Local and specific removal of thermal pollutants in buildings in the 21st century

Allowing industry to irresponsibly release pollutants and destroy air quality is something not exactly associated with the idea of modern civilized behaviour. And certainly should not be something accepted in the 21st century.

Yet that is exactly what we allow in our modern buildings. On a hot summer day, why do we accept that computers, lighting—all kinds of indoor electrical machines—consume electricity and emit the resulting waste product—heat, and often noise and toxins too—directly into the air we breathe in our buildings?

It is of course important, also here, to consider the requirement for regulation by the user. In winter “thermal pollution” is in fact just electrical heating, contributing to the warming of the building, but in summer it is a problem, and in spring and autumn it is either a problem or a benefit according to the weather and orientation of a room. Regulation is the key.

On a political level, some avant-garde energy strategists realize the inefficiency of usually having 2 energy supplies to a building—electricity and heat. Why not focus on sufficient thermal insulation of buildings so that the existing electrical energy supply is also sufficient for heat supply? Enormous infrastructure savings, construction savings, and reductions of running costs will be the result.

If it is simple enough, as it is, to provide a small cable to supply electrical energy to electrical equipment in buildings, it is perfectly logical to expect the producers to remove the waste energy after it has been consumed. The principle “The polluter pays” is also relevant for removing thermal pollution from buildings.

In its full form the “Texas” principle is a simple extra small air suction pipe that runs parallel with the electrical cables, and for every connection to an electrical component it is therefore possible to attach a small “mouthpiece” to the equipment to silently remove the hot air emitted. This is similar to a vacuum system in a hospital, for example.

An alternative method, for higher heat emission from electrical equipment, is to run small cold water pipes parallel to the cables, so that the hot air emitted from, for example, computers, instead of being a nuisance, becomes a source of cool air. The design can, also here, be of many types.

In a simpler form, perhaps appropriate to a building such as the Winter Palace, the local extraction of used, warm air could occur through existing air-shafts as a simple support for the natural buoyancy of the air that rises from visitors and lights.

This is simply an extension of the “Rastrelli” system described in a separate section, and it is probable that many of the 800 air shafts closed in 1834 after the fire in the Winter Palace are in fact the shafts with openings high up the walls near the ceiling, because exactly this type of opening appears to be “the missing link” to the original ventilation system in the existing building.

It is logical, simple, and above all, a tremendous cost saving to use these simple heat extraction measures, because the architect can eliminate the “need” for a large expensive air-conditioning system.

Why has it not been done before? Well, it has been done before, and local extract ventilation is actually a requirement in most production facilities, in industry, to protect workers. It is also quite common in kitchens and bathrooms to have local extract of moisture, cooking smells, etc.

And it has also been done in commercial facilities, therefore the choice of name. In the 1980s I worked on building projects for the electronic company “Texas Instruments”, and they wrote a simple requirement into their building programme for a network of local cooling points to remove heat from their many computers before this heat polluted the indoor climate.

This is very logical, very economical, and very commercially sensible: for the user and the buyer: but obviously not for the air-conditioning industry.

“Cui bono?” This is the old Latin phrase applied to commercial transactions, to understand the motives of the participants, by asking—“who benefits?” This is often worth asking in construction industry project decisions.

In many buildings electrical equipment such as computers, lighting, printers, etc., inject heat and in many cases atmospheric pollution directly into the indoor environment. Once the polluted air and the room air are mixed the only way to remove heat loads and atmospheric pollution is to cool and ventilate the entire indoor environment.

This however is rather inefficient, requiring 5–10 times more air equipment than simple local extract, seen in relation to the fact that heat and air pollution are generated locally by the equipment, and therefore a more direct method of reducing thermal pollution of the indoor environment is the most efficient way to secure a good and energy efficient indoor climate.

With the “Texas” concept the majority of internal equipment can be fitted with direct air extraction to directly remove heat and pollution load out of the building and the indoor environment.

An example in the field of modern dwellings is the portable vacuum cleaner, which is being replaced with centralized vacuum points installed around the house—designed for keeping the house free of dust, but equally suitable for extracting waste heat. The technology for “Texas” exists.

Direct cooling and ventilation of the individual equipment reduces heat load and atmospheric pollution to the indoor environment and is significantly more effective than removal of the locally generated heat and pollution once this is released into the entire indoor environment.

In The State Hermitage Museum there are not significant local heat loads of a fixed kind, and the main internal heat sources are sunshine, visitors and lighting. The “Matisse” section deals with effective harnessing of sunshine.

The “Texas” principle of not permitting thermal pollution from electrical equipment could be applied to the many future projects related to upgrading of the lighting systems at The Hermitage and, for example, for demonstration of avant-garde principles, the current Hermitage IBM information stands could be equipped with local ventilation/cooling devices.

These are well known technologies in air-conditioned buildings with heavy loads, such as the Middle-East, but they are rarely used to avoid the need for air-conditioning.

Lighting systems can be designed to give out light but not heat. The heat can be extracted and either be used elsewhere or, in high summer, disposed of directly.

Although, in high summer, when God’s great light bulb—the Sun—is shining brightest—it is usually possible to use daylight instead of electric light. In fact, it should be a human requirement to have daylight. Why accept thermal pollution from electric lighting when the sun is shining brightly outside?

Application of this principle for extracting heat from lighting fixtures as part of The Hermitage lighting upgrading programme will also significantly assist extraction of heat, and other more subjective “pollutants”, from visitors.

Heat of course rises, also from visitors (The Displacement Ventilation principle), and this visitor heat and pollution shuld be extracted, not mixed with room air, as in a standard air-conditioning system.

Rastrelli showed us in 1762 an effective ventilation system for extraction of such air, through the high level air shafts built into the walls, which is described in the “Rastrelli” section.

Of course, The Winter Palace in 1762 did not have the high visitor numbers that are now occurring, and probably increasing, and this system requires a little help, but not so much. It would be fairly simple to connect some fans to these high level air shafts and extract the heat of summer, often called “hybrid ventilation” in some institutions.

A small pilot-project in 2001 in the garret above the south-eastern corner of the Winter Palace has demonstrated this possibility.

The name “Texas” is chosen to honour the company who used the “local extraction” principle extensively. It is a principle that complements the other methods for simple indoor climatic control and allows minimalisation of the main equipment expenditure – purchase as well as operation. Please use it!

Sergio Fox & Peter