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How VRF technology is essential in creating the next generation of smart buildings

How VRF technology is essential in creating the next generation of smart buildings

Publication: MEP Middle East

Attributed to Sandra Bou Madi, Head of Business Development

With the exponential growth of the global population, we more clearly understand not just the benefits but the importance of building more sustainable developments and smarter cities around the world. Sustainability is embedded in the national agendas of governments, but also in the minds of consumers as we become more aware of the negative impact that climate change can have on our daily lives. Now, more than ever, we realize that developing smart cities is crucial to support future generations.

A core theme of both the UAE Vision 2021 and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – creating a sustainable environment and infrastructure –  is what’s driving future developments.  And, with the spotlight being shone on green buildings and smarter cities, the region has also seen a rise in the use of variable refrigerant flow technology for ACs, or more commonly known as VRF.

VRF is the fastest growing product segment in the HVAC market both regionally and globally. According to a recent study by ReportLinker, a market research solution company, the VRF market in the Middle East and Africa region is expected to grow the fastest amongst all other HVAC categories. This is because VRF presents clear and auditable cost, infrastructure and energy-efficiency benefits which appeal to residential and commercial spaces like offices, supermarkets, hotels, large-scale villa developments and retail parks. Moreover, VRF can also demonstrate long-term proficiency in terms of operating expense (OPEX) with reduced electrical consumption. This, coupled with the powerful, adaptable cooling it offers, makes VRF the HVAC technology of choice for the next generation green buildings.

In our region, VRF is mainly associated with horizontal residential and commercial developments, and its use and scope for vertical developments has, to date, been largely untapped. The technology was, in fact, originally created as a solution for vertical developments – allowing the efficiency of DX technology to be used in a high-rise building. So, it’s no surprise that with its higher efficiency, easier zoning, better flexibility space and aesthetic benefits, VRF is now increasingly the cooling solution of choice for large-scale vertical developments and districts. Key projects such as the Zayed Smart City in Abu Dhabi and the King Abdullah Financial District in Saudi Arabia are excellent examples of the increasing demand for green infrastructures in the region. And, owners and occupiers of such multi-building designs can benefit hugely from simpler localized controls, easier building integration and less costly maintenance as well as the sustainability advantages of VRF.

Aside from its capacity to provide cost and energy efficiency, VRF also has the upfront benefit of being an IoT enabled HVAC technology, which, for building facilities managers, and building owners, offers huge advantages in preventative maintenance. This smart equipment provides critical fault detection allowing equipment repairs to take place even before failures occur. And, because VRF technology can be integrated into building automation systems for a more centralised oversight of heating and cooling it means HVAC is easier to manage, maintain and measure. From a simple Plug and Play through a singular connection from any indoor unit, VRF can be connected to any protocol of BMS by a simple gateway. Plus, add-ons such as self-learning thermostats can improve the efficiency outcomes even more. In short, a VRF system provides improved comfort control, convenience, and more conscious cooling, while generating data insights which allow us to continually improve the technology to the end user and market needs.

The research on VRF is compelling, and points to the fact that the growing use of this technology can help to propel the region’s cooling industry closer to the zero-energy building mark target and reduce our carbon footprint. As the regulatory industry becomes more established, and with the introduction of new parameters tailored to the region’s desert climate, technology such as VRF looks set to become even more compelling to the construction sector as a whole.

The future of our industry is driven by sustainability, so it’s likely that the steady shift towards VRF we’ve seen over the past few years will accelerate along with the region’s green development agenda.