1st January 2012

Monodraught’s ceiling-mounted COOL-PHASE® low-energy cooling and ventilation system has been specified by Sheffield Hallam University to create a fresh and healthy indoor environment in a ‘problem room’ on the tenth floor of the
12-storey Owen Building.  The system has dramatically reduced CO2 levels and is controlling previously excessive room temperatures well within normal comfort zones. All this while reducing energy consumption by up to 90% compared to conventional mechanical cooling systems.

Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) is based on two sites in Sheffield – City Campus in the city centre and Collegiate Crescent Campus about two miles away. The University is the fourth largest in the UK with more than 33,000 students.

The Monodraught COOL-PHASE installation is in the Owen Building of the University’s City Campus.
The 12-storey building was constructed in the early 1960s and had one particular ‘problem space’ – a 90-person teaching room on the tenth floor that consistently produced poor air quality and high temperatures. The room had no mechanical ventilation and was fitted with opening windows to one side, but due to the height of the building these were restricted to a 100mm maximum opening, limiting the amount of natural ventilation available. In November 2009 the University’s Estates Department initiated environmental checks using CO2 monitors calibrated to 2000ppm. The CO2 levels they recorded peaked ‘off the chart’ almost every time the room was in use!

Because the monitors were only recording to 2000ppm SHU couldn’t determine exactly how poor the environment was. However, University guidelines recommend a maximum level of 1000ppm so the Estates Department did have a target to aim for. Temperatures were also logged as part of the environmental checks and were consistently recorded at 25oC at a time when November’s outside temperatures were reaching only 5oC!

Commenting for the University, building services engineer Lee Allen says: “Obviously, we knew we had a problem so we began investigating ventilation options for the room.”

As the Owen Building didn’t have its own cooling system; and it would be too expensive to connect to the University’s central system, the Estates Department started by evaluating void-mounted air handling systems. However, while these could address the air quality problems they couldn’t solve the overheating. They next considered supplementing the air handling system with a separate direct-expansion (DX) mechanical cooling system, but besides being expensive the DX option is not environmentally friendly and SHU tries to avoid
energy-hungry mechanical systems wherever possible in line with its commitment to sustainability.

Says Lee: “We then began looking for alternative technologies that could be used in the room; and I came across an article on the new COOL-PHASE system. As Monodraught also have a number of natural ventilation systems I contacted them to arrange a CPD Seminar that would allow us to review a number of other options at the same time.

“We liked the COOL-PHASE system but initially thought that, being a new technology, it would be too expensive. So we were pleasantly surprised when the quote was less than the combined ventilation and cooling option, and of course the life-cycle and running costs were considerably lower.”

Following its extensive review, in March 2012 the Estates Department decided to install the COOL-PHASE system in the tenth floor teaching room as a trial, hoping to have an operational system for the spring and summer terms.

Appreciating the urgency, Monodraught responded very quickly and were on site within three weeks with the installation itself taking just over a week.

In the weeks following completion of the COOL-PHASE installation, and with the space functioning again as a teaching room, the Estates Department carried out further environmental monitoring with impressive results.

Explains Lee: “We monitored throughout the late March warm spell and recorded a room temperature peak of 23oC when outside temperatures were hovering around 21oC. We were very impressed with this performance compared to the 25oC internal room temperatures we were experiencing in November!”

Reporting on CO2 levels, he says initially they appeared to peak at 1300ppm, a little above the SHU target – but when the data was examined more closely the peak only lasted about half-an-hour; and coincided with times when students were coming into the room in the mornings and returning after lunch breaks.

“We realised that the COOL-PHASE system was working harder to bring the CO2 levels down during these peaks and, once the levels had been controlled
COOL-PHASE maintained CO2 levels at around 600ppm for the rest of the time. This, in a room that our booking system shows, was used consistently between 9.00am and 5.00pm. That’s pretty impressive.”

The installation itself was undertaken by a University nominated contractor working closely with Monodraught. The contractor installed the louvres, which are fitted through the building’s external wall, five storeys above a glass atrium. Lee says the installation team from Monodraught was extremely efficient and worked with the contractor to remove and replace ceilings and other fixings as required.

Confirming that the University is impressed with COOL-PHASE he says the Estates Department has subsequently specified six further systems for two new retrofit projects; and is talking to consultants about the feasibility of specifying
COOL-PHASE for a planned newbuild contract.

Commenting on any reservation he may have had specifying a new technology, Lee says: "Having worked for 10 years as a consulting engineer I can understand the reluctance for some specifiers to propose installing new technologies. Any teething issues, which are expected with new technologies, can reflect badly on the specifiers. I therefore believe that client organisations have a role to play in trialling new technologies, and encouraging their consultants to do so, without risk of reprisals. The COOL-PHASE units are performing excellently at this early stage, and I believe we're reaping the rewards of being early adopters of this new technology. "

He adds that, based on this experience, he would have no hesitation in specifying COOL-PHASE again.

COOL-PHASE is a registered trademark owned by Monodraught Limited.


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