Many designers are looking to incorporate historical methods to promote sustainability, such as natural ventilation.
In recent years, automated systems have significantly improved our quality of living — from air purification to temperature control, we have notably grown accustomed to these intelligent appliances.
However, even with the most technological HVAC system, nothing compares to the natural cool breeze of fresh outdoor air.
It is evident that nature heals, and having the same level of air quality inside buildings can be highly beneficial to the employees and the business. So, what exactly is natural ventilation, and how can it be used in commercial buildings?
What is Natural Ventilation?
Scientifically, natural ventilation refers to outdoor wind and thermal buoyancy to create natural air movement in and out of buildings without mechanical devices. It essentially pulls natural air inside and forces the unclean air through an opening in your commercial roof.
Since many historical structures generally applied natural ventilation in their overall design, we can say that this technique is one of the earliest energy-efficient systems used throughout history.
Monthly power costs can be a burden for many businesses. If there’s a way to naturally harness the cooling capability of ambient air inside buildings, then that would be highly ideal.
The increasing prevalence of sustainability in the construction industry due to rising energy consumption and client demands also necessitated natural ventilation in many commercial properties.
The use of open-air cooling systems has been successful in several applications, including:
- Hospitals and other healthcare facilities
- Office buildings
- Industrial warehouses
Natural ventilation also costs lower compared to the use of mechanical air conditioning systems. Furthermore, the application of the system has become a vital component of every green building and is required to achieve LEED certification.
Benefits of Natural Ventilation Systems
Using natural ventilation in a commercial building offers additional benefits than reducing energy costs and improving Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Studies have shown that the acceptable thermal comfort range for properties that apply natural ventilation is significantly higher than those with HVAC systems.
Here are the other notable benefits of natural ventilation:
Improved Indoor Environmental Quality –
When we think about natural ventilation, the first thing that comes to mind is opening the windows and smoke vents. Regardless of the facility, many building occupants are often inclined to open the windows to allow the natural air and light.
When using the sustainable ventilation method, you will have more freedom to control your built environment than having mechanical systems.
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Reduced Capital Cost –
Most commercial facilities use enormous equipment to ventilate and distribute air inside mechanically. HVAC systems typically require several components to perform effectively, and these components can sometimes account for 30% of the total cost of a new building.
Natural ventilation, on the other hand, requires fewer devices and controls.
Reduced Maintenance and Replacement –
Businesses that employ mechanical air conditioning units require an additional expense for routine maintenance.
For instance, a mechanically-ventilated facility will require a considerable amount of repair and replacement in a 5-10 year timescale.
Whereas natural ventilation equipment is often maintenance-free of requires very minimal maintenance.
Natural Daylighting –
Aside from circulating clean air inside buildings, natural ventilation offers an adequate light alternative to artificial lighting.
Allowing natural sunlight to illuminate the interior space during the day reduces energy costs and can be highly beneficial in improving the well-being of the occupants.
Studies proved that natural daylight boosts employee morale in an office setting, leading to higher work productivity.
Energy Efficiency –
Of course, open-air ventilation promotes energy efficiency. In the United States, energy consumption in commercial buildings accounts for 40% of the total energy consumed. Strong evidence proves that naturally-ventilated buildings significantly consume less energy than those with HVAC systems.
We can directly attribute the findings to how natural ventilation works — wind and thermal buoyancy — to maneuver the airflow exchange inside the building.
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Types of Natural Ventilation
While natural ventilation seems straightforward, there is still various types of ventilation system that you need must consider depending on the specifications of your building. Here are the three most common types of natural ventilation.
Wind-Based Ventilation (Cross-Ventilation) –
Moving winds near a building produce low and high-pressure sections. Placing different air openings in the low and high-pressure areas forces the air to travel through the building at an increased rate.
It is an inexpensive solution fit for many applications; however, it is not ideal in dusty places.
Buoyancy-Driven Ventilation (The Stack Effect) –
This natural ventilation method seems complicated, but it fundamentally works like a fireplace where warm air goes up and cool air remains low. In taller buildings, the rise of warm air produces naturally distributes air throughout the facility.
The warm air would exit through a ventilator, and the wall openings would then allow cooler air to come inside.
Combined Ventilation –
Using natural ventilation in conjunction with mechanical air conditioning can effectively keep the entire commercial structure comfortable throughout the day.
It offers the best solution, as eventually, you will decrease operational costs, improve IAQ, and comply with required safety and health codes.
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Although mechanical HVAC systems offer significant benefits for ventilation and temperature control, natural ventilation is the most suitable solution for you to improve your building’s energy performance and reduce overall costs.
In general, the advantages of open-air ventilation primarily depend on the type of commercial building and its location. Though the system has its disadvantages, buildings that have acquired this method were ablaze to achieve significant improvements in air quality using natural energy.
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