Heating and cooling isn’t the first keyword that comes to mind when people think about commercial architecture. Often overshadowed by design and layout, functionality isn’t the optimal consideration -- but it should be.
When commercial HVAC is an afterthought to building designs, a lot of cooling and heating problems arise -- literally. Here’s a breakdown of why architects should prioritize this, according to Warner Service of Frederick, Maryland:
All rooms must receive proper air conditioning or heating. If a construction team puts up immovable beams prior to a discussion about commercial HVAC with an architect, a quality ductwork system can’t be installed. Occasionally, dropped ceilings and soffits are out of the question due to poor design choices, and space for an HVAC closet is nonexistent.
When any of this happens, your building occupants don’t receive proper heat or cooled air during the respective seasons. This leads to poor indoor air quality, an influx of allergens and pathogens, sickness, and general uncomfortability.
With those consequences, building owners should expect to see a rise in sick days, a lower employee retention rate, and decreased occupant morale and work productivity.
Not to mention, each occupant has to find a temporary solution in the form of space heaters or dehumidifiers that eat up money on your monthly electric bill. The worst part is that the alternative solution switches about every three months with the weather.
On top of installation, HVAC maintenance, heat repair, and so on, are much easier for professionals when the time comes.
Building owners need a choice. In between what’s practical and pretty lies a middle ground. It’s possible for building owners to find a happy medium when it comes to properly ventilating, heating, and cooling their space and hiding bulky essentials like furnaces, ductless mini-splits, heat pumps, and so on.
However, when you choose design without or prior to functionality, options become limited. Practicality now takes precedence over prettiness, and you’re stuck with only what works -- not works and what looks best in your commercial building.
The Building Science Corporation created a guide called The Perfect HVAC for commercial buildings. The organization outlines the perfect commercial HVAC system while pointing out compromises that can be made.
Couple this guide with an individual architect’s creativity, and every building has maximum potential for comfort and style.
Performance-based design is the future. Performance-based design is a contrast to traditional construction methods that only met building codes, not exceeded them. It’s a new approach that measures energy efficiency using the scientific method while maintaining the creative freedom of interior and architectural design.
According to a 2017 article by The American Institute of Architects, “The industry is headed for more performance-based and outcome-based compliance, and the architect has a significant role to play in ensuring that the energy performance of the project is integrated into the overall building design.”
Instead of assuming or guessing at concepts that meet building code and energy efficiency standards, performance-based design requires that architects “use systematic observation to craft a hypothesis, make predictions based on that hypothesis, test the predictions, modify the hypothesis based on the results, and test again until the discrepancies between theory and results are resolved.”
This approach leaves less room for error and increases the functionality of building while creating a space that’s still visually appealing and livable.
Mechanical systems are a primary component to construction of commercial buildings. Heating and cooling systems need to be integrated with design and layout from the beginning of the process in order to achieve that balance of practicality and prettiness. A great way to start doing this is by practicing performance-based design.
For many architects, installing mechanical systems are a design challenge, especially when integrating a performance-based design approach. To learn the basics before your next project, download Warner Service’s Architect’s Guide To Commercial HVAC: