New air-conditioning system could cut energy costs by 40 per cent

SINGAPORE - A cheaper, more efficient air-conditioning system - that could potentially cut energy costs by 40 per cent - was launched on Tuesday (Jan 19).

It was unveiled at United World College of South East Asia's Dover campus, where it is being piloted at its 550 sq m administration office.

The system is an integral part of a new building concept called 3for2, developed by architectural and engineering researchers at the Singapore-ETH Centre, a research centre established by ETH Zurich and the National Research Foundation (NRF).

The concept enables developers to create three floors in the space normally occupied by two. This is done by integrating the air-conditioning system's ductwork - which typically takes up 25 per cent of office space - into floor slabs and the facade.

Professor Arno Schlueter from ETH Zurich, who led the project, said the air-conditioning system could potentially cut the amount of energy needed for cooling by 40 per cent.

It could also save on construction materials and space.

Conventional systems use water at 6 deg C to dehumidify and cool air, which is then piped around a whole building through air ducts.

This system, however, dehumidifies air using small ventilation units built directly into the building's facade, which cuts the amount of ductwork required to transport the air.

It also uses a decentralised cooling system in which chilled water - which needs to be only 17 deg C to 20 deg C - is injected into special ceiling beams to cool the surrounding area. This takes up much less space than conventional overhead air ducts.

Prof Schlueter said: "These more sustainable buildings help developers to lower construction costs and increase tenable floor areas, while enabling tenants to benefit from significantly lower utility bills."

Preliminary data collected over 18 days from over 1,000 sensors placed around the office space where the system is being piloted showed that the room is already on par with the top 10 per cent most energy-efficient office buildings in Singapore.

Mr Tan Tian Chong, Group Director of Research at the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said the Green Buildings Innovation Cluster (GBIC), a research, development and deployment (RD&D) programme spearheaded by BCA, will co-fund the implementation of the project, including its measurement and verification.

"We will also collect data from the project to ensure that the knowledge and best practices will be consolidated for dissemination to the industry," he said.