Just why are multi-service chilled beams such a growth market?

Published:  29 January, 2008

exploded view
Highly effective comfort cooling from relatively high chilled-water temperatures, coupled with the integration of a host of other services, combine to stimulate very rapid growth in the market for multi-service chilled beams.

Terry Farthing share his views on why the popularity of multi-service chilled beams is growing so rapidly.

The popularity of chilled beams is such that they are becoming the system of choice for air-conditioning terminals. Indeed most new buildings have a design for the shell and core based on either fan coils or chilled beams being utilised on the fit out.

There are so many benefits of using chilled beams that when they were first introduced it seemed more like a salesman’s dream rather than hard fact.

At Trox we first publicised multi service chilled beams in the late 1990s — but ,as we all know, there was resistance to change from the good old trusted fan-coil systems. Persistent marketing on our part and nationwide seminars attended by over 2000 people over 18 months provided a platform for further market persuasion.

Early projects to adopt the chilled-beam system used multi-service chilled beams in existing concrete buildings that were generally owner occupied.

From those initial beginnings the market has expanded rapidly with a general acceptance that chilled beams ‘do what it says on the tin’. Compare this with fan coils where there have been many difficulties in meeting catalogue performance, particularly on acoustics. BSRIA’s product-testing specialist, Paul Stonnard, said in a recent trade-press article: ‘From its extensive experience in fan-coil testing, BSRIA has found that some of those products had the performance which is 25 to 30% down on catalogue data.’

Contrast this experience with chilled beams, where noise levels are low and comfort conditions high.

According to our market research, the beam market has gown from around £6 million in 2000 to £23 million in 2006. Virtually all the growth has been at the expense of fan-coil systems, which have reduced from £40 million in 2000 to £27million in 2006.

There are many market drivers, all of which have had an impact on the enormous growth in the popularity of chilled beams.

The benefits of chilled beams, particularly multi service, are being more readily accepted by the design engineer. They are summarised in Table 1 and explained in more detail below.

• Using flow/return temperatures of 14/17ºC means more free cooling, the possible use of groundwater, lower carbon emissions and greater opportunities for utilising sustainable energy sources.

• Compared to fan coils, chilled beams are estimated to achieve a 15% saving on the carbon footprint of the building. Research work will be published soon that will provide precise figures for a specific building.

• Lower slab to soffit dimensions can be achieved, with significant savings in construction costs and reduced building height. The saving in cladding costs on one project was enough to pay for the entire chilled-beam installation.

• Reduced height also means that older buildings do not have to be demolished but can be recycled by refurbishing with multi-service chilled beams. This provides a cost effective, eco-friendly solution, together with a modern interior including air conditioning and lighting.

Over and above these benefits, there has been a significant change in our attitudes to environmental issues which have been influenced by:

• legislation;
• politics;
• corporate responsibility.

Legislation: The impact of Part L is in itself significant, but other targets are being sought, such as a high standard of energy efficiency within the proposed building labelling. This will bring about further pressure on energy-reduction measures beyond Part L so that investors and developers can be certain their building will remain up-to-date and marketable. The more aware the market becomes of the relative energy efficiency of the building, the more important this issue becomes and will totally convert the rather conservative attitude of letting agents.

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By avoiding the need for a suspended ceiling, multi-srvice chilled beams enable older buildings with low floor to soffit heights to be refurbished to modern standards

Politics: All political parties seem to be entering a competition as to who can be ‘greenest’. It is certain to become a major issue at the next election, bringing more and more publicity to the debate on carbon emissions. Such discussion will move public opinion significantly towards sustainability and saving scarce resources.

Public awareness could also encourage the Government to go for more demanding carbon-emission targets. potentially making buildings that currently just meet Part L obsolete in fewer than 10 years.

Corporate Responsibility: Companies are becoming increasingly aware that they have a moral duty to help cut carbon emissions. However, there are also hard-headed business reasons to take environmental concerns seriously. Since people have begun to recognise the reality (and the consequent dangers) of climate change, and have therefore changed their attitudes to the way the environment is treated, the ecosystem has become a competitive issue among companies.

The image of major retail companies like Marks & Spencer and Tesco, for example, has been strengthened because they have taken an enlightened and progressive stance on the issue — and this attitude is leading to the greening of industry in general. There are also many property developers who want to market up-to-date lo- energy buildings.

The market for multi-service chilled beams is set to continue to grow. and MSBCs will very soon become the leading terminal air-conditioning system. The arguments are compelling and the progressive increasing limitations on carbon emission will make this a formality.

Terry Farthing is head of communications with Trox UK.

By avoiding the need for a suspended ceiling, multi-service chilled beams enable older buildings with low floor to soffit heights to be refurbished to modern standards.

Table 1: Summary of benefits of multi-service chilled beams.

• Significant energy savings (around 15% compared to fan coil units) due to the use of free cooling.
• Reduced building height reducing construction costs or providing the ability to recycle old buildings.
• Virtually maintenance

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free, since there are no moving parts or filters. Occasional cleaning is required once every four years.
• Lower whole-life costs compared with traditional fan-coil system.
• Eliminate the need for suspended ceilings.
• Reduced installation times since most of the MSCB is pre-fabricated in the factory.
• Can be styled by the architect to be aesthetically pleasing and form a feature in offices.
• Increased quality and safety due to the large pre-fabrication element.



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