Design Brief: Air Conditioning & Ventilation

May 12, 2010
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Table of ContentsUsing the whole-systems approach to building design, designers around the world have succeeded at creating highly efficient air-conditioning systems that provide excellent workspace comfort.

Air conditioning and ventilation systems can significantly affect a building's profitability. These systems consume about one-fourth of an office building's electricity, and they often have a strong influence on worker productivity. (Many workers report that their workplaces are too hot or too cold.)

Despite this, designers often do not give these systems the attention they deserve during the design process. Opportunities to improve cooling and ventilation efficiency often are overlooked.

The "whole-systems" approach described in this publication can help designers create highly efficient air conditioning systems that also provide excellent workspace comfort. This approach includes:

  • Minimizing unwanted heat gains to reduce cooling loads.
  • Designing air distribution systems and cooling plants to meet those reduced cooling loads (which offers savings in both capital and operating costs).
  • Specifying high-efficiency cooling plants.

The whole-systems approach can yield substantial benefits. In one building, worker productivity improved by 16 percent and electricity use dropped 40 percent. In another, a new whole-systems design allowed operators to maintain thermal comfort in a hot climate without electrically powered air conditioning or ventilation systems.

Virtually any air conditioning and ventilation design can be improved through the whole-systems approach to solving problems.

The first edition of this design brief was prepared for Energy Design Resources in 2004. Between January and April of 2010, an engineering review of this document was conducted to update passages affected by recent changes in the California Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Title 24 2008). The original content creator was not actively involved in this engineering review, and therefore is not responsible for the updates to the affected passages.

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