Retrofitting buildings for a sustainable future


As the effects of climate change continue to accelerate, so do efforts within the built environment to invest in and adopt smart solutions that deliver efficiency and sustainability benefits. From IoT-enabled intelligent monitoring systems that offer real-time equipment and asset health management, to predictive maintenance and data-driven tools, the commercial building industry is undergoing a significant transformation to drive efficiency in HVAC and hydronic system applications.

The built environment refers to the full life cycle of all residential buildings and infrastructure, including its design, materials manufacturing, construction and usage. According to McKinsey & Company, a worldwide strategy and management consulting firm, 76 per cent of emissions come from operations in the built environment and the remaining 24 per cent from the processing of raw materials used for construction of new builds. With 80 per cent of the predicted building stock for 2050 existing today, this means that products that enable seamless integration with existing pumps and systems is critical.

An integrated motor and drive combination is one such option, growing in popularity over the last two decades and aligning with the general trend toward pre-packaged, fabricated and engineered solutions.



Perhaps the most notable benefit of these combinations is easy implementation, whereby no wiring between drive and motor is required – creating a true plug, plumb and play solution that can go from purchase to installation and commissioning in no time.

In addition to easy install, other benefits of an integrated motor and drive combination include:

Control: Selecting motor, pump and drive separately can be a highly inefficient process involving multiple points of coordination and communication between vendors. Integrated pump combinations eliminate the need for separate components, maximizing user control and process efficiency. What’s more, having a simple-to-use integrated solution enables seamless compatibility with other building components, which is ideal for retrofit projects, and presents a cost-effective option to advance decarbonization and sustainability.

Energy savings: Integrated motors with on-board controls and variable frequency drives (VFD) are highly flexible. By expanding its preferred operating range, pumps operate at different speeds based on system demand, rather than at a single speed that consumes unnecessary energy. Because motors do not need to run at 100 per cent with VFDs, energy consumption is lowered by reducing load demand for motors – offering major energy savings potential at even incremental reductions in speed.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), reducing pump speed by 20 per cent can in some cases cut power usage in half. Affinity Laws for centrifugal pumps and fans report that reducing the motor speed by 25 per cent lowers energy consumption by nearly 60 per cent and decreasing the motor speed by 50 per cent can cut energy consumption by almost 90 per cent. For commercial HVAC operations, specifically, where the power and speed can be highly variable among retrofit and new systems, integrated VFDs are efficient options that can adjust the speed of the drive motor in response to that building’s load, allowing the HVAC system to perform at peak levels at all times.

Flexibility: In Canada alone, the building sector contributes to 18 per cent of annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). As such, transforming existing building stock requires flexible solutions that can adapt to changing demands. Compared to separate motor and drive components, integrated motor and drive combinations save space, opening flexibility for commercial building professionals to better accommodate other components due to less equipment and more wall and floor space.

Many integrated motor and drive combinations use smart algorithms that can dramatically extend the working area of a pump to maximize flexibility and enhance system design. In this way, the drive enables the size of the motor to be reduced, resulting in a compact footprint suitable for small spaces. Integrated motor drive combinations often also feature built-in pump protection controls to maximize pump performance overall.

Sustainability: Sustainability is increasingly at the forefront across all aspects of an organization – from sourcing materials to product development to supply chain fulfillment – and closely intertwined with efficiency. Systems that perform better and more efficiently deliver a high return on investment that ultimately leads to more sustainable outcomes. For instance, integrated motors with variable speed drives (VSD) allow the speed and torque of an electric motor to be varied. When the speed of the motor can be controlled and the user has more control over the process, equipment runs better and more reliably, equating to longer lifespan overall.

Communication: Drives feature sophisticated and advanced technology that offer the ability to communicate with building management systems (BMS). This enables better system integration and system optimization, maximized efficiency and pump performance. While communication protocols are dependent on application, industry standards and system compatibility, ranging from BACnet to wireless communication to Modbus, the ultimate benefit of BMS integration is better asset management control.

From industry standards to evolving regulation and pressures to design more efficiently, sustainably and with less resources, commercial building professionals have a range of considerations and pressures to contend with in the modern built environment. Integrated system design through pump, motor and drive combinations contribute to holistic sustainability goals, driving better outcomes in turn. By matching equipment more precisely to actual system demands, pumps will ultimately use less power and require less maintenance. When this occurs, industry professionals have more flexibility to allocate resources elsewhere and more control over their sustainability goals.

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