The Innovation Hub for Affordable Heating and Cooling (i-Hub)

A team of researchers from the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre have established living laboratories in an aged care facility and primary school, to test the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration with the hope of demonstrating increased value for a switch to renewable energy.

Team member and Associate Research Fellow Clayton McDowell said the “i-Hub Living Laboratories provide a unique opportunity for industry to evaluate new technologies and services in a real world scenario while still having the independent and thorough evaluation through a University”.

The Warrigal Shell Cove aged care i-Hub Living Laboratory and ACT Schools Living Laboratory established research-quality measurement and verification systems within both facilities in order to observe and evaluate technology upgrades within the context of the daily life of the aged care and schooling ecosystem.

The technology upgrades trialled in the living labs will be selected from promising electric heating and cooling strategies that increase the energy flexibility of each facility and deliver increased value for renewable energy, at the site and grid level.

Mr McDowell said the living laboratories are providing insights into energy consumption but also “provide us with a picture of the indoor environments including CO2 concentrations within the classrooms and aged care rooms”.

“There are thousands of schools across Australia that combine to make up a large energy consumer, the i-Hub ACT living laboratories enable us to understand potential opportunities to improve the energy efficiency and when partnered with the i-Hub Education Sector Wide project we are able to evaluate the impact these technologies may have when applied to state or Australian wide policy environment,” he said

“This will help provide us understand if these facilities are introducing enough fresh air which is especially critical with the current Covid-19 pandemic.”

Next year the team are hoping to include “solar and battery technologies” within the research “and demonstrate their implications in the ACT moving to a net zero energy trajectory”

The i-Hub project is an initiative led by the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) in conjunction with CSIRO, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), the University of Melbourne and the University of Wollongong and supported by Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to facilitate the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC&R) industry’s transition to a low emissions future, stimulate jobs growth, and showcase HVAC&R innovation in buildings.

The objective of i-Hub is to support the broader HVAC&R industry with knowledge dissemination, skills-development and capacity building. By facilitating a collaborative approach to innovation, i-Hub brings together leading universities, researchers, consultants, building owners and equipment manufacturers to create a connected research and development community in Australia.