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Ventilation (architecture)


Ventilation is the intentional movement of air from outside a building to the inside. It is the V in HVAC. With clothes dryers, and combustion equipment such as water heaters, boilers, fireplaces, and woodstoves, their exhausts are often called vents or flues — this should not be confused with ventilation. The vents or flues carry the products of combustion which have to be expelled from the building in a way which does not cause harm to the occupants of the building. Movement of air between indoor spaces, and not the outside, is called transfer air.

Ventilation air, as defined in ASHRAE Standard 62.1[1] and the ASHRAE Handbook,[2] is that air used for providing acceptable indoor air quality. When people or animals are present in buildings, ventilation air is necessary to dilute odours and limit the concentration of carbon dioxide and airborne pollutants such as respirable suspended particles (RSPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Ventilation air is often delivered to spaces by mechanical systems which may also heat, cool, humidify and dehumidify the space. Air movement into buildings can occur due to uncontrolled infiltration of outside air through the building fabric (see stack effect) or the use of deliberate natural ventilation strategies. Advanced air filtration and treatment processes such as scrubbing, can provide ventilation air by cleaning and recirculating a proportion of the air inside a building.

In certain applications, such as submarines, pressurized aircraft, and spacecraft, ventilation air is also needed to provide oxygen, and to dilute carbon dioxide for survival. Buildings on Earth have significant air leakage, and rarely have been found to have dangerous levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Inadequate ventilation in a densely occupied room can cause the level of carbon dioxide to increase leading to sleepiness and reduced efficiency at work. This is a matter of concern in schools where attentiveness and learning ability may be adversely affected.

In commercial, industrial, and institutional (CII) buildings, and modern jet aircraft, air is often recirculated. But a percentage of the return air is normally exhausted and replaced by outside air. The rate of ventilation air required, most often provided by this mechanically-induced outside air, is determined from ASHRAE Standard 62.1 for CII buildings, or 62.2 for low-rise residential buildings, or similar standards.

The ventilation rate, for CII buildings, is normally expressed by the volumetric flowrate of outside air being introduced to the building. The typical units used are cubic feet per minute (commonly abbreviated as CFM), or, in metric units, liters per second (L/s). Often, the ventilation rate is expressed on a per person or per unit floor area basis, such as CFM/p or CFM/ft².

For residential buildings, which mostly rely on infiltration for meeting their ventilation needs, the common ventilation rate measure is the number of times the whole interior volume of air is replaced per hour, and is called air changes per hour (I or ACH; units of 1/h). ACHs of 0.5 to 1.5 are common in modern U.S. homes under winter design weather conditions.

If smoking is allowed indoors, of tobacco or other substances, ventilation air is needed in great quantities to dilute the airborne contaminants. Exposure to secondhand smoke cannot however be eliminated. Banning indoor tobacco smoking and the use of candles, air fresheners, incense, and other generators of air contaminants is much more effective for improving indoor air quality.[3]

If there is something burning (a fireplace, gas heater, candle, oil lamp, etc.) more oxygen is replaced by carbon dioxide (and possibly other poisonous gases and smoke) and more ventilation air is needed. An open chimney promotes infiltration (i.e. natural ventilation) because of the negative pressure change induced by the buoyant, warmer air leaving through the chimney. The warm air is typically replaced by heavier, cold air.

Ventilation in a structure is also needed for removing water vapor, produced by respiration, burning, and cooking, and for removing odors, e.g., from a toilet or kitchen. If water vapor is permitted to accumulate, it may damage the structure, insulation, or finishes. When operating, an air conditioner usually removes excess moisture from the air. A dehumidifier may also be appropriate for removing airborne moisture.

Additional recommended knowledge


Types of ventilation

  • Mechanical or forced ventilation: through an air handling unit or direct injection to a space by a fan. A local exhaust fan can enhance infiltration or natural ventilation, thus increasing the ventilation air flow rate.
  • Natural ventilation occurs when the air in a space is changed with outdoor air without the use mechanical systems, such as a fan. Most often natural ventilation is assured though operable windows but it can also be achieved through temperature and pressure differences between spaces.
  • Infiltration is separate from ventilation, but is often used to provide ventilation air

Ventilation equipment

  • Fume hood
  • Biological safety cabinet
  • Dilution ventilation
  • Room air distribution
  • Heat recovery ventilation

Natural ventilation

Natural ventilation is the process of supplying and removing air through an indoor space by natural means. There are two types of natural ventilation occurring in buildings: wind driven ventilation and stack ventilation. The pressures generated by buoyancy, also known as 'the stack effect', are quite low while wind pressures are usually far greater.

Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV)

DCV makes it possible to maintain proper ventilation and improve air quality while saving energy. ASHRAE has determined that: "It is consistent with the Ventilation rate procedure that Demand Control be permitted for use to reduce the total outdoor air supply during periods of less occupancy." That means the unit - using CO2 sensors and a CO2 setpoint selected for the required ventilation rate - will control the amount of ventilation for the actual number of occupants. During design occupancy, a unit with the DCV system will deliver the same amount of outdoor air as a unit using the ventilation-rate procedure. However, DCV can generate substantial energy savings whenever the space is occupied below the design level.

See also

  • Solar chimney
  • Windcatcher
  • Indoor air quality
  • Sick building syndrome
  • Environmental tobacco smoke
  • Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Architectural engineering


  1. ^ ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.1, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality, ASHRAE, Inc., Atlanta, GA, USA
  2. ^ The ASHRAE Handbook, ASHRAE, Inc., Atlanta, GA, USA
  3. ^ Ventilation for Environmental Tobacco Smoke, (c) ASHRAE, Elsevier, Burlington, MA, USA, 2006
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ventilation_(architecture)". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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