timothy Wentz. Image credit: ASHRAE website*

What is the thrust ASHRAE is giving to data centre cooling, considering that they reportedly consume three per cent of global energy supply?
ASHRAE has just published a new technical standard on data centres. And the reason ASHRAE chose to publish a separate document for data centres is owing to the importance of data centres from an engineering stand point. Data centres are unique in terms of application of engineering. So that was the reason to have a separate document from 90.1, though they are still part of energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

What can be done to address the nagging issue of trying to increase energy efficiency without compromising on indoor environmental quality?
IEQ and energy efficiency have been a historical balancing act. We want to make sure buildings are healthy and energy-efficient at the same time. A big issue is that people have always assumed that the only way to make buildings healthier is to increase the intake of outdoor air, and that by doing so, we would end up increasing the consumption of power to condition the air. We can, however, make our buildings healthy by doing other things than just increasing the intake of outdoor air. We are committing more to research on this subject. This issue is particularly at the forefront of healthcare. We are finding that we can, maybe, make hospitals healthier with less outdoor air, like controlling contamination within the building.

Is there credence to the theory that if we were able to get more out of renewable energy to condition the air, then the issue of emissions won’t have to crop up every time someone suggests we increase the intake of outdoor air?
If you are going to create a nearly zero energy building (nZEB), the first step is to lower the energy use of the building to a minimum level and, at the same time, keep the building healthy. Then you talk of renewable energy. Does IEQ have a role to play in the process? We would need to direct special research on ventilation rates and human occupancy. I think we have a lot to learn there yet.

Could you share information on ASHRAE’s recent District Cooling initiatives with Empower?
Clearly, District Cooling is one path that can offer significant energy savings for communities that are willing to explore the technology. At the Winter Meet (2017), Empower and ASHRAE signed up an agreement to upgrade the existing design guidebook. We also signed an agreement to do a District Cooling document specific for building owners, which we expect would take a year to produce. We have a design guide. But how do you get the owners on board, and how will they know the advantages District Cooling has to offer, and their responsibilities as building owners? It is a question of O&M. It’s like managing any other asset to get optimal energy efficiency.

Is the International District Energy Association (IDEA) involved in the publishing of the new guide book?
Jeff H Littleton (Executive Vice President, ASHRAE):
This is an ASHRAE and Empower project. We think very positively about IDEA, and they are a great group, but they are not directly involved in this project.

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