Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

VRF for Multi-Story Buildings

We’re just starting on an apartment project where we decided to go with  variable refrigerant flow (VRF) technology  for the heating and cooling needs. Instead of each unit having its own HVAC system, these VRF systems use a central condensing unit. Each space is linked digitally to a central controller which manages conditions and monitors usage. Each apartment can be billed separately based upon usage.

VRF was born in Japan because of limited energy resources there, physical size constraints and the need for flexible conditioning of air. On this job, we are using one compressor per floor. A few benefits we are seeing:

  • Energy Savings. Our typical energy savings will be about 30% and our units will achieve a 22 to 23 EER (efficiency rating).
  • No vertical chases. This will reduce the cost of ducts and electrical work, allow for higher ceilings and make preventative maintenance easier.
  • Less wiring. We will be able to downsize electrical wiring, panels and switchgear.
  • More control for residents. Within the units, each room can be set to a different temperature, even if one is blowing heat and the other air.
  • Less noise. The inside units are virtually silent.

While VRF may be more expensive on the front end, long-term operating costs are significantly less. For this project, it felt like the most responsible choice.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.