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Helping HVAC&R Professionals Deal with Climate Change

Handbook Sneak Peek
Helping HVAC&R Professionals Deal With Climate Change

From ASHRAE Journal Newsletter, June 28, 2021

Annual mean temperature has increased in the United States by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) since 1901 (similar to the global increase in temperature), with larger increases occurring in the western and northern U.S. Globally, nearly all land areas have warmed, with the greatest warming happening in central Asia and eastern Brazil, according to the new chapter on climate change in the 2021 ASHRAE Handbook—Fundamentals written by ASHRAE Technical Committee (TC) 2.5, Global Climate Change.

Designs that are developed and executed based on historical climate assumptions can pose a risk to occupants because the systems could overestimate their own capabilities and capacity to maintain safe indoor environmental conditions, according to the Handbook chapter. Designers must consider how their designs can adapt when—not if—conditions change.

The new chapter on climate change serves as a fundamental primer on climate science, mitigation and adaptation as it relates to the built environment. The chapter addresses how designers of buildings and their systems can adapt to climate change.

“What designers need to understand is that the external climate, a critically important boundary condition of these design methods, has changed and is changing. Existing vulnerabilities in HVAC design, and buildings that depend on them, are made worse by the observed and expected changes in climate,” according to the Handbook chapter.

What’s in the Chapter?

The chapter also stresses the importance of cultivating climate change literacy among building designers and operators.

“Ethics state that engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public in the performance of their professional duties. Therefore, it is prudent for those in the HVAC&R industry to develop climate literacy to better understand climate-related risks to clients, communities and their own practice, so that they can work to mitigate and adapt its effects as applied through the lens of the built environment,” TC 2.5 told ASHRAE Journal.

The chapter begins with an overview of climate science, which summarizes the latest available scientific information relevant to the design and operation of buildings and their systems. Next, it addresses strategies for mitigation. Finally, it provides designers with an overview of climate adaptation, i.e., identifying risk and creating agile designs for resilient buildings.

The chapter complements existing ASHRAE guidance on minimizing the environmental impact of the buildings and their systems through building energy and water efficiency standards, guidance on reducing emissions and phasing out high-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants.

With the current rate of change in policy and technical guidance, TC 2.5 expects to update the climate change chapter every Handbook revision cycle and could update the chapter more frequently through ASHRAE Handbook Online. TC 2.5 also plans to recommend revisions to the “ASHRAE Position Document on Climate Change” once the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change publicly releases its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) report.

As climate change affects all aspects of the built environment, TC 2.5 is encouraging close collaboration among all members, chapters, committees and partners. The committee is coordinating with other ASHRAE committees—including Standing Standards Project Committees 90.1, 189.1 and the multidisciplinary task group on low-GWP refrigerants—to develop guidance on projected climatic information use, climate risk assessments, building decarbonization and regionalized adaptation recommendations.

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