Does over-designing HVAC systems make for inefficient, uncomfortable spaces?

Reliance on outdated standards at odds with sustainability

September 25, 2015 |

Rooftop HVAC unit

Constructing HVAC systems according to standards such as ASHRAE 55-2010 are counterproductive to the goal of building energy efficient, comfortable spaces, argue the authors of this article.

The ASHRAE standard for office buildings incorporates a decades-old formula based on the metabolic rates of the average man working at a desk. Updating such standards, which many designers rely upon, would go a long way towards improving sustainability and meeting President Obama’s challenge to limit carbon emissions, the authors say.

Currently, the standard encourages the use of equipment that is much bigger than needed with over-cooled spaces resulting. “Defaults such as these make future efficiency improvements harder to achieve because once a building is built, we are stuck with the design for decades, at least,” the authors write.

“Thinking about building design and efficiency in comparison to the highest performance or current industry standards, rather than just the average, could elevate new standards. The goal is that when quick decisions are made, those decisions tip toward a more efficient outcome—and fewer wool jackets in the summer.”

ASHRAE has responded to the HVAC study.

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