Can You Use a Natural Ventilation System?

Ventilation refers to the circulation and exchange of air as a means of purification. In today’s commercial and industrial buildings, ventilation is essential to diluting and removing pollutants. Throughout history, civilizations have harnessed the power of the wind to ventilate indoor spaces. Think of the Roman atrium or the Persian wind catcher. Over the years, mechanical ventilation systems became the standard in industrial buildings. However, in an effort to reduce hydrocarbon emissions, an increasing number of facilities are returning to a natural ventilation system. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Natural Ventilation?natural ventilation system 1

Natural ventilation supplies and removes air from a building without using a mechanical system. In order for natural ventilation to work, natural forces, such as wind, drive fresh air through windows, doors, solar chimneys, window towers, trickle ventilators and/or other purpose-built openings. Because of the buoyancy effect, warm air is driven upward through vent stacks. Meanwhile, cool air gets pulled in from below. This creates a vacuum that helps circulate air into and out of a building.

Advantages of Natural Ventilation Systems

Compared to mechanical ventilation, natural ventilation is typically more energy efficient. They encourage a high ventilation rate at a low cost, and the systems are usually very simple. Buildings that use natural ventilation often exceed minimum ventilation requirements as required by law. Also, because of these high air-change rates, natural ventilation helps prevent sick building syndrome. This condition, characterized by headaches and breathing problems, is often the result of poor ventilation.

Drawbacks of Natural Ventilation

Outside weather conditions constantly fluctuate, making natural ventilation difficult to control. And, during extreme weather events or climate conditions, natural ventilation systems might underperform, causing indoor air quality (IAQ) issues.

For a natural ventilation system to work as intended, it needs to be carefully designed. Additionally, the building itself requires an articulated floor plan that encourages natural airflow. Wide buildings also prove problematic to natural ventilation. So, in most cases, only narrow buildings will benefit from a natural ventilation system. Another issue with natural ventilation systems is that they typically forgo particulate filters. In certain environments, the absence of filters can cause major IAQ issues. For example, natural ventilation can have an adverse health effect on people with allergies or asthma.

Should You Make the Switch to Natural Ventilation?

Often, mechanical ventilation is the right option for facilities, not natural ventilation. As mentioned above, existing commercial and industrial buildings are seldom built for natural ventilation systems. Plus, these systems are hard to control, which can lead to IAQ issues.

Mechanical ventilation, on the other hand, helps remove allergens, pollutants and moisture. It also gives you total control over the amount or source of air that enters your facility, regardless of outdoor conditions. These benefits make mechanical ventilation systems ideal in commercial structures.

If you’re looking to improve your facility’s IAQ, consult with the experts at The Severn Group. Our experienced, highly trained team is here to answer your questions about energy efficiency or anything HVAC related. Contact us today.