Recently, SEED attended the Brisbane leg of the ‘Stay Ahead of the HVAC Curve’ series of presentations by Seeley International. The aim of the series is to discuss the capabilities and pathways to a Zero Emissions Future.


The first speaker of the evening was Dr. Jerad Ford, Strategic Advisory Manager for CSIRO. His message was clear from the onset, change will come to the electricity network and how buildings in particular interact with our power sources. Buildings account for 29% of all energy sector emissions, so the role of HVAC play a critical part in reaching zero emissions.

The building design can play a part in lowering energy peak demands and contributing back energy to the grid. However, during day hours when people are at work there is a far less demand on the grid. This presents as the best time for the charging of electric cars, scooters, and bikes and avoiding overloading the grid. New solar panel technology also presents opportunity for electricity to be generated in unused places and even on the go with integrated panels on bags and cars.


The next speaker was Nicki Palmer, Sustainability Manager for Norman, Disney & Young. The focus of her presentation was to provide ideas and insight into how our buildings can achieve a net zero energy usage. As she followed on from Dr. Ford, her main focus was on Passive Design, or the ability of the building to manage its own energy consumption and comfort. There are several methods for doing this, but Nicki case studied a few of the common options including:

  • Increased building fabric performance,
  • Widened temperature bands,
  • Natural ventilation, and
  • Night Purge operation.


In total, the case study showed that up to 60% of energy consumption could be saved over a year using these features. However, global warming and climate change will affect these energy savings. Climate Change Australia has a Climate Analogues tool estimates that, under the current RCP4.5 emissions scenario, Brisbane will have a climate similar to Bundaberg, Beaudesert and Gympie by 2030. This shift in climate will results in higher cooling loads and more stress on HVAC systems to maintain acceptable conditions.


Ultimately, buildings will have to adapt significantly to alter the course of climate change. We must begin to challenge the purpose and use of buildings in order to create a range of building services other than just commercial or residential real estate. HVAC will play a critical role in this; as the world gets hotter, there will be more demand for electricity and cooling to stay comfortable. Lowering this demand is the biggest future challenge and why sustainably driven design should not just be desired but required.