Every successful commercial building needs various components to ensure its stability, functionality, and aesthetic. Aside from materials and heavy machinery, construction projects need skilled professionals to address specific tasks, such as project management, labor, budget, and design.
An architect is responsible for the drafting and design of construction projects. They oversee the creation of every structure that we see today, such as houses, buildings, shopping centers, and industrial facilities. However, do architects also have other responsibilities besides creating the floor plan and design development?
In addition to their primary role, architects must also ensure that a particular component minimally impacts their intended design and efficiently incorporates it into an existing element, such as HVAC systems.
HVAC units encompass multiple functions inside your building, such as heating, cooling, ventilation, temperature control, and exhaust systems. It comprises various individual parts, and while understanding the use and placement of each can be complicated, the responsibility of architecturally incorporating these elements into the building design falls to the architect.
Types of HVAC Systems
Before architects can thoroughly understand the significance of the HVAC system in a building design, they must first identify the type of system. The two systems they will come across are central HVAC and packaged terminal air conditioning (PTAC) for commercial use.
1. Central HVAC
Central air conditioning units are better than traditional room air conditioners and are quieter and more convenient. It involves a system of supply and return ducts, opening registers in walls or ceilings, and the central external unit usually found on commercial roofs.
Central HVAC units systematically cool and dehumidify the air before distributing it to multiple points in your buildings through radiators. They maintain the most consistent temperature conditions throughout the facility, making it the most popular choice in commercial establishments.
2. PTAC SYSTEM
Short for packaged terminal air conditioners, the PTAC system is a commercial-grade conditioning unit installed through a wall. It is a self-containing system usually found in hotels and residential buildings as it can effectively monitor each guest or tenant’s usage individually.
Unlike central air conditioners, PTAC units are visible on the interior and exterior sides of a building, making them an enduring design challenge for many architects. However, thanks to the creative minds of architects, they can transform an ordinary grille into a design element.
HVAC systems are the most invasive and challenging building systems to deal with, as there are instances when architects need to change their design to make way or conceal an existing HVAC component.
The Role of an HVAC System in Architecture
HVAC innovation and the need for energy efficiency continuously impact how architects create their building designs. Due to their importance in commercial and living structures, it would be best for architects to work with a specialist to effectively integrate the various HVAC components into their design.
Here are the reasons why HVAC units are a significant part of architecture and design:
1. Architects Can Develop a Bigger Team
The role of architects in the construction industry allows them to create building plans from the ground up and ensure that the building team closely follows the blueprint. Overall, they oversee design decisions, choose the materials, develop goals, and become the primary contact in terms of communication and design.
However, many architects are still not familiar with the composition of air conditioning systems as they solely depend on an HVAC specialist to handle the installation. Allowing the technicians to choose the placement of the system’s components can alter the initial design — causing unnecessary delays and extra costs.
From the start of the project, a good architect should directly coordinate with the specialists to establish proper placement and minimize design overhauls. Accomplishing this task before development can ensure accuracy and prevent delays.
2. Architects Can Showcase Their Skills
Forming a partnership with an HVAC specialist presents an opportunity for quality results and new ideas. By successfully integrating form and function, the building team can smoothly perform their tasks without pausing for any changes in the design.
Understanding the features and parts of the air conditioning system is possibly the best solution to address the common challenge that many architects encounter. Determining the location of the central unit, radiator, vents, grease duct access panels, hood grilles, etc., and identifying the required temperature in the building are crucial pieces of information that an architect must know.
Architects can quickly narrow down the suitable heating and cooling options for the commercial establishment using this information. Understanding how the whole system works can effectively showcase their creativity and resourcefulness, whether concealing bulky components or hiding the unit within a design element.
3. An Effective HVAC Design Ensures Good Air Quality
It is well-known that good indoor air quality (IAQ) significantly increases worker productivity and morale. Employers must allow their employees to work in a conducive environment to be motivated to work every day. The internal temperature must not be too hot nor too cold as any discomfort in the office can negatively affect employee performance.
Considering the temperature and the IAQ inside the building is the most crucial step that architecture must deliver in terms of HVAC design. It would help follow these effective processes to meet client requirements and comply with regulations.
- Design Approach: Integrating design and solutions across all components ensures the most suitable IAQ for the building without going past the budget. Most problems in IAQ stem from the contrasting elements inside the building, as even unrelated features can affect the quality and distribution of the air.
- Meet the Client’s IAQ Requirements: Every architect has various design objectives, especially meeting the client’s requirements. One of the best ways to ensure IAQ is to establish quality control and testing through commissioning (Cx), a quality-oriented process used to complete successful building projects.
- Proper HVAC Selection: Your choice of HVAC can either promote or impede the level of IAQ inside the building. Architects often choose the system primarily based on the cost and space required without consulting the engineer, which can cause IAQ complications. When selecting an HVAC system, choose the one that promotes efficiency and can distribute conditioned air throughout the interior without straying too much from the intended budget.
- Establish Proper Project Management: Every construction project needs proper scheduling and work management to cover all aspects of the project. It may seem very unlikely, but poor management can lead to improper handling of air contaminants that can cause health issues for the future occupants of the building.
Indoor air quality is one of the several factors that can affect the functionality and success of a commercial building. It can influence workers’ ability to perform their tasks and leave a wrong impression on visitors and clients. When the architect effectively designs space to achieve good IAQ, the area can become a desirable work and living place.
HVAC units are a vital part of every structure — whether it is for residential or commercial use. Architects need to create attractive and aesthetically pleasing buildings, but they also need to function well.
Creating a layout without consulting with an HVAC specialist can lead to additional costs and unnecessary delays during development, which could leave a negative remark on an architect’s reference portfolio. A good architect views the project in the shoes of the client and future building occupants so that they can produce an efficient and long-lasting design.