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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Natural Ventilation for Energy Savings in California Commercial Buildings


This research program investigated the potential energy savings to be gained by retrofitting non-domestic buildings in California with natural ventilation for cooling. The simplest and most cost effective retrofit is to open windows on the façade and turn off any mechanical ventilation. To make the problem tractable attention was restricted to wind-driven natural ventilation. Stack-driven ventilation is likely to also be present in practice, and usually improves the cooling potential.

The program was split into three major projects. Project 1 assessed the potential of and the barriers to the implementation of natural ventilation. Project 2 examined induced air movement and the possible ingress of outdoor pollutants. Project 3 produced new tools for predicting the energy performance of naturally ventilated buildings, and provided training in their use.

The major barriers to the introduction are the lack of specific design guidance and a lack to easy-to-use modeling tools. These are compounded by a lack of design experience and case studies and the mandatory requirements for the amount and location of openable area specified in Title 24.

Research on wind-driven natural ventilation using computational fluid dynamics and wind tunnel tests provided new algorithms for cross ventilation, single-sided ventilation and corner ventilation, accounting for opening size, location and number, and the effects of sheltering by neighboring buildings. These algorithms were implemented in EnergyPlus, and the new version of the code was used in three training sessions to provide the design and engineering community with some familiarity in the new modules that calculate natural ventilation.

The overall outcome of this program is a comprehensive study of the current issues concerning retrofitting commercial buildings in California and an assessment of the potential risks and benefits. It has also significantly extended the capabilities for modeling, design, and operation of naturally ventilated buildings in California.

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