Innovators need to think ‘out of the box’
Joseph Wong 
Chin says that mounting multiple green ebm papst AxiBlade axial fans can be more efficient than a single centrifugal unit

BUSINESSES are under increasing pressure to reduce their energy consumption, either due to rising energy costs or to reduce carbon emissions.

One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to reduce a building’s energy consumption is to ensure that heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HAV) equipment are energy efficient since they generally account for more than 40% of a commercial building’s energy consumption.

A 2015 study by Tsinghua University in China estimated air conditioning to account for 64% of energy consumed by commercial buildings in Malaysia.

This high level of consumption is not confined to the country but other equatorial ones as well.

Making HAV equipment more energy efficient can offer considerable savings and in turn help reduce building management costs, says ebm papst SEA Pte Ltd country manager Danny Chin.

But it also pays to take that extra step by adopting energy-saving technology, he says.

With many companies marketing their products as energy saving, cost-efficient and environmentally friendly, even a main player like ebm papst has to innovate ideas to keep ahead of competitors.

And innovation is now a necessity with the green agenda building momentum.

Chin says most buildings, when retrofitting the centrifugal fans for their air-conditioning units, would generally replace the outdated and inefficient machine with a new green and energy-saving one.

“Depending on the size of the unit, an alternative is to use multiple axial fans in the place of a single, large centrifugal fan,” he tells FocusM.

He demonstrated how nine smaller fans could be mounted to replace a single large centrifugal unit at the recent Build Eco Xpo Asia and Mostra Convegno Expocomfort (MCE) Asia 2017 events in Singapore.

Chin says: “If one fan breaks down, the remaining fans would automatically speed up to maintain the required level of airflow.”

Moreover, repairing or replacing that one ebm papst’s AxiBlade axial fan would cost less, and at the same time, the building can continue to enjoy air-conditioning while repairs are carried out.

In addition, the fan speed is automatically adjusted to requirements, meaning that the system only uses the energy that it really needs, Chin says.

“These fans automatically slow when the environment reaches a set temperature, or speed up if needed so energy usage can be reduced,” he says, adding that up to 50% or more overall efficiency could be achieved using a multi-fan solution.

ebm-papst, which is a leading manufacturer of fans and motors, is continuously setting global market standards, Chin says.

Innovators have to think outside the box in delivering a more fool-proof system that benefits their clients, he says.

It is no longer just introducing a new product but how the product can be more efficiently used. Moreover, the legal requirements for energy efficiency are also becoming increasingly strict, he says.

Currently, the minimum efficiency class IE2 is valid in Europe but the efficiency class IE3 was set to have been fulfilled as of 2015. He says ebm-papst’s products exceed the IE4 efficiency class.

The adoption of green practices in retrofitting older buildings is crucial for the country.

Like many of its counterpart cities overseas, Malaysia too wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and is aiming for a 40% reduction by 2020.

If urbanisation continues without transformational change in terms of energy efficiency, the global energy consumption of buildings will triple by 2050, says the National Property Information Centre.

This is largly due to the use of inefficient HAV systems in older buildings, with structures built or rehabilitated before 1980 estimated to consume up to 300-kilowatt-hour per square metre (kWh/m2) per year.

In contrast, modern structures that comply with the latest energy-efficient guidelines can reduce the figure to 90 kWh/m2/year, or even 15 kWh/m2/year for passive houses.

“A 2006 study by GreenTech Malaysia, which looked at government and private buildings found that more than 80% have a building energy index of 250 kWh/m2/year,” says Green Building Index (GBI) immediate past chair (accreditation panel) Von Kok Leong.

In comparison, the average usage for many new GBI-certified buildings in Kuala Lumpur is closer to 100 kWh/m2/year, he says.

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 253.