The combination of Australia’s warm climate and the presence of significant internal heat loads means that the operation of our commercial building stock is dominated by the need to provide cooling. While this can be mitigated to some extent, by architectural design, practically all commercial buildings are built with some form of mechanical cooling.
Mechanical cooling carries a range of potential environmental impacts, such as:
• Greenhouse gas emissions from energy use;
• Greenhouse gas emissions and ozone depletion from refrigerant leakage and disposal; and
• Toxic waste from treated condenser water.
There are methods of dealing with all of these, but most involve compromise of other parameters. In this article, some of the methods and trade offs for minimising these parameters are presented, with particular emphasis on the greenhouse issues. This covers some basic information that should be – but often is not – at the designer’s fingertips, plus some insights into innovations that offer the potential of significant advances upon the current status quo.