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Which type of air conditioning is more environment friendly - doing the cooling per apartment or central cooling (for high rise residential buildings)?

My understanding is that central cooling is more effective than using separate units.

We see different patterns in different parts of the world:

For example: Singapore and Dubai both have high rise buildings for living (residential), but Singapore residents use split a/c in their houses whereas Dubai buildings use central a/c.
The per capita income in Singapore is more than Dubai ($55k vs. $44k). Maybe that has to do with the difference?

Is there any specific reason for this pattern and which type is more environment friendly?

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  • I would have thought that for the people choosing the system, the environmental impact would be a minor consideration at best, even then just bundled into a total cost of ownership. Up front cost and how much of it can easily be recouped from the residents will be the first consideration. Tradition will play a part.
    – Chris H
    Feb 7 '16 at 21:39
  • It's quite possibly a combination of tradition, who owns and pays for things, and the cost of changing. If every other building does it one way, trying to do it the other way will likely be very hard. Environmentally friendly and effect need to be defined, too. Do you mean money cost (of building or operating), energy cost, toxic cost, speed of response, and so on. It's likely to be cheaper to both install and operate central cooling, but that gives residents little to no control over whether to use it or what temperature to live at (efficiency plummets if most people open windows to warm up)
    – Móż
    Feb 8 '16 at 1:54
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I am not sure whether any of it could be considered environment friendly since they both use electricity. You may choose one over other in terms of efficiency but at the end how does the energy is produced may be the real question.

You may also consider investigating passive cooling systems which use no electricity at all. Such as underground water pipe loops and passive ventilation architecture (two different air holes at different elevations naturally creating draft)

Those are perfect sustainable cooling systems which have zero-Carbon output but they come with some disadvantages. You must start considering them at architecture drawing phase. If you have a private house you may construct Geo-thermal cooling-heating underground loops later on but passive ventilation architecture must definetlly be pallned before construction.

Geothermal heating-cooling http://www.heatingandairmarietta.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Geothermal-Heating-System.jpg

Passive ventilation http://riorenewables.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/website_new_heading_121120_r-05.jpg

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