Gecina challenges HVAC industry to provide NatRef solutions

At the ATMOsphere Europe 2018 conference in Lago di Garda, Italy, Gecina’s Laurent Bataille called on the HVAC industry to develop heating and air-conditioning solutions based on natural refrigerants.

Laurent Bataille, Gecina, speaking at ATMOsphere Europe 2018. 

Credit: Ben Beech 

“What can we do about air conditioning with natural refrigerants?”. This was the question posed to industry by Laurent Bataille of French real estate giant Gecina at the ATMOsphere Europe 2018 conference in Riva del Garda, Italy today.  

Gecina – which owns, manages and develops property holdings worth €19.8 billion, mainly offices and apartments in the Paris region – wants to move towards natural refrigerants like ammonia, CO2, water, hydrocarbons and air for all its heating and cooling needs.

The real estate firm has a strong commitment to sustainability. It was ranked second in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index in 2016.

“We want to reduce our CO2 footprint and increase our energy efficiency” in HVAC, said Bataille, identifying natural refrigerants as a key way to do this. “We have a lot of [global warming] impact coming [from our AC].”

Gecina is less worried about potentially higher upfront costs of natural refrigerant HVAC systems than other customers may be. It rather asks the HVAC industry to provide market-ready solutions that can be implemented in its office and apartment buildings by next year. “We don’t mind much in the beginning about costs,” Bataille said. “We’d rather implement first.”

The firm aims to have 50% of its building stock, which is over 100 buildings, running on natural refrigerants for heating and air conditioning. This includes catering facilities in office buildings.

The target is to implement this over the next 10 years, meaning converting ten buildings a year.

Air conditioning and heating units are generally installed on the roof, but in Gecina’s Paris building stock, space is at a premium. “We need to find a smart solution,” he says.

Industry takes up the challenge  

After his presentation, a host of manufacturers responded to Gecina’s plea. Andreas Meier from TEKO (a German manufacturer of packaged systems) advocated adopting a range of natural refrigerant solutions: “You have propane, CO2, and ammonia chillers available [to use for HVAC needs in commercial buildings]. The price will go down.”

“The biggest hurdle you have to overcome is the engineer situation in the HVAC industry. They basically take care of boilers,” Meier explained. “You need to go for refrigeration engineers.”

Andy Pearson of Star Refrigeration said he knew of implementation of distributed CO2 systems in other commercial buildings like banks. “You can do incredible things with CO2,” he said.

Advansor’s Kenneth Madsen also advocated the CO2 route. 10 years ago the Danish manufacturer of CO2 transcritical systems installed a 1MW model in an office in Denmark for space heating and cooling.

Madsen did acknowledge that such a system would take up considerable space, but Gecina’s Bataille would be willing to find an acceptable solution.

“By the middle of next year, we hope to have five to seven projects [that we will carry out] with natural refrigerants,” Bataille said.

By Charlotte McLaughlin

Nov 19, 2018, 22:47

Related stories

Sign up to our Newsletter

Fill in the details below