The hidden world of air conditioning

The hidden world of air conditioning is an often overlooked yet vital part of a building’s structure. Effective temperature control is essential to enable a productive workforce whilst also supporting vital operations at the heart of the nation’s infrastructure.


When companies are looking to carry out an office refurbishment or office relocation, many are under the assumption that all air conditioning solutions are the same and simply installed into a building? This is a common misconception. In fact, the opportunities are endless. There are many types of air conditioning applications, ranging in capability and function, dependent on the required usage.


Take an office environment for example. Offices come in all shapes and sizes, with some businesses opting for an open plan layout whilst others prefer a cellular arrangement. In the case of an open plan office, air conditioning units would need to be suitably selected – typically cassette type and above ceiling ducted units – installed within a finished ceiling and arranged to ensure the effective dispersion of conditioned air is achieved. For cellular offices, the type of indoor unit may be similar to an open plan environment, however there could be limitations due to the size and layout of the office. A typical selection would be a wall-mounted unit, again placed at high level to ensure efficient dispersion.


There are several options for fixed air conditioning systems:

  • Split Type systems – An outdoor unit connected to indoor unit(s), these can be twin, triple and quad systems. Control is limited to one mode across each of the indoor units so this system is typically used in a single environment or where each office/area is similar.
  • Multi-Split Type systems – The same as a Split Type system with some additional control options, such as indoor unit on/off, temperature and fan speed adjustment. The mode selection is again restricted to cool or heat, or fan only.
  • Variable Refrigerant Volume heat pump – An outdoor unit connected to multiple indoor units, as with the multi-split option, but where the design of the unit is an important factor over increased functionality and installation works.
  • Variable Refrigerant Volume heat recovery – Offering an outdoor unit connected to multiple indoor units with total flexibility over control and additional heat recovery for energy savings. By far the greatest level of technology but also the most costly.


Replacement technology is an additional option now being offered, whereby the air conditioning installation can be updated whilst leaving the existing refrigerant pipework in place. This method makes the installation cleaner, faster and more cost-effective, reducing disruption and upheaval to occupants whilst also maintaining a comfortable environmental temperature throughout the installation process.


Most people feel comfortable in temperatures of between 18°C and 21°C, with a humidity of 40-60 per cent. The changing seasons are a key driver for air conditioning requirements, as warm air moves through buildings in the summer months. Many buildings, offices and educational facilities also have large glass windows, intensifying internal heat gain and creating an uncomfortably warm environment. At times like this, an air conditioning system’s heat load is amplified leading to an increased demand on the air conditioning solution.


Technology used within air conditioners is progressing at a rapid pace. Already, the industry is able to deliver air conditioning solutions which not only provide cool air but warm air too through a system known as heat pump technology. This is where low pressure, cold refrigerant is passed through the external heat exchanger whilst at the same time, ambient outdoor air is blown over the heat exchanger’s coil and fins. The refrigerant heats up by absorbing energy and heat from the air and is then passed through the compressor where it heats up further to become a hot liquid. This is pumped through the pipework to the internal unit, where it passes through its heat exchanger. Internal room air is blown over the exchanger, heated by the hot refrigerant and returned to the space to provide energy-efficient heating.


This technology can provide heat even on the coldest of days because the very low temperature of the refrigerant is virtually always colder than the external environment.


Modern systems also use a combination of the very latest technology, including electrostatic filtration, to provide occupants with comfortable, clean air, minimising contaminants and airborne dust. The electrostatic filtration works by using friction to positively charge air molecules as they pass through the first of many filtration layers. As the air molecules work their way through the filters, due to their positive charge, they attach themselves to the other filtration layers resulting in the dispersion of clean air.


If you are looking at an office refurbishment or office relocation then Office Principles have in-house experts on HVAC who will be more than happy to help you.