A former tram station in Bristol is said to have become the first building in the UK to benefit from large-scale R32 air conditioning.
The Art Deco building in Gloucester Road was originally a main station for electric trams and is now occupied by one of the largest environmental business networks in the UK – Future Economy Network.
Renamed as the Future Leap Hub, the refurbished ground floor brings together like-minded companies and acts as a showcase for sustainable businesses. It offers a carbon neutral, co-working space, meeting rooms and an event space for hire, in which weekly, sustainability themed events are hosted.
Inside the refurbished former tram station
The air conditioning industry has been transitioning to R32 in line with the phase down of refrigerants with high GWP, but this has not been possible for larger VRF systems until the launch of the City Multi R32 VRF at the end of 2019.
“We looked across the market at a whole host of technologies for our heating and cooling and when Mitsubishi Electric’s R32 system was recommended to us by Envira-Mech Services, we quickly realised it was absolutely the right product for us,” said Alan Bailey, Director of the Future Economy Group and Future Leap. “So far, we’ve been really, really, really pleased with the end result.”
Future Leap is carbon neutral in its operation and has incorporated sustainable technologies and solutions, including a carpet made from disused ghost fishing nets that have been reclaimed from the bottom of the ocean.
“When I first started talking to Alan about his requirements it was obvious that he wanted a system that would help promote energy efficiency and future-proof the building,” explained Terry Macleod, Managing Director of Envira-Mech Services.
“We’re a Diamond Quality Partner with Mitsubishi Electric and when we heard about R32 VRF at their conference last year, we just knew it would be right for Future Leap.
“Alan was already aware of F-Gas and was open to anything, so the idea of highly efficient air conditioning that could simultaneously heat and cool and run off 100% renewable energy really appealed to him,” he added.
Envira-Mech Services is based in Clevedon, North Somerset, and predominantly covers the south of England, whilst providing national coverage for specific clients. Offering a full design and installation facility for customers, the team are able to provide a complete turnkey service.
For Future Leap, the team also installed Lossnay mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR). These deliver highly efficient ventilation to the building as they can recover up to 80% of the energy from outgoing stale air to use on the incoming fresh air.
Envira-Mech Services had a very tight timescale on the project, as the complete refurbishment programme was only three months, so the team had just five weeks to complete the installation and commissioning. Not only did they have to work around the other trades refurbishing the building at the same time, there was not a lot of room for the services, so they also had to ensure the highest quality of installation for all ducting and pipework as these are all on display.
When Future Leap took over the building, it was a former Maplin electrical goods store, and Envira-Mech Services had to first of all strip out the existing air conditioning before they could install the R32 City Multi and the Lossnay MVHR.
The Future Leap Hub in Bristol
“Terry and his team are experts in air conditioning, ventilation and M&E services, so they were the ideal choice for Future Leap,” explained Steve Reece, Branch Manager for Mitsubishi Electric’s Bristol office. “With this being the first R32 VRF installation in the UK, we worked closely with them to ensure that Future Leap got a system which will deliver perfect, controllable comfort with energy efficiency at its heart.”
The three PURY YNW-A outdoor condensers are installed in a compound in the old Maplin storage yard and these serve 14 PEFY fan coil units throughout the ground floor. Although R32 is mildly-flammable, and room sizes were considered during the design phase, the level of ventilation mean that leak detection wasn’t required.
The Future Leap Hub has been re-opened since July and now offers Bristol businesses 70 socially distanced desks as well as an ethical cafe and lifestyle shop.