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Understanding HVAC Design

Discover what HVAC design is and how to create energy models and thermal simulations with an energy simulation software

HVAC design is a true applied science that, by combining principles of thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, and fluid mechanics, aims to design and manage physical-mechanical systems capable of ensuring thermal comfort and air quality in indoor spaces.

These systems include heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems, which are essential for creating comfortable and safe environments for people using these spaces.

In this article, we will see how to best approach this topic and which tool for dynamic energy simulation of buildings to use in order to optimize the entire process.

Representative image of energy sources used in HVAC design projects

Representative image of energy sources used in HVAC design projects

Fields of application of HVAC design

There are several fields of application of HVAC design, but now I would like to talk to you about the most important ones that have a major impact on the overall organization of the project:

  1. Environmental comfort: this concerns the design and implementation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. The goal is to create indoor environments that are thermally comfortable throughout the year, regardless of external conditions;
  2. Energy efficiency: HVAC design is essential for optimizing the energy efficiency of thermal systems. This includes the adoption of technologies and design strategies aimed at reducing energy consumption and pollutant emissions, such as the use of cogeneration systems, high-efficiency heat pumps, and advanced thermal insulation solutions;
  3. Environmental sustainability: HVAC design plays a crucial role in promoting environmental sustainability. This includes the adoption of low-impact environmental technologies, such as heating and cooling systems powered by renewable sources, and the implementation of design strategies that reduce the environmental impact of thermal systems on the surrounding ecosystem.

Who is the HVAC designer?

The HVAC designer is an expert in building and HVAC system design for heating, cooling, ventilation, and renewable energy production systems, with a particular focus on energy efficiency.

Unlike in the past, when the HVAC designer was mainly an expert in managing traditional systems, today this professional figure has evolved into an “energy architect” capable of integrating innovative solutions into their projects that combine conventional systems with cutting-edge technologies such as geothermal energy, solar thermal, and home automation. This advanced training allows HVAC designers to tackle complex projects, considering not only the system’s efficiency but also the occupants’ well-being and environmental impact.

Therefore, the HVAC designer plays an extremely important role in the design process, significantly contributing to the proper functioning and optimal performance of the systems. Their responsibilities and skills are essential to ensure comfortable, safe, and energy-efficient environments.

The HVAC designer must consider a series of fundamental aspects during system design. Among these are heating, ventilation, hot water production, dehumidification, and the installation of specific generators. Each element must be carefully evaluated to ensure the harmonious and efficient operation of the system as a whole.

The HVAC designer is capable of designing and sizing systems to ensure optimal comfort for building occupants. This includes accurate regulation of temperature, air quality, and humidity levels to create pleasant and healthy indoor environments.

Furthermore, they also strive to promote resource management efficiency. This means designing systems that are energy-efficient, capable of reducing consumption and pollutant emissions, thereby contributing to environmental sustainability and economic savings for end-users.

HVAC design for energy efficiency

HVAC design for energy efficiency

Implementation of BIM (Building Information Modeling) in HVAC Design

The introduction of Building Information Modeling (BIM) has represented a fundamental breakthrough in the energy and HVAC design sector, offering new opportunities to improve the efficiency and quality of services provided.

BIM is a working methodology that allows for the creation, management, and sharing of detailed digital information about a building or a system throughout its lifecycle, from conception to demolition. This integrated approach enables optimizing decision-making processes, reducing errors and costs, and enhancing collaboration among the various stakeholders involved in the project.

There are several advantages to using BIM within your workflow, for example:

  • improvement of service quality – thanks to BIM, it is possible to obtain a three-dimensional and integrated view of HVAC systems within the building context. This allows designers to more effectively evaluate design solutions, anticipate potential issues, and optimize system performance, ensuring a high-quality end result;
  • optimization of the design and construction process – BIM facilitates collaboration among architects, engineers, and other professionals involved in the design and construction of HVAC systems. Through sharing a single digital model, activities can be coordinated more efficiently, reducing design and construction times, and improving communication among team members;
  • reduction of errors and costs – BIM helps identifying and resolving any conflicts or design errors in advance, reducing the risk of costly delays and changes during the construction phase. Furthermore, the ability to simulate the operation of HVAC systems within the BIM model allows for optimizing elements sizing and layout, contributing to reducing the overall project costs;
  • increased operational efficiency – once the design and construction phase is completed, the BIM model can be used to support the management and maintenance activities of HVAC systems. With detailed and updated information available, managers can plan preventive maintenance interventions, optimize energy consumption, and ensure the proper functioning of systems over time.

Importance of HVAC Design tools

In HVAC design, as in many other fields, using the right tools is crucial. Therefore, it is important to understand what to expect from HVAC design software to ensure the best possible outcome. The tool to use should:

  • create a 3D model and perform energy calculations – it should be possible to create the necessary architectural 3D model for energy calculations starting from a CAD file in DXF or DWG format or from a standard IFC BIM model;
  • allow for model configuration and data input – the software should enable assigning the necessary characteristics and properties to each architectural element for energy simulation, possibly using a wide library of BIM objects;
  • integrate thermal bridge calculations – the ability to automatically identify all thermal bridges greatly speeds up work and allows for correcting errors in the design phase. However, it is important to have the option to choose which thermal bridges to evaluate in the project and define the thermal bridge transmission;
  • perform data diagnosis and simulation – the program should check the entered data before starting the thermal simulation. This ensures that the data is correct and reduces the risk of having to repeat the calculation;
  • analyze the results – finally, there should be a detailed visualization of the calculation results, both graphically and in tabular form. Additionally, being able to compare different solutions and analyze energy performance, consumption, and costs is essential.

How to Use a Software for Energy Simulation

The video below shows how to use a software for dynamic energy analysis and simulation of buildings. You can also take advantage of an extensive collection of video tutorials that demonstrate the correct operations.