Hunton Group’s Quiet Quest

Hunton Group’s Quiet Quest to Improve Energy Efficiency, and Sustainability

Michael Finke, sales manager at Hunton Distribution
Michael Finke, sales manager at Hunton Distribution, leaning on a high efficiency all-electric Trane heat pump that assists building owners to meet their decarbonization goals by reducing overall carbon emissions.

Houston had 45 days of triple-digit temperatures in 2023; the thermometer hit 109 degrees on not one, but two days in August. This is why R.O. Hunton has never looked at a building and thought about the bricks and mortar. It’s always about the people inside. The Hunton Group today is one of Houston’s leading innovators pushing the indoor air industry to a more sustainable future.

BUILT ON INGENUITY 

Early in his career, R.O. designed award-winning heat recovery and equipment improvements that later earned him induction to the ASHRAE College of Fellows. R.O. is also a licensed professional engineer in Texas and New York, holds contractor licenses in Texas and Hawaii, and is twice the recipient of Trane’s Field Engineering Award. He has imbued Hunton with this spirit of ingenuity since starting the company in 1981.

Much of what Hunton does is out of the public eye, but it extends to every facet of daily life. Consider any large public place – a school, hospital, big box store, office building, or the mall. Hunton keeps these places comfortable and healthy for all inside. Industrial, commercial, and residential customers alike have looked to Hunton as a one-stop shop for anything HVAC-related. And back when “green” just meant a color, Hunton was researching ways to condition indoor air more sustainably and efficiently.

INNOVATING AT SCALE 

Buildings are responsible for 42% of annual global CO2 emissions. Working with long-standing partner Trane, Hunton is actively pursuing carbon neutrality. Trane has not only committed to carbon-neutral operations by 2030, it instituted the Gigaton Challenge. This effort aims to remove 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from building operations.

Robert, Richard Jr., R.O. and Charlie Hunton

Hunton is assisting this effort by working with customers to take an easy step in the right direction, by developing refrigerant management plans to make the switch to more sustainable refrigerants.

Hunton also partners with their customers to help them leverage innovation and technology for more efficient building operations. In 2012, Hunton launched Convergentz, a company dedicated to master systems integration (MSI). Every aspect of building operations, from turning on the lights to flushing the toilets, is integrated through a seamless technology platform. This master operational dashboard gives the end user flexibility, remote access, an improved client experience, and overall higher facility performance. In 2021, Convergentz added security, fire, life, and safety contracting to the platform, providing clients a one-stop shop to fully address building occupant health, safety, and welfare.

AI: THE NEXT FRONTIER 

The age of intelligent buildings is here. Since 2021, Hunton, under the direction of CEO Richard Hunton Jr., has been working with an autonomous AI HVAC technology, BrainBox. The platform is as simple to install as uploading software. BrainBox is an artificial intelligence model that studies how a building operates over time. Once the technology has learned the operational patterns, it can identify every potential improvement and enact it. BrainBox responds in real-time to predicted atmospheric changes. Before a major temperature swing occurs outdoors, BrainBox has already adjusted the indoor air environment accordingly. Hunton formed Fortune Energy Partners to help clients maximize the benefits of BrainBox.

Kevin Murphy, Hunton’s vice president of business development and leader of sustainability and innovation initiatives, sees even greater potential for BrainBox. “We’re just scratching the surface of how this technology can optimize building performance. Since implementation in several buildings, we know how well AI technology can reduce building electrical use. Further, intelligent buildings are becoming more integrated with improved dehumidification and filtration technologies, helping our clients reach their decarbonization goals sooner.” Murphy also oversees Hunton’s integration of their building AI strategy.

TAILORED INNOVATION 

Ashlynn Ivy from Hunton
Ashlynn Ivy from Hunton, monitoring the air cleaning performance of the Biodefense Control System installed in a central station air handling system serving a commercial real estate space.

Hunton works with select companies around the world that are breaking ground in their respective industries. When these companies need equipment solutions to aid their research, processing, or production, they rely on Hunton’s Engineered Products division. Here, Hunton industrial designers and engineers can design, fabricate, or modify HVAC equipment based on customers’ exact specifications. For more encompassing needs, Hunton can also design modular plants that are built in-house under exacting quality control standards and then delivered anywhere the customer specifies.

SECURITY FROM WITHIN

Indoor air quality has increasingly been making news, both for its positive effects on employee wellness, and for the harmful havoc it can wreak. Hunton has been working with the firm BioDefense Control Systems on a novel air filtration system new to the Houston market. Always an early adopter, Hunton installed the system at their headquarters. It combines advanced particle filtration with pathogen-deactivating technology, essentially catching, cleaning, and killing anything harmful before blowing the air indoors. Hunton is leading by example, with some of the cleanest indoor air in Houston. It goes back to R.O.’s commitment to the people inside the buildings.

“Many companies today talk about having a culture of innovation, but the proof is in the progress,” according to Richard Hunton Jr. “Innovation at Hunton starts by doing what is right for the environment and our customers. We invest the capital required to develop new technology into viable companies. And working with partners like Trane multiplies the progress Hunton has made toward the decarbonization, sustainability, and energy efficiency our climate needs now.”

Link to HBJ article. https://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2024/04/03/hunton-group-energy-efficiency-sustainability.html