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10 April 2024

Jorge Molina (ATECYR): "We need well-trained human capital to meet the challenges of decarbonisation"

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Recent regulatory developments, such as F-Gas and EPBD, are accelerating the decarbonisation process in the air-conditioning and refrigeration sector and are posing new challenges. In this interview, Jorge Molina, technical secretary of ATECYR, explains the importance of obtaining sufficient and properly trained human capital to address these challenges.

Why is it important for architecture and building professionals to have an in-depth understanding of the basics of air conditioning?

Recent regulatory developments, such as the approval of the Regulation on fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-Gas) and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), are accelerating the decarbonisation process in the air conditioning and refrigeration sector. And one of the greatest difficulties in tackling the challenges agreed at a European level is to obtain sufficient, and properly trained, human capital to comply with them within the established timelines, both in the field of new construction and in the field of energy upgrades of thermal installations in buildings.

ATECYR's mission is to offer ways to facilitate the training of technicians, trying to make their training and retraining as compatible as possible with their work activity. The ultimate goal is to provide them with state-of-the-art technical and technological knowledge and professional experience useful in the development of their skills. These two angles are the basis for knowing how to choose, in each case, the most appropriate solutions to decarbonise the thermal installations of buildings, without undermining the safety and comfort of their users.

How can this knowledge contribute to improving the energy efficiency of homes and offices?

The course responds to the need for specialised technicians to be qualified to undertake the prescription, design and sizing of new air-conditioning installations and energy refurbishments of the building stock. The "energy efficiency first" principle, the backbone of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, sets out the roadmap to be followed for the decarbonisation of the HVACR sector, which is: the reduction of buildings' energy demands; the implementation of efficient systems, mainly based on the electrification of buildings and their thermal installations through heat pumps, hybridised if necessary; and the phase-out of fossil fuels and the deployment of renewables and residual energy.

Providing them with the knowledge to apply this principle, in the established order, is fundamental to achieving the sustainability of the welfare state we currently enjoy, and a business opportunity that will ensure the sector's evolution towards a circular economy without leaving anyone behind.

What effects might this have on savings and safety?

The current climate crisis and high price volatility in the energy sector are accelerating the pace of development of the strategic plans for the ecological transition drawn up by the different administrations, at regional, national, European and global levels. Proof of this are the high energy efficiency requirements imposed by the current regulations for all types of buildings (CTE DB-HE), the huge amount of European funds earmarked for the upgrading of existing buildings and the thermal installations that serve them, or the various measures for energy saving, energy efficiency and reduction of energy dependence on fossil fuels.

The safety issue is not difficult to achieve as long as the instructions of the Technical Building Code and the Regulation of Thermal Installations in Buildings are followed, both in their design, installation, commissioning and maintenance. In terms of assessing the impact on monetary and energy savings of the measures adopted, it is difficult to say, as it depends on the initial state of each installation, the measures that are technically and economically feasible, the climate zone of the building, its orientation and the quality of its thermal envelope, the use to which the building is subjected and the behaviour of the building's users, among other factors. A first approximation of this assessment can be found in the review of the integrated NECP, but to date, ATECYR does not have its own assessment of these figures.

What is the course currently offered by ATECYR on these issues?

Right now, ATECYR has an open call for a 48-hour online course on this topic. Fundamentals of air conditioning for architecture and building professionals is a basic course on the design of thermal installations in buildings, aimed at professionals in the architecture and building sector who wish to broaden their knowledge and learn the fundamental principles that must be taken into account when designing an air-conditioning installation project. This course consists of twelve sessions in May and June.