Integrating Elements To Improve Comfort
Design wholeness can be achieved by proficiency in energy, environmental standards and guidelines.
August 1, 2014 by Robert Bean
Between the mid 1500s and 1600 the Latin word integratus, meaning to renew or restore, found its way into our vocabulary. Today, “integrated” is used to describe the process of combining or coordinating separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole. In the polar opposite corner of definitions is the word segregation, which is to isolate, divide or prevent the coming together.
Segregation in the building design process is destructive. It afflicts traditional architectural modus operandi and results in such dysfunctional philosophies as: “Here’s the architectural design, now each of you design professionals independently engineer your respective systems to make me and my project successful.” Whereas the integrated process says: “Here’s how our engineered materials, processes and systems work together now let’s design a building together to enable our collective success.”
In my experience, the former is almost exclusively structured around meeting the minimum requirements of the building codes, but in the latter the outcomes are more likely based on meeting the above minimum requirements of building codes, including indoor environmental and energy standards and guidelines. Meeting the latter requires much greater design literacy than meeting the former.
Take for example Figure 1 where the traditional relationship between an architect/client and the HVAC designer revolves around a very limited scope of practice. This is often based on a very low comprehension of indoor environmental quality and energy strategies. Here the design dialogue will revolve around familiar words like infiltration, conduction, supply and return air, and possibly pressurization. This is with an ever constant focus on Section 22.214.171.124 of the National Building Code (NBC), which states, “…required heating facilities shall be capable of maintaining an indoor air temperature of not less than 22C (71.6F) in all living spaces.”
Collectively this abbreviated procedure completely ignores the NBC statement: “The design of a technically sound building depends upon many factors beyond simple compliance with building regulations.” Beyond simple compliance with building regulations is the gateway to integratus; the restoration or wholeness in design achieved by being proficient in energy and environmental standards and guidelines. Such proficiency leads to an understating of the interaction and relationships between very real and substantive parameters as shown in Figure 2 and Table 3.
Now you do not have to be Einstein to figure out that if you ignore the comprehensive interactions and relationships illustrated in Figure 2 and only focus on the minimal items in Figure 1, you will likely end up where we are today. That is, in a segregated design process using the lowest allowable benchmarks infamously known for its end result of unhappy owners and occupants. The less than ideal end result develops because whether we like it or not, the occupant will ultimately integrate the resulting ignored elements. The mind and body then become both judge and jury over the indoor space and the associated energy costs. These costs are ultimately inflicted upon the occupants’ health and cash flow as they attempt to correct indoor environmental flaws; a result of ignoring the many other factors.
The following are just a few HVAC examples related to ignoring important elements in a segregated design process:
A. Let’s take a common situation when the HVAC technicians take the position on lighting such as, “it’s not my responsibility.” Well light is nothing more than radiation you can see. What happens to radiation when it is absorbed? It gets converted to heat…and heat is the domain of the HVAC technician.
B. How about taking the same position on floor coverings or paint? Short wave radiation (solar) travels through the glass and strikes a flooring or wall surface raising its temperature. What happens to the volatility of chemicals when you heat them up? They outgas and degrade the health of the indoor air, which can affect the health of the occupants. As per ventilation standards, HVAC technicians are supposed to be concerned with source control.i
C. How about the consequences of ignoring the mean radiant temperature and focusing exclusively on air temperature as demanded by the NBC. Ironically guidance on this topic can also be found in the back corners of the NBC in the appendix, which states: “In addition to controlling condensation, interior surface temperatures must be warm enough to avoid occupant discomfort due to excessive heat loss by radiation.” How many HVAC designers are taught how to calculate inside surface temperatures to see if the building is at risk for condensation, or to see if the occupants are at risk for discomfort?i i
I could go on and on about the evil consequences of design illiteracy and segregation, but let me do something out of character and put a positive spin on this whole topic. Virtually every student I have ever taught has the capacity to learn integrated design. It is not difficult. If you understand the principles of energy and can comfortably do a heat gain/loss calculation, or a radiant design without the use of a computer, you likely have the intellect and logic to grasp the integrated design concepts with ease.
At the end of the day, “combining or coordinating separate elements provides a harmonious, interrelated whole.” That harmony results in improved indoor environmental quality, better productivity, increased learning and lower energy costs. <>
Robert Bean, R.E.T., P.L.(Eng.) is president of Indoor Climate Consul-tants Inc. and a director of www.healthyheating.com. He serves on ASHRAE Committees: T.C.61. (CM), T.C.6.5 (VM), T.C. 7.04 (VM), SSPC 55 (VM). www.healthyheating.com
i See HPAC Magazine, March, 2012 Part 2 Together Forever
ii A free inside surface temperature calculator is available here:
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Robert Bean, R.E.T., P.L.(Eng.) opens up his integrated design courses to graduates of architectural/engineering programs and those already holding top tier certifications from industry associations and institutes. Intermediate to advanced programs address the fundamentals and practical applications in indoor environmental quality, building science and radiant based HVAC systems; including a comprehensive study in radiant cooling with dedicated outdoor air systems. Working on your professional development? Earn as much as 21 AIA Learning Units in just one course. All this and more at www.healthyheating.com.