The commercial construction industry is increasingly looking at using alternative methods and technology to help property owners and tenants reduce electricity costs related to heating and cooling systems.
One such solution – thermo-active building systems (TABS) – is gaining in popularity locally.
“Although this alternative is not new, it has been used around the world since the early 2000s, there are not many of these systems installed in South Africa yet. We are currently involved with a thermo-active system, with collaborated design input from PJC and Sutherland Consulting Engineers, in Cape Town and have had enquiries for further projects,” says Stefan Sander, CEO of Two Ocean Air Conditioning (TOAC).
“Research by the University of California in 2012, found that radiant cooling systems produce better overall energy performance. In view of the on-going uncertainty around electricity supply and escalating power costs have caused contractors to take a closer look at thermo-active systems,” he says.
The base principle of thermo-active building systems (TABS) is to activate the thermal mass of a building by embedding water-carrying pipes within the structure of a building in order to provide comfort by mainly influencing the surface temperatures that the occupants are exposed to.
“Beyond cost-savings, research also found that it improves comfort for the occupants of buildings. The reason this has not been actively adopted in new construction in SA is a perceived higher cost of installation and to a degree fear of extended construction time. However, from our experience we have found that the installation does not negatively impact on the duration of the works, if sequenced and coordinated closely,” Sander says.
TOAC’s installation, now in its final phases before completion, is at the ‘Brickfields Canvas’ building, and is scheduled to be fully commissioned by end October 2019.
He notes that this option may not be suitable for all buildings, for instance in cases of building renovations as opposed to the erection of a new building as the cost and disruption are deterring factors. Also, in many instances, this kind of system does not replace an air-based, classic HVAC installation; many buildings use a combination effectively and have recorded reduced running costs.
Beyond the ‘Brickfield Canvas’ building, TOAC is working on the design and implementation of a thermo-active system for ‘The Ridge’ project in the Western Cape, with construction expected to start early September 2019.