Showhome spoke to Kevin Hippey, General Manager at European Market Leader Vortice whose UK head office is in Burton upon Trent.
For the last few years the talk has all been about energy efficiency, is that the most important issue for ventilation today?
Energy efficiency is of course key, but with the trend over the last decade being air tightness, the part ventilation systems have to play in good indoor air quality is becoming more and more important.
Good indoor air quality is essential for good health environment to live in. As the latest building regulations are designed to improve the energy efficiency and air tightness of properties it is important that the products specified ensure that fresh filtered air is circulated around the property. For the housing association market Vortice has developed a series of ventilation products which take the onus for maintaining that good ventilation away from the householder.
Factors like how many occupants are in the property, pollutants and pets hairs along with normal household dust particles can affect the indoor air quality of a property. The knock on effect of these are health risks due to the build-up of condensation and mould growth which can be serious should they be left unchecked. The specification of suitable products is essential – the technical team at Vortice can assist from the design stage right the way through to the build stage to ensure the correct products are specified
What has changed in the last few years with ventilation systems?
The role of mechanical ventilation systems has increased further since the 2013 Building Regulations and dwellings are achieving better air tightness than seemed imaginable ten years ago. Use of heat recovery systems has grown exponentially. Today heat recovery units are being designed to cope with single rooms, large properties with several wet rooms, smaller domestic dwellings as well as commercial buildings. The heat exchanger within the units is recovering energy up to the 90% mark; this in turn should enable the occupier to turn the thermostat within the dwelling down. Vortice offers a whole selection of heat recovery systems tailored for different properties as well as standard ventilation products.
Are there any downsides to heat recovery systems?
The units are only as good as the design and installation of the system and the education of the installer and occupants. Any weak point with these three factors would cause a detrimental effect on the unit’s performance. It is imperative that installers are educated in these types of units and are trained on how to correctly install such systems. They then need to pass on the knowledge of the system to the occupiers by providing home owner packs and education. Remember, gone are the days of installing a 4” fan through the wall, these units are now far more intelligent and require specialised training and commissioning.
What does Vortice do to ensure that installers are educated properly in these new technologies?
Training is very much on the agenda for Vortice, with many construction sites for new homes appearing to be running at the upper limits of production capacity. The quality of the installations is even more important, so as not to compromise the install at the cost of completing the build due to time constraints. NHBC found that for some companies “construction quality is not a priority”. We firmly believe that as new homes are built more airtight, the importance of good indoor air quality will place greater emphasis on the design, installation and commissioning of the ventilation systems. As a result of these new Building Standards we expect the demand for training on System 3 (MEV) and System 4 (MVHR) to increase significantly.
We set a real focus on delivering training to ensure that the installers are being educated in both the install and commissioning of units so they perform to the best of their ability. We run BPEC training courses at our showroom in Burton upon Trent and the results are already showing. Several developers specify Vortice ventilation products for all their developments and they understand the importance both of the initial design of the system and its installation. With the next part L revision expected next year, installers need to catch up on best practice as soon as practicable. We pride ourselves on providing house builders with the correct solution to ventilation requirements which will comply with current regulations and give them the confidence to install heat recovery units so it doesn’t cause problems on site after the occupants have moved in.
Assuming a ventilation system is designed and installed correctly is that the end of the matter?
Far from it. After it has been commissioned by the installer (BSRIA recommends using an automatic flow meter) it is then the job of the house builder/ installer to educate the occupants on the correct use of the product. This could range from making sure there is no dust build up on the grilles, to regular cleaning or changing of the unit’s filters. Correct maintenance of the unit can ensure the unit runs at its peak performance thereby saving energy and also can lengthen the lifespan of the unit. Not carrying out correct cleaning of the unit can affect the unit’s performance. The installers have to understand that when the site is finished or job is completed they need to educate the homeowners to minimise headaches afterwards. For social housing especially this will protect their assets and the structural integrity of the home. Education is a key factor here!
Has product development slowed now for heat recovery systems?
As a company we are always looking at developing units that suit a wide range of applications. We want a range of units that can be suitable for large houses, small apartments and are currently developing a single room heat recovery unit which is ideal for the refurbishment market. Vortice is constantly looking towards the future and the driver is the energy efficiency and physical size of the units.
The next stage of development would be to look at how easy the units are to install and commission. This could see significant changes in the design of the unit. Making the unit easier for installer and occupant is a key design feature.
At the ISH trade exhibition in Frankfurt in March Vortice will showcase its latest range of heat recovery units.
Is heat recovery ‘where it’s at’ in terms of what’s new in ventilation?
No, it plays a hugely important part in helping developers to achieve their energy efficiency targets, but we’re busy making sure that all our other fans are energy efficient too which is a growing sector within ventilation. Vortice is developing many energy saving versions of our current popular fan ranges. The Vortice range covers everything from bathroom and kitchen extract fans to large commercial air handling units for factories and hospitals.
So what’s new for the humble bathroom fan?
There will always be a market for the intermittent fans and having good design at the forefront of Vortice’s credentials will be a key driver to ensure sales. The refurbishment market is increasing and more people are looking at their key rooms which are the kitchen and bathroom when updating their property. White tiles are being replaced by masculine grey and black colours and key themes in the bathroom space are steering towards metallic colours, reptile-like textures and contemporary lines. When customers are spending a lot on matching sanitary ware and tiles they are now looking at the bathroom fan as part of the complete look. So, for example we offer bathroom fans in a series of different coloured metallic finishes which will fit seamlessly with the décor of the room. For high end properties, the last thing developers want is to have a beautifully tiled bathroom with a shiny white bathroom fan. The design of the fan has to be continually updated in line with the bathroom trends.
How long has Vortice been in existence?
Established in Milan in 1954, Vortice operates worldwide and has achieved market leadership due to its efforts to produce products which are safe, reliable and attractively designed. Vortice has been synonymous with quality and excellence and continues to make significant improvements by investing in continuous research to improve the efficiency and quality of its products.
Can you give us some examples of developments where Vortice ventilation systems have been used?
Yes, we have a whole series of case studies demonstrating the use of our products …
Vortice’s smaller domestic heat recovery units were specified in a prestigious development called Maryland on the Woburn Abbey Estate last year. Each house had been skilfully converted and restored with the latest energy efficient products. The house builder put an enormous amount of effort into researching the best possible products to produce the excellent SAP ratings achieved by these homes and were pleased to incorporate the Vortice HR400M heat recovery systems throughout the development.
164 homes in Chapel-en-le-Frith, in a development called Becket’s Brow will be fitted with Vortice heat recovery systems, mechanical extract systems and bathroom fans – all with excellent energy efficiency ratings.
Recently, we worked with David Wilson Homes and their installers Thomson Electrical of Warrington to ensure that the ventilation system was designed to its optimum level for a flagship project in Cheshire. The result has been installation excellence and the benefits in terms of fresh, healthy air and energy efficiency will be reaped by the new house buyers.
Vortice units have also been specified within less standard dwellings – an example of this was the old engine house at Wheal Kitty near St Agnes. This Cornish engine house needed an energy efficient unit to be installed to reduce the humidity and to create an improved indoor environment. The unit did just that and everyone involved was pleased with the results.
So what’s your overall message?
Technology for ventilation systems has moved on significantly in the last decade, giving energy efficiency benefits to new housing developments throughout the country. By embracing education for the specifier, installer and the resident, the very best results can be achieved for future generations.