HVAC systems and heat loss: ensuring roofing equipment is energy efficient

The majority of commercial buildings are designed with a flat roof, offering extra space for equipment such as HVAC units and solar panels. Although this structure can provide valuable space for these systems, the way in which they are isolated to avoid energy transfer isn’t always considered. Jonathan Shaw, Managing Director of thermal breaks specialists, Armadillo, explains the importance of isolating roofing fixtures and how installing an effective thermal breaking solution can decrease energy loss.

When it comes to thermal efficiency, any penetration within the building envelope, whether it be through a floor, wall, or ceiling, has the potential to create a thermal bridge. This is a point within a structure where two elements meet and the connection is poorly isolated. At this location heat can easily transfer through the connection which causes issues surrounding energy loss and condensation.

The roof is a key location where energy transfer can occur, particularly in commercial buildings where the installation of on-roof equipment is very common. Fixtures such as HVAC units, wind posts and solar panels need to be anchored to the roof securely, it’s important that this connection is isolated effectively, to ensure that a thermal bridge does not occur. Thermal bridges are highly conductive structural elements which allow heat transfer across a building’s thermal envelope.

A recent project undertaken by Armadillo demonstrates this solution in action. Within this project, the team was appointed to isolate the roofing system for Rudding Park, a luxury hotel in Yorkshire, which was part of a £9.5 million refurbishment project to add a new spa extension to the hotel’s existing facilities. The job involved isolating the rooftop balustrade posts from the flat roof structure, to ensure heat loss was kept to an absolute minimum. To adhere to the design and ensure that the system was securely attached to the roof, the posts needed to bridge the insulation to provide a suitable anchor. Without installing the correct material, this installation would cause a thermal bridge, resulting in substantial energy loss.

To provide the solution, Armadillo recommended its Armatherm™ 500 material, an inert, closed-cell polymer that offers continuous insulation while bearing heavy loads. This was extremely important for the Rudding Park project as the heavy posts required an efficient support to ensure that they did not completely break through the roof insulation. The Armatherm™ solution was specified in pads, which sat underneath each post. This eliminated all instances of heat flow and increased the energy efficiency of the connection by up to 60%.

The system implemented by the team will also help to avoid condensation issues. Allowing cold temperatures to transfer indoors encourages condensation, which can lead to the formation of mould. This can often be seen on ceilings where roofing systems have been installed, or the interior walls of buildings that feature a cladded façade or balcony which have not been isolated correctly. Along with being unsightly, mould can also cause health issues if it goes untreated, making it a detrimental issue that can affect the aesthetic of a room’s interior.

Surprisingly, regardless of the 60% energy saving and elimination of condensation issues, isolating roofing equipment can go ignored within the industry. While the importance of effective thermal breaking within cladding and façade projects is becoming more accepted, there is some way to go in educating architects and contractors on the importance of creating an effective and energy-efficient roofing system. As mentioned, implementing an effective thermal break can reduce heat transfer by up to 60%, making a building more efficient and providing a reason to considered thermal break solutions in roofing projects.

This is an area that the team at Armadillo is keen to champion, to help highlight the importance of thermal breaking in structures that require HVAC equipment. Without effective measures to decrease energy transfer, the construction industry will not fulfil its obligation to sustainability, and energy bills will rise as a result. A thermal breaking solution can be implemented at any transition within the building envelope making it an accessible and worthwhile solution for any modern construction project.

Armadillo designs, manufactures and supplies thermal break solutions for both commercial and residential projects. With more than 40 years’ experience, Armadillo has a team of experts in the United Kingdom and the United States to provide a comprehensive solution to modern day engineering problems. Armadillo’s revolutionary Armatherm™ GF Grade Thermal Break Pads deliver high-performance thermal insulation between interior and exterior steelwork and / or concrete to prevent thermal bridging and improve building envelope performance.

Jonathan Shaw is Managing Director of thermal break specialists, Armadillo. For more information visit: http://www.armadillonv.com/.

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