The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) held its annual 2023 winter conference (February 4–8, 2023) in Atlanta, Georgia, including several technical sessions, project committee meetings, and seminars, with over 3,000 industry professionals in attendance. Simultaneously, the 2023 AHR Expo (February 6–8, 2023) was held at the Georgia World Congress Center, with 1,779 exhibitors showcasing the latest technologies and services in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC&R) industry and over 40,000 people visiting the expo over the course of three days. This analyst note discusses Omdia’s main takeaways.
Decarbonization was a key discussion topic
Decarbonization, higher efficiency, and sustainability were present in most discussions at the conference, while also questioning how the industry could do better. Embracing building decarbonization strategies to decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions was highly recommended across different sessions.
Decarbonization is a great challenge, and it goes beyond lowering GHG emissions. It also includes energy savings, lowering air pollution, and improving health. Operational GHG emissions, which are energy related, can be lowered by improving efficiency and electrification, optimizing operations, incorporating renewable energy sources, interacting with the smart electric grid, and using more environmentally friendly materials such as low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants. Standards and energy codes are key to enforcing the path for decarbonization. Lifecycle assessment (LCA), where the potential environmental impacts of products, processes, or activities are quantified during their lifecycle, should be considered to reduce embodied and operational GHG emissions.
Toward more intelligent operations
Automation and intelligent monitoring capabilities are enabling the next generation of smart and connected equipment. The use of digital twins, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) was highlighted as the way to advance management toward more intelligent operations. Monitoring systems are constantly evolving to incorporate AI tools in order to improve the data-driven decision-making process.
An updated version of the ASHRAE 90.4 energy standard for data centers is coming soon
In the next few months, we can expect the ANSI/ASHRAE standard 90.4-2022 (energy standard for data centers) to be available. This standard, which is highly relevant to data center professionals, was first published in 2016, with updates in 2019 and 2022. The purpose of this performance-based standard is to establish the minimum energy efficiency requirements for data centers, comprising design, construction, and operations.
The ASHRAE standard 90.4 recommends complying with the ANSI/ASHRAE/IES standard 90.1 (energy standard for sites and buildings except low-rise residential buildings) for noncritical aspects such as the building envelope, service water heating, and lighting. The ASHRAE 90.1 standard is used to define the minimum building efficiency requirements for commercial buildings, and it allows the use of ASHRAE 90.4 as an alternative compliance path for facilities with data center spaces.
Data center solutions were present at the 2023 AHR Expo
Multiple companies showcased data center cooling and automation solutions, including (in alphabetical order) Airedale, Daikin, Delta, Excool, Haiwu, Johnson Controls, Motivair, Movincool, Munters, Petra, Schneider Electric, Smardt, Stulz, and Trane. The focus was to offer more efficient and sustainable solutions.
There has been significant innovation within the industry, with new technologies that enable higher efficiency and sustainability from planning, through design and construction, and all the way to operations. Omdia forecasts that a combination of air-cooled and liquid-cooled systems will become commonplace in data centers in the near future.
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“Data centers: Energy consumption is all about workloads” (June 2021)
Moises Levy, PhD, Senior Principal Analyst, Data Center Physical Infrastructure, Cloud and Data Center Research Practice