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HVAC System Design: 6 Strategies for Modern Office Spaces

Sep 7

In recent years, corporate office space has changed dramatically. These spaces used to have a circle of private offices around their perimeter and a central area with cubicle farms. Open office plans are more common today and require different design considerations.

Companies are moving away from the perimeter offices, which lack natural light and have lost much of their space. The cubicles are replaced by workspaces that cater to specific activities, such as pods for quiet concentration or team lounges for collaboration. What does this mean for HVAC system design? For some key strategies, read on.

HVAC system design strategies to improve comfort in open office spaces

We cannot stress enough how important it is to think about HVAC system design as early as possible in any renovation or build project. These are the essential strategies you need to consider early, or you will have to make costly changes later.

Space design to reduce HVAC cooling loads and improve energy efficiency

Your HVAC system uses more energy than any other area of your office space. It pays to plan your space to reduce HVAC loads and save energy when you renovate or build a new open-plan space. While you will likely be installing more efficient insulated walls, floors, and windows, here are some other ideas.

Design considerations that include more sunlight are significant for the workplace's health and well-being and reduce heating loads during winter. Tinted Low-E glass is an excellent option to reduce solar gain and increase cooling loads in summer.

Lighting systems dimming or turning off when there is enough daylight to work in the area is another energy-saving option. Combining this strategy with more relaxed lighting will result in less heat waste and a lower cooling load for your HVAC system.

Correctly size your HVAC system.

To avoid an extensive HVAC system, calculations of HVAC system loads must consider all energy efficiency features. You may not be an HVAC expert, but this is what you might not know: more significant is not always better in HVAC system design. 

Insufficient comfort will be achieved if the air conditioner is too large for your space. The system never stops turning on and off and doesn't run long enough to remove humidity.

It is essential to consider more than just square footage when planning your HVAC system design. Computer simulation tools can be used to account for space activity patterns, daylight, lighting design, as well as building materials. These factors all impact cooling and heating loads. HVAC professionals must be consulted early in the design process.

Create zones

For better energy efficiency and comfort, your HVAC system design should include multiple independently-controlled zones within the space because different areas require different comfort requirements, even in open offices. Take, for example:

  • Weather affects perimeter spaces more than interior areas, so they should be managed separately.
  • Specific spaces require temperature and humidification control unavailable in comfort zones. These must be managed separately.
  • Large areas where people gather, like large conference rooms, require more cooling during use and less when empty.

This is not always easy to do in open offices that don't have traditional walls. It's also another reason why you should include HVAC system design expertise in any plans.

This article contains additional information on HVAC technology that is particularly effective for zoned offices.

Make the most of sensors

In recent years, sensor technology has advanced to enable intelligent buildings. Two types of sensors can be used to save energy and integrate with the HVAC system design.

LIGHT SENSORS were mentioned earlier. They can detect the amount of daylight in a space and adjust the lighting accordingly. These sensors can also be connected to HVAC systems to adjust heating and cooling.

OCCUPANCY SENSORS can track the number of people using the space and send messages to HVAC controls. If sensors detect that large meeting spaces are being used, the cooling can be increased to meet the increased demand.

Take into account floor-to-floor air distribution

Overhead air distribution has been used to cool office spaces in the past. This HVAC system design is less efficient in modern offices with high ceilings. Many open-plan offices are now using under-floor air distribution systems. These systems utilize diffusers placed under a raised floor to distribute the conditioned air to various space areas. 

The system then uses stratification to move warm air toward the ceiling and replace it with more relaxed, conditioned air at the workers' feet. The benefits of underfloor air are that it provides consistent comfort and maintains indoor air quality.

Ventilation is a way to improve indoor air quality.

It's more than just about temperature comfort when choosing the best HVAC system design for modern office spaces. It is equally important to regulate humidity, remove odors and eliminate contaminants like dust, carbon dioxide, bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that could spread disease. Maintaining healthy indoor air quality is vital for productivity and worker well-being.

This is more important than ever, with a pandemic currently raging across the globe.

This means that HVAC must address the "V" of HVAC: ventilation. The HVAC system design should allow for proper intake and distribution of air outside the space. It also must control the distribution of conditioned air. Another area where HVAC professionals' expertise is crucial is to avoid costly problems later. You can also consult several HVAC system designs with our professional air conditioning company mesa az. They will help you in choosing the best one according to your office space.