Italian company SINTRA has been manufacturing eco-friendly air treatment solutions for 30 years with the objective of making buildings energy self-sufficient. The company has just opened an Expertise & Technology Center (ETC) aimed at demonstrating all of its air treatment solutions for large industrial spaces. We were invited to the inauguration of the ETC near Milan in Italy.
Sintra became known in 1995 with a system of perforated metal ducts to treat indoor air and heat / cool buildings: the traditional Spirojet ducts for supply air diffusion and the more sophisticated MIX-IND ducts for ambient air supply.
The company’s goal is to enable industrial buildings to achieve energy autonomy and use less energy. While this objective initially had an ecological perspective, it makes even more sense today as energy bills for heating/cooling buildings are becoming increasingly high due to the international context. Industry needs to find new inventive ways to reduce its energy consumption, carbon footprint and energy costs.
According to Marco Zambolin, CEO & Founder of SINTRA, there are simple and easy-to-implement solutions to make buildings greener. The Italian company has developed an hvac system based on two types of ducts.
Making Buildings Sustainable
The Spirojet ducts, composed of several one-meter modules, diffuse supply air through dozens of small holes, like a high induction diffuser. The result: a good air diffusion in the building and continuous ventilation without condensation at a competitive price.
With the MIX-IND range of perforated ducts, also called PULSEURS ducts, SINTRA takes things a step further. The solution, which pulses ambient air, directly answers the problems of stratification and depression in industrial buildings with great heights and large volumes.
Thanks to these two technologies, SINTRA boasts high energy performance and maximum homogeneity throughout a building, even with large volumes, as Marco Zambolin, CEO & Founder of SINTRA, explains:
“We are able to obtain a temperature homogeneity of about 1°C, both vertically and horizontally, even in very high buildings. This is what we have done at the U-Arena in Paris. There is a difference of only 1° between the top and the bottom of the stadium, which is 40 meters high. It’s unique!”
Air Conditioning Without Air Conditioning
With this system, SINTRA revolutionized air conditioning, replacing artificial air conditioning with free, natural and ecological air conditioning.
How does it enable that? It starts with the introduction of a large mass of air into the building at the lowest outside temperature, during the night, for example, thanks to low-energy consumption fans. Then, the energy contained in this fresh air is stored thanks to the thermal inertia of the building’s structures (the floor, the walls…). This air can then be used during the day, when it is most needed, thanks to reinforced insulation and the use of solar protection on the walls and the roof.
For Mr. Zambolin,
“We bring in cold kwatt at night to use them during the day. Therefore, the cost of installing air conditioning is saved because there is no air conditioning. But with this system, the temperature inside the building is colder than if we had put an artifical air conditioning system! The temperature inside the building is between 21 and 25°, even when it is very hot and there is a natural over-ventilation.”
Airbus A350 Production Site
Stratification is an important element when it comes to industrial buildings. The problem with high buildings is that the warm air tends to stay up, while cold air stays down.
In 2009, SINTRA installed their MIX-IND technology at an Airbus A350 site in France (Bouguenais) and were able to bring a solution to this problem.
Airbus assembles the carbon fiber fuselage of its A350 in a 15-meter-high building. This production process generates dust and high heat and the stratification must be at a maximum level of 2° for the production to take place.
“We calculated that the building only needed 3 perforated ducts and no return air ducts to reach 150,000 m3/hour with a single-pulse installation. As a result, we obtained a stratification around 0.8°C, even better than the required 2°. The cost of the installation was €1.2 million and it also brought €20,000 in energy savings per year to Airbus.”
Since 1995, Sintra has installed its Spirojet and MIX-IND ducting system in several factories (Fiat, PSA, Airbus) as well as in various other buildings (stadiums, fairs, Amazon warehouses, IKEA).
Building on this experience, the company has just opened a new Expertise & Technology Center (ETC) at an investment of 6 million euros in Italy, near Milan. This facility was designed to showcase and experiment with different air handling technologies for making buildings energy self-sufficient. These sustainable solutions include the perforated ducts the company is known for, as well as many others we were able to see up close.
Exploring the ETC’s Green Technologies
The ETC is a compendium of green technologies made by SINTRA. The building itself, 150 meters long, 30 meters wide and 14 meters high, has been designed to be energy self-sufficient thanks to the use of various technologies. The indoor temperature is between 21 and 25°C, even when it is very hot outside. Infrared cameras allow following the evolution of the temperature in real-time.
For Mr. Zambolin,
“With the ETC, we want to show our clients, the design offices, researchers, institutions all the technologies available to make future buildings greener. We also want to prove that larger buildings are not necessarily more expensive to heat and cool.”
The following are some of the technologies showcased there:
The building is heated by 3 gas condensing unit heaters of 100 kWatts.
The building is equipped with a single 20-meter-long MIX-IND duct, associated with autonomous pulseurs, that homogenizes the temperatures within around 1°C over a range of 150 meters and over the whole height of the building.
The perforated modules can rotate on their axis to change the angle of air blowing. For example, they can blow downwards when they are first turned on.
The building is equipped with a summer ventilation system installed on the top of the facility. 1,000,000 m3/hour of air can be blown by multiple fans and 2,000,000 m3/hour are extracted. Users can choose the number of fans they want to install and use. When all the fans are on, the air is changed every minute in the area.
Each industrial door is equipped with cold air curtains to prevent cold air from entering the facility in winter. This Variwind technology targets problems related to cold air infiltration through industrial doors and loading docks that warehouses face.
“Everyone makes hot air curtains. But with warm air you can’t hold back the cold air that tends to enter the plant. We make cold air curtains and it’s with cold air that we can more easily repel cold air.”
Air curtains are composed of several modules stacked on top of each other according to the height of the door. They are simple to assemble and have fans and silencers.
For Mr. Zambolin,
“We consider it is not a luxury to implement such technologies because it is not so expensive thanks to more intelligent construction. We want to show that we can do better with integrated design if we think about adapting the production to the buildings before the construction (and not the opposite). We must design the building for the production and not the other way around as it has been done until now.”
All these technologies can be seen at the ETC where SINTRA regularly conducts smoke tests to evaluate their performance. The company also offers an assisted design service with the MIX-IND technology of advanced pulsing (and no longer just simple pulsing).
Energy Requalification of Existing Buildings
SINTRA also offers solutions for existing buildings. In fact, energy requalification represents 50% of SINTRA’s annual €10 million in turnover.
“Today, people no longer want to invest in new facilities and change all their installations, ducts, etc. So we are also able to intervene on underperforming installations and propose new solutions, reducing the size of the installation to achieve the same goals of energy efficiency.”
This is what they did for Gucci’s defile building in Milan. The building was already equipped with 12 ducts but it could not be properly heated because of a stratification issue.
“So we added 2 perforated MIX-IND ducts and it worked. With the ducts, the warm air goes down without any draft.”