Before the invention of mechanical HVAC systems, natural ventilation was the only means of indoor cooling and keeping the air fresh. But as time passed and technology advanced, multi-storey buildings became commonplace. As such, it became natural to shift from natural to mechanical means of ventilating an indoor space. Nevertheless, architects still take advantage of specific design elements that maximise the benefits of natural ventilation. For example, a building with a central atrium and ceiling opening controlled by electric window openers helps induce warm air to escape the building. Also, building corridors with windows can improve ventilation and allow polluted air to escape.
Why should you consider natural ventilation for your place of business?
HVAC costs account for a significant portion of operational expenses. By shifting to natural or hybrid ventilation, a company may save at least 50%. Also, employee productivity is said to increase by allowing natural light into the workspace through windows and other openings. Another essential consideration is that the investment in natural ventilation strategies pays off within a short period.
How is natural ventilation achieved?
The most efficient way to use natural ventilation is to rely on the pressure difference between indoor and outdoor environments. Depending on the wind’s direction, air will flow from one side of the building and exit on the other, creating a cross-ventilation effect. Occupants may be given more control over the indoor condition by installing automated window openers or manual window openers – whichever is most convenient.
Some buildings may also incorporate stack ventilation by adding openings and shafts in the ceiling and other high areas. When cold wind enters the window or door below, it will push the warm air up and out of the vent. Of course, building design and window orientation play a major role in maximising the effect of natural ventilation. The architect needs to employ the best strategies and techniques so as to ensure optimum comfort throughout the year.
Challenges with natural ventilation
Perhaps one of the primary challenges to adopting natural ventilation in businesses and office buildings is the compliance to regulations. These guidelines and rules may vary depending on the type of industry, the size of the building, as well as applicable building codes. In most cases, it’s best to use a hybrid system instead of entirely natural ventilation.
Is natural ventilation the right fit for your business?
One of the first things you need to determine is the relative humidity and temperature in your location. If relative humidity and temperature are high, it would be challenging to achieve indoor comfort through natural ventilation alone. Perhaps a hybrid or mixed ventilation system is the better choice.
In addition to the external factors, building design is another essential consideration. Of course, if the building doesn’t have operable windows, a retrofit wouldn’t be cost-effective. Most of the time, older buildings are a better fit for natural ventilation. Smaller office buildings and schools are typical candidates for natural ventilation as these establishments won’t require disruptive renovations and costly retrofits.