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Ventilation (architecture)

Ventilation is the intentional introduction of outdoor air into a space and is mainly used to control indoor air quality by diluting and displacing indoor pollutants; it can also be used for purposes of thermal comfort or dehumidification.

In many instances, ventilation for indoor air quality is simultaneously beneficial for the control of thermal comfort. At these times, it can be useful to increase the rate of ventilation beyond the minimum required for indoor air quality. Two examples include air-side economizer strategies and ventilative pre-cooling. In other instances, ventilation for indoor air quality contributes to the need for - and energy use by - mechanical heating and cooling equipment. In hot and humid climates, dehumidification of ventilation air can be a particularly energy intensive process.

Natural ventilation can also be achieved through the use of operable windows, this has largely been removed from most current architecture buildings due to the mechanical system continuously operating. The United States current strategy for ventilating buildings is to rely solely on mechanical ventilation. In Europe designers have experimented with design solutions that will allow for natural ventilation with minimal mechanical interference. These techniques include: building layout, facade construction, and materials used for inside finishes. European designers have also switched back to the use of operable windows to solve indoor air quality issues. "In the United States, the elimination of operable windows is one of the greatest losses in contemporary architecture.

In certain applications, such as submarines, pressurized aircraft, and spacecraft, ventilation air is also needed to provide oxygen, and to dilute carbon dioxide for survival. Batteries in submarines also discharge hydrogen gas, which must also be ventilated for health and safety. In any pressurized, regulated environment, ventilation is necessary to control any fires that may occur, as the flames may be deprived of oxygen.

The first estimate of minimum ventilation rates was developed by Tredgold in 1836. This was followed by subsequent studies on the topic by Billings in 1886 and Flugge in 1905. The recommendations of Billings and Flugge were incorporated into numerous building codes from 1900-1920s, and published as an industry standard by ASHVE (the predecessor to ASHRAE) in 1914.

The addition of occupant- and area-based ventilation rates found in the tables above often results in significantly reduced rates compared to the former standard. This is compensated in other sections of the standard which require that this minimum amount of air is actually delivered to the breathing zone of the individual occupant at all times. The total outdoor air intake of the ventilation system (in multiple-zone variable air volume (VAV) systems) might therefore be similar to the airflow required by the 1989 standard.

The design of buildings that promote occupant health and well being requires clear understanding of the ways that ventilation airflow interacts with, dilutes, displaces or introduces pollutants within the occupied space. Although ventilation is an integral component to maintaining good indoor air quality, it may not be satisfactory alone. In scenarios where outdoor pollution would deteriorate indoor air quality, other treatment devices such as filtration may also be necessary. In kitchen ventilation systems, or for laboratory fume hoods, the design of effective effluent capture can be more important than the bulk amount of ventilation in a space. More generally, the way that an air distribution system causes ventilation to flow into and out of a space impacts the ability for a particular ventilation rate to remove internally generated pollutants. The ability for a system to remove pollution is described as its "ventilation effectiveness". However, the overall impacts of ventilation on indoor air quality can depend on more complex factors such as the sources of pollution, and the ways that activities and airflow interact to affect occupant exposure.

Almost all historic buildings were ventilated naturally. The technique was generally abandoned in larger US buildings during the late 20th century as the use of air conditioning became more widespread. However, with the advent of advanced Building Performance Simulation (BPS) software, improved Building Automation Systems (BAS), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) design requirements, and improved window manufacturing techniques; natural ventilation has made a resurgence in commercial buildings both globally and throughout the US.

Personalized ventilation is an air distribution strategy that allows individuals to control the amount of ventilation received. The approach deliver fresh air more directly to the breathing zone and aims to improve air quality of inhaled air. Personalized ventilation provides a much higher ventilation effectiveness than conventional mixing ventilation systems by displacing pollution from the breathing zone far less air volume. Beyond improved air quality benefits, the strategy can also improve occupant's thermal comfort, perceived air quality, and overall satisfaction with the indoor environment. Individual's preferences for temperature and air movement are not equal, and so traditional approaches to homogeneous environmental control have failed to achieve high occupant satisfaction. Techniques such as personalized ventilation facilitate control of a more diverse thermal environment that can improve thermal satisfaction for most occupants.

Combustion (e.g., fireplace, gas heater, candle, oil lamp, etc.) consumes oxygen while producing carbon dioxide and other unhealthy gases and smoke, requiring ventilation air. An open chimney promotes infiltration (i.e. natural ventilation) because of the negative pressure change induced by the buoyant, warmer air leaving through the chimney. The warm air is typically replaced by heavier, cold air.

ASHRAE standard 62 states that air removed from an area with environmental tobacco smoke shall not be recirculated into ETS-free air. A space with ETS requires more ventilation to achieve similar perceived air quality to that of a non-smoking environment.

The development of forced ventilation was spurred by the common belief in the late 18th and early 19th century in the miasma theory of disease, where stagnant 'airs' were thought to spread illness. An early method of ventilation was the use of a ventilating fire near an air vent which would forcibly cause the air in the building to circulate. English engineer John Theophilus Desaguliers provided an early example of this, when he installed ventilating fires in the air tubes on the roof of the House of Commons. Starting with the Covent Garden Theatre, gas burning chandeliers on the ceiling were often specially designed to perform a ventilating role.