Passive Ventilation for Aggressive Energy Savings

Feb. 25, 2009

The word “passive” suggests inaction, but the use of passive cooling and ventilation is among the most active ways architects and design teams can make buildings more energy efficient.

“We’re seeing a lot more interest in passive cooling due to energy costs and the drive to be more sustainable,” says Eric Kirkland, director of engineering with SmithGroup’s Phoenix office. “It really speaks to using two natural forces to induce cooling and introduce outdoor air: prevailing wind pressures and the stack effect or warm air rising in taller higher buildings.”

Passive designs need less work from fans and air handlers to push air around and maintain thermal conditions and air quality within spaces to keep building occupants comfortable. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) Building Technologies Program, power for mechanical cooling and fans account for more than 20 percent of commercial building electrical consumption in the United States, notes a paper on double-skin façades and passive ventilation.

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