Unlocking a Net Zero Future with HVAC Digital Twins

HVAC System Digital Twins, are revolutionising the path to Net Zero while bridging the dreaded "Performance Gap.

Unlocking a Net Zero Future with HVAC Digital Twins
image blog projects Net Zero with Digital Twin Hysopt

Empowering the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Transition

In the pursuit of Net Zero emissions, building owners and operators across all sectors find themselves at a pivotal crossroads. Balancing the financial squeeze of inflation, rising energy costs and the need for climate action presents a formidable challenge. However, emerging technologies, such as HVAC System Digital Twins, are revolutionising the path to Net Zero while bridging the dreaded “Performance Gap.”  

1. The Energy Conundrum

Across the board, from government through to education and healthcare and from commerce to industry, the same challenges are being faced: surging energy costs; critical levels of inflation; and increasing financial pressures – all of which are straining budgets and impeding the pursuit of ambitious net zero carbon objectives.

Alarmingly, recent data from Neos Networks reveals a stark reality: just 0.01% of public buildings achieve the highest energy efficiency rating (A+), and only 9% meet the 2030 minimum efficiency standards (EPC rating B). This means 90% of public buildings require upgrades within the next seven years to meet net-zero targets.

Meanwhile in the education sector, “The Cost of Net Zero” report jointly published by EAUC, and AUDE, estimates decarbonising the built environment in the Higher and Further Education sectors necessitates investment exceeding £8.8 billion.

2. Addressing the Performance Gap: HVAC’s Vital Role

Achieving Net Zero in the built environment relies heavily on shifting from fossil fuels to electrified heat sources and heat networks. However, a persistent challenge arises in both existing and new projects: the Performance Gap. This gap occurs when actual consumption during operation greatly differs from design-phase energy estimates.

Independent research, including publications by the Chartered Institute of Building Engineers (CIBSE) reveal buildings are consuming up to double the energy initially projected. HVAC systems, responsible for up to 70% of a building’s energy consumption, bear a substantial portion of the blame.

Astonishingly, forensic studies of over 450 installations reveal that 95% underperform, stemming from a lack of transparency in design, unforeseen changes during installation, commissioning issues, and post-handover inefficiencies.  

3. Great technology – yet systems still under-perform

Performance Gap problems are intensified as HVAC systems become more complex. Many innovative and energy efficient HVAC technologies and control solutions are specified at the design stage, but the impact at a system level of how everything will work together is unclear until the system is built and its too late.

Tackling HVAC system underperformance therefore is not as simple as just choosing the most efficient components. It’s about how these components operate and behave together as a system. It’s also about capturing and sharing information throughout the entire lifecycle of a project; collaboration among multidisciplinary design and engineering teams; accurate data exchange; and seamless information flow from design through to operation.

A deeper examination reveals three fundamental challenges are at the heart of HVAC system Performance Gaps:

  • Outdated HVAC Tools: Traditional HVAC design and engineering tools struggle to cope with the increasing complexity of modern HVAC systems.
  • Communication Gaps: Siloed working within the supply chain leads to a poor understanding of how design choices impact system performance.
  • Inadequate Information: As-built information provided to building owners upon project completion often falls short, resulting in inefficient system management and performance.

4. Solutions! The Rise of HVAC System Digital Twins

Amidst these challenges, HVAC system digital twins emerge as a beacon of hope, offering a triad of benefits:

  • Advanced HVAC Simulation and Optimisation: Through cloud computing and advanced algorithms, entire HVAC systems can be simulated and optimised in a virtual environment before physical construction.
  • Transparency and Continuity: Digital twins provide transparency and continuity across all project stages, ensuring that the optimised design intent is faithfully realised in the final installation.
  • Performance Evaluation: Continuous reference for system monitoring and optimisation throughout the system’s operational life.

This technology empowers building operators to make informed, data-driven decisions early in the project and fosters open and transparent collaboration with their supply chain.

A Vision for the Future: Embracing the HVAC Digital Twin

As the world navigates the path to Net Zero while grappling with inflated energy costs, HVAC system digital twins emerge as a transformative technology. Estates and capital projects teams have the opportunity to leverage this technology to pave the way for a sustainable and cost-effective future. The journey to Net Zero buildings is within reach, and HVAC system digital twins are the key to unlocking its full potential.

Unlocking a Net Zero Future with HVAC Digital Twins

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