Does EUI Fully Capture the Carbon Footprint of a VRF System?

Oct 02, 2020

Does EUI Fully Capture the Carbon Footprint of a VRF System? Using a Life Cycle Approach to Assess VRF System Emissions

Variable refrigerant flow systems are a popular technology for heating and cooling buildings due to their energy efficiency. VRF systems run on electricity, with no onsite fossil fuel combustion, which makes them attractive in the context of GHG emissions reductions through building electrification and grid decarbonization. Traditionally, the environmental performance of HVAC systems has been measured using the energy use intensity metric. This study aims to assess whether EUI adequately captures the GHG emissions associated with the life cycle of the VRF system. While life cycle assessments have been performed on HVAC systems, this is the first known cradle-to-grave LCA of a VRF system. The study aims to quantify GHG emissions for a VRF system in use at a LEED certified office building in Seattle, WA. The LCA examines carbon impacts in three key categories: the materials required for system assembly, operational electricity, and refrigerant use.

Keywords: Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF), Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Embodied Carbon, Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG)

Vicki Rybl (University of Washington)
Presented at: 
2020 AIA/ACSA Intersections Research Conference: CARBON
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
The American Institute of Architects (AIA)
Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA)

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