With building technology constantly advancing and improving, we are seeing progressively more complex buildings around the world. It makes sense that in order to maintain a pleasant temperature, the technology within these buildings should be just as advanced! Just how does the world’s tallest building stay cool in the middle of a desert – and what kinds of technology do we use to achieve this?
Additionally, with today’s world becoming increasingly involved with climate change issues, how do these technologies remain environmentally friendly?
The tallest building in the world
Dubai is home to the Burj Khalifa, towering over the city at an astonishing 2,716.5 tall and withstanding 41°C heat from the surrounding desert. Keeping a tower this tall cool is a task in and of itself, let alone with the surrounding temperature being so extreme. So, how do they do it?
There are a number of different methods employed to keep the Burj Khalifa cool. Primarily, ice-chilled water is used to cool the building, and this is supplied by three plants. During off-peak hours, the central water plant creates an ice slurry that makes the water colder than a chiller could manage. This chilly water is sent through the tower in a series of pipes to heat exchangers at three different levels. Once the cold water has cooled the air for the air conditioning unit to use, it is sent back down to the central water plant again.
There are a couple of major benefits to using ice in this way:
- It reduces the amount of space needed to dedicate to cooling equipment
- It is better for the environment, as it allows the tower to make savings on energy use
Surprisingly, the air conditioning unit was triggered in stages over the course of a week. This was to prevent pockets of warm air from forming in the building.
In case of emergency, the tower has four additional air-cooled chillers to keep the data centres cool.
Room with a view
The 450-foot British Airways i360 observation tower gives you a stunning aerial view of the Sussex coast. As the world’s tallest moving observation tower, this building set a new challenge for climate control — the structure houses a restaurant, a shop, conference rooms, exhibition spaces, wedding venues, and of course, a 360° panoramic view in its moving 94-ton pod.
The tower uses Daikin VRV IV systems to provide the communal areas with heating via renewable energy. A constant supply of fresh air is circulated by heat recovery ventilation units throughout the building — this is crucial for reducing the demand on the air conditioning units that need to balance the indoor temperature with a significantly different outside temperature.
Due to its seaside location, the tower has extra needs for its components. One, the units need to be out of sight. Two, they need to be able to withstand the corrosive nature of salty sea air! Therefore, the VRV IV outdoor units have been installed out of sight, and are treated with a specialist factory-applied Blygold coating, to protect them from the salt in the air. The result is an energy-efficient, streamlined, and sea-air-ready HVAC system that supports this complex and unique building.
Waste not, want not
The Amazon Seattle headquarters has its own unique heating system, which looks after the environment. The building is heated by capturing the warm air produced by data centres — a great way to re-use waste for a key purpose!
Surprisingly, these data centres are not directly owned by Amazon. The heat is collected from the Westin building across the street from their offices. It’s a two-fold victory, as it helps Amazon to save energy and gives Westin a good way of sustainably dealing with waste heat.
This hot water is transferred via pipe from the data centres to the central Amazon plant, before being put through heat-reclaiming chiller systems. This is then used to supply the office’s heating needs, and the now-cold water is sent back to Westin to help cool their data centres. Amazon is set to save 65 million pounds of coal’s worth of CO2 emissions over 25 years with this approach.
Predictions for the future
Of course, as our building technology advances, so must our plans for climate control. The Independent reported on another ambitious project blossoming in Dubai — the world’s largest shopping centre. But calling it a shopping centre seems a little unfair; the project intends to cover 48 million square feet, making it a shopping city. The Mall of the World is set to have the world’s largest theme park, a shopping area inspired by Oxford Street, and a theatre area inspired by Broadway. Crucially, it is being touted as the first climate-controlled city in the world.
Hopefully, we will start to see more natural and technological solutions for heating and cooling within our buildings. The world’s structures are only going to get more complex, so it will be interesting to see how requirements like heating and cooling are addressed in such builds.