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As most of us spend the majority of our time indoors these days, the air we breathe inside our homes and workplaces is of major importance. If not designed, installed, used, and maintained correctly, HVAC systems can make us ill.

Ventilation is a vital type of technology intended to help create a healthy and comfortable indoor environment. It is the V in HVAC; Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. It is a major part of commercial building maintenance.

Ventilation can also contribute significantly to electricity demand and overall energy usage of a building. In fact, HVAC systems in a commercial building typically account for 30% of energy usage. As with all technologies, HVAC systems are evolving each year and efficiency is continually improving.

What is ventilation?

Ventilation refers to the intended movement of outside air into and around an indoor space. It also involves the displacement of air and its extraction from indoors to the outside. It can be part of a commercial HVAC system, or stand-alone set up.

Ventilation consists of 3 main parts:

  • Ventilation rate – the amount and quality of the outdoor air,
  • Airflow direction – the flow of air within a building, from “clean” to “dirty” areas, and,
  • Air distribution – the delivery of outside air and removal of pollutants.

A building can be ventilated in 1 of 3 main ways:

  • Mechanical ventilation – relies on mechanical fans,
  • Natural ventilation – relies on natural forces, or,
  • Hybrid/Mixed-mode ventilation – relies on natural forces, with fans used when ventilation rate/s become too low.

The ventilation method used in a building depends on many factors, such as climate, architectural design, building usage, and occupant behaviour. These factors can further impact the types of equipment used within each ventilation type. For example, internal/external pressures vary between hot and humid vs cold and dry climates, impacting ventilation design.

In warm, humid regions such as Brisbane and South East Queensland, infiltration needs to be minimized and positive pressure mechanical ventilation is often used. The use of positive pressure can also help with moisture management and humidity control for commercial buildings.

In cooler climates, exfiltration must be minimized and negative pressure mechanical ventilation can be used. Natural and mixed-mode ventilation is also more practical in cooler, drier climates.

For the most suitable install, service, or repair, it is recommended to use a Brisbane HVAC company or company local to your business. This way, the company is an expert at dealing with your particular climate, challenges, and requirements.

Why is ventilation important?

Ventilation is primarily intended to improve indoor air quality (IAQ).The aim is to provide healthy air and a comfortable climate for people occupying or visiting a building.

It is also a requirement of any employer to provide a safe and suitable workplace. Part of that responsibility involves taken reasonable action to prevent workers from harm, including illness.

Ventilation improves indoor air quality in 2 main ways:

  • Dilute pollutants within the building, and,
  • Remove pollutants from the building.

Inadequate air quality should be a concern for any business owner. Poor IAQ is a major contributor to sick building syndrome, resulting in occupants becoming ill or even suffering chronic disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that up to 30% of new and renovated buildings have inadequate IAQ.  The indoor environment for older buildings is even worse! This can see workers not even involved in hazardous works end up with illness caused by their work environment, thanks to sick building syndrome.

Inadequate ventilation has also been linked to reduced productivity in the workplace and impaired learning in educational facilities. Fortunately, the opposite is true; A suitable, maintained HVAC system has many benefits, beyond what you may think at first thought.

There are a wide range of pollutants that ventilation can help to manage, including, but not limited to:

Moisture, Mould, Viruses, Bacteria, Dust particles, Cleaning chemicals, Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) including formaldehyde, ethylene, benzene, glycol, etc.,

Contaminants from offgassing, Carbon monoxide (CO), Carbon dioxide (CO2), Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), Smoke, Grease particles, Radon, Lead, and, Asbestos.

While all the pollutants are important to consider, each workplace has their own specific areas of concern. For example, in a kitchen, smoke and grease may be the major pollutants, with smoke exhaust factored into kitchen design. For an office environment, dust, mould and even cleaning chemicals can cause issues.

When and where is ventilation used?

Ventilation is used in a wide range of settings and applications.Just about every indoor space requires some form of ventilation.Common areas of usage include office spaces, warehouses, production floors, kitchens, toilets, bathrooms, and car parks.

Major reasons for ventilation usage include the management of:

  • Fresh air,
  • Humidity,
  • Organic compounds,
  • Smells,
  • Grease,
  • Smoke, and,
  • Car exhaust.

Some ventilation happens naturally (natural ventilation), while mechanical intervention is needed in many settings (mechanical ventilation).Alternatively, a hybrid ventilation method may be suitable.

When designing a ventilation system, factors to consider include but are not limited to:

  • Type of building/structure,
  • Usage of the space,
  • Volume of the area,
  • Number of airflow changes required per 24 hours,
  • How exhaust air will be vented,
  • Structural requirements and availabilities,
  • Electrical requirements and availabilities, and,
  • Budget available.

Choosing the right ventilation system takes careful consideration and technical design. It is recommended to consult an expert commercial HVAC contractor before undertaking any ventilation project.

Given the importance of ventilation in a commercial building, it is best to consult an HVAC professional that can provide a holistic solution and ongoing support, from start to finish. Given the implications of inadequate ventilation; it’s not something you can afford to mess around with at any level!

If you require any help with design, install, maintenance, calibration, repair, or replacement of a ventilation system, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We would welcome the opportunity to provide an obligation free quote.

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