Mechanical Ventilation v’s Natural Ventilation?

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Mechanical Ventilation v’s Natural Ventilation?

Natural vs Mechanical Aiken

Ventilation is essential within any building to ensure stale air is removed and replaced with fresh air.  But weighing up what type of air conditioning system can be tough.  Here, we outline some key points to consider when choosing between a mechanical ventilation system and a natural ventilation system.


Why do we need ventilation?

In short, for health reasons.  A good ventilation system will replenish oxygen, clean the air and improve the air quality of a building, which improves health and can help to prevent inhalation of bacteria and asthma.

Without some sort of ventilation, moisture will build up, bacteria grow, dust levels will increase, as well as carbon dioxide, which will collectively lead to stale air.


How do we prevent stale air?

A good ventilation system will clean the air within a building and help moderate the temperature.  There are two types of ventilation systems, Mechanical Ventilation or Natural Ventilation.  The latter is often the preferred choice, mainly for cost reasons in terms of installation and maintenance.  Although many mechanical ventilation systems are now becoming more attractive with the introduction of low emission and energy-saving features.


Natural Ventilation

Natural ventilation systems use natural air to moderate temperatures.  There are two main types of natural ventilation systems: cross ventilation systems or stack ventilation systems.  Cross ventilation systems use natural wind through vents, doors and windows to balance and moderate high pressure points and low pressure points.  Stack systems use heating systems and other equipment to heat cooler air that is introduced at floor level.  This reduces air density and allows air to become more buoyant before it exits through a vent in the ceiling.  These systems are often combined and can be complimented by thermal mass to offer additional benefits.

From a design point of view, natural ventilation is not always an option and can be ruled out for various reasons, including: the surrounding environment, the air quality outside, the layout and depth of a building, and also, depending on the nature of the work, the additional heat generated by equipment or machinery can rule this option out.

Although natural ventilation systems are great in so many ways, they can struggle to moderate the temperature on a hot and still day, particularly if a building has been designed with lots of windows; in such a situation, a mechanical ventilation system may be the best option.


Mechanical ventilation

Mechanical ventilation systems push fresh air into a building and then extract any latent heat to clean the air and moderate the temperature. Mechanical systems are much more controlled and tend to distribute the air more evenly, which can lead to much less discomfort in the workplace, particularly on really hot days or really cold days.

Mechanical ventilation systems are a great and often the only solution when a building is situated in an area with poor air quality or next to a busy and noisy road.  The only downside to mechanical ventilation is the price.  It can be seen as more costly, but if it’s designed at the outset, this can help to save on additional costs of retrofitting later.  Looking at it broadly, getting the right system can help to improve on the costs that discomfort can bring, such as ill health for staff, sick leave and reduced sales.


How to decide which system to opt for?

Careful analysis and planning are essential, whether it’s at the design stage for a new system or a retrofit.

The environment and the building’s surroundings are important factors to consider, as well as the number of people using the building and their frequency.  The nature of the business is another aspect that can sway the outcome hugely.  Training companies, for example, need to be able to control the room temperature so that delegates are comfortable and can concentrate fully on their learnings.  For food & drinks companies too, it is paramount for them to have full control over temperatures at every touchpoint of the production line.

We hope this article has helped to inform.  Aiken offers consultancy on design & installation of ventilation systems in Aberdeen area and Dundee. For more information please contact us directly.