LEED buildings are built to be highly efficient, therefore quality HVAC systems are a must. In most LEED projects, HVAC systems with an efficiency of 35 percent (according to ASHRAE standards) or better are sought after. Along with traditionally used methods such as variable air volume (VAV) systems, occupancy sensors and high efficiency cooling systems, new technologies are being used to reach high LEED ratings.
Some of these new technologies include chilled beams, which provide radiant cooling, thermal-energy storage systems, which provide cooling during peak periods, displacement ventilation and more. The key is to cut down the use of fans by separating the ventilation system from the heating and cooling systems, thereby saving energy. Choices to use these systems are made during the design process, but these are foreign to many consultants. But this trend is changing with more collaborative design efforts.
“Integrated” design is becoming more popular in LEED and other high performance buildings. This means that decisions made in the HVAC design process are being made not only by Architectural Engineers, but Mechanical, Electrical, contractors and more. This approach is proving successful in providing fairly efficient systems. However, developing higher performance buildings and HVAC systems does not end with “integrated” design. The key is informed engineers and contractors in LEED.
In future years, HVAC systems will by more efficient than can be currently imagined with the continued use of well informed designers and new heating, cooling, and ventilation technologies.