WEST LAFAYETTE, IN — Rub your crystal ball and gaze 20 years into the future. What do you see in hvacr:

  • An office in which each employee can control the temperature of his or her space?

  • A home where you pay as you go for heating and cooling as a service, rather than owning the equipment?

These and other admittedly “wild speculations” of life in the year 2020 were presented during a plenary session here at conferences hosted by Purdue University.

Kenneth Hickman, chair of the Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Technology Institute (ARTI) 21CR Steering Committee and former York executive, combined his look to the future with some current research projects designed to bring some of those speculations to life.

The “ultra zone control” of the office of the future also allows for quick hvacr readjustments when office space is reconfigured, according to Hickman.

We may also expect to see “nearly instant response to comfort problems via centralized monitoring and diagnostics, remote programming, and service ‘flying squads’” ready for instant response to a problem.

Moreover, “Building systems continually optimize building operation using real-time weather data, energy cost information, and anticipated changes in occupancy,” said Hickman.

Trends at work and play

One result, he said, is to reverse the work-at-home trend. “The office building of 2020 will provide an environment so attractive that people want to work in the office, not at home,” he said, noting that this allows for cooperation and integration important in the business world.

On the home front, Hickman sees heating and cooling operating as a pay-as-you-go utility, possibly with incentive programs from utility companies.

“Components will be developed for easy installation in new homes, whose construction is largely off-site at a factory,” he said.

Hickman also painted a positive picture of current questions concerning the global warming issue. “The direct GWP emissions from hvacr systems will be negligible.”

He also sees “all compressors with variable-speed drives,” and “all systems with microprocessor controls.”

Service first

To reach these goals, Hickman said some baselines need to be established now. One of the big concerns is service, which he says has to be done fast, affordably, and “once and done with no callbacks.”

He admitted, however, that there is currently a “limited number of skilled service people,” which may be a problem for the next five years.

Because of that, “Equipment needs to have minimal maintenance requirements, user-friendly instructions and reminders, and automatic commissioning and balancing.”

Publication date: 08/21/2000