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Carole Titmuss of Refurb Projects looks at the transformation of former offices into stylish apartments.

I’ve been involved in the world of refurbishment for a number of years now and I’ve noticed how sustainability and energy efficiency have become so important in the majority of stories and press releases that cross my desk.

The other trend I’ve noticed more recently mirrors the wider issue of our changing town centres as we are seeing more commercial buildings repurposed for either mixed use or even straight conversion to residential.

The transformation of a former office space in Leeds is one such example that combines efficiency and re-use and shows just how this can be done in stylish luxury.


Centrally located within the traditional core of Leeds, Trafalgar House has seen some of its former office space transformed into luxury apartments complete with Mitsubishi Electric’s Hybrid VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) air conditioning system.

The stylish new apartments are heated and cooled using this unique air conditioning solution which ensures complete comfort and absolute compliance.

Hybrid VRF system was chosen specifically to ensure Trafalgar House complied with the British and European Standard EN378 (Refrigeration systems and heat pumps - safety and environmental requirements).

The BS EN378 standard limits the usage of refrigerants in buildings in order to minimise potential risk to occupants that could occur from refrigerant leakage.

As the rooms in the conversion were designed to have a small footprint, leak detection equipment would have been required if a traditional VRF system had been installed.

Refrigerant = water

Abey Air Conditioning were commissioned to install the innovative HVRF system to serve 87 rooms across three floors.

One of the key advantages in choosing the HVRF solution is its use of water instead of refrigerant in indoor units, therefore removing the need for leak detection equipment. This equates to lower costs, less risks, simplified maintenance and compliance.

At the heart of the HVRF system is its Hybrid Branch Controller (HBC), which links the outdoor units to the indoor units.

Temperature is exchanged between refrigerant and water via two heat plate exchangers within individual units. Whilst refrigerant is contained to pipework between the HBC and outdoor units, water is circulated by energy efficient inverter pumps to the indoor units.

“One of the main challenges when specifying any system is balancing efficiency & legislative requirements with maximum occupant comfort,” explained Michael Abey of Abey Air Conditioning.

“The Hybrid VRF system offers the perfect solution. Its simplified two pipe system is easy to install and uses less refrigerant and only water in occupied spaces meaning it is both efficient and compliant.

“This modern alternative to traditional methods offers a more comfortable environment as well as high off-coil temperatures, which is important in smaller rooms. Individual rooms are easily controlled by remote controllers offering flexibility and control to occupants.”

Effective control

Controls have an invaluable role to play in creating an energy efficient environment. To enable the whole system to be controlled and monitored from a central location an AE200 controller was installed in Trafalgar House.

The AE200 is a state of the art controller and offers easy to use programming and control of temperature, fan speed and airflow.

The advanced controller also provides comprehensive energy consumption monitoring and comparisons on previous years offering valuable assistance in energy saving.

Trafalgar House is now reaping the benefits of the innovative Hybrid VRF air conditioning system, the advanced technology used ensures the development will be energy efficient and offer maximum occupant comfort now and in the long term.

Carole Titmuss is editor of Refurb Projects magazine