Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand is home to the world’s largest radiant cooling system. The developers used an Uponor system to cover an area of 150,000m² with underfloor panelling for the purpose of cooling the building.
This project is one of the biggest success stories in the use of radiant cooling in green building design on a commercial scale. Having been completed in 2006, it is one of the flagship projects in Asia that has helped to spark its green building revolution. With the majority of major Asian cities falling into humid climate zones, there has been an increased need for sustainable design elements to consider the efficiency of their cooling operations. This is where radiant cooling solutions have come into the architectural and design fray, for their highly efficient method of cooling large buildings in humid climates.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Bangkok International Airport stands out in this regard.
To truly understand the extent of which Bangkok’s airport is a major showcase of green building design in the world, here are some statistics of the size of the project to put this into perspective:
> Total area of radiant cooling panelling laid down: 150,000m² – that’s roughly the size of 20 football pitches
> Total length of cooled flooring: 3.5km
> 600km of PEX piping used
> 7500 circuits used
> 1510 specially designed diffusers
The airport is still one of the major examples of commercial radiant cooling solutions implementation in the world – although they are seeing a substantial rise in their use as a sustainable design element in many large-scale buildings, particularly in Asia.
The particular solution for this building was chosen from a very specific need to cool an indoor space with requisite indoor temperatures of 24°C and relative humidity of between 50-60%. This is clearly a demanding indoor environment for human occupancy. Thankfully, the panel cooling system in this project provides a maximum cooling load of 70-80w/m² and a comfortable floor temperature of 21°C.
Further Design Elements
Out of necessity to carefully control the humidity factor inside the conditioned space, the use of a hybrid system was employed in this particular project. In addition, there are other elements of the building that help to contribute to a cooler indoor space. For instance, a large roof overhang was designed as a way of diffusing the natural light entering the building, helping to prevent the direct radiation of the sun’s rays into the building. The roofing is also constructed out of a membrane that only permits diffused sunlight to pass through it. This membrane also acts as an internal mirror that then re-reflects the surface temperature of the already cooled floor back down into the conditioned space, coupling man-made cooling systems with a natural movement of air indoors.
With airports in the Asian region becoming major transit hubs and subsequently seeing an exponential rise in foot traffic, it has become of vital importance for them to provide satisfactory levels of thermal comfort in the indoor environment. The Bangkok airport certainly serves as a standout example of this particular achievement and can serve as a blueprint for other buildings and projects of similar types in the region that wish to achieve the same.