The science of air distribution

What is airflow and how does it work? Do we really understand the mechanics behind air distribution systems? Denis Kerr, sales director at Krantz UK, discusses the art of moving air particles, shedding light on the importance of air distribution in different spaces, mainly commercial offices, auditoriums, laboratories and industrial spaces.


oving clean air around a space is a tricky process requiring the right expertise and knowledge for the job, especially in office environments where people’s health and wellbeing is a priority, and in industrial sites and laboratories where contaminated air particles must be filtered and extracted safely.

A common misconception is that air simply needs to be circulated around a space to cool the inhabitants when they are feeling warm. However, the danger here is that circulated air can be stale, affecting human health. Sadly, most occupants in a space remain blissfully unaware of this reality; when we sit at work our thoughts hardly ever pass to where the air is situated or how the air affects you. We are only truly made aware of air’s presence when there is a draught – when it is a potential damage to our physical, respiratory health.

So how can we understand air movement when we cannot hear or see it? What is the key to successful and sophisticated air distribution?

In order to gauge a better image of the science behind air movement, it would be beneficial to simply measure the various ways air is quantified. These can include:  Airflow and volume: metres cubed per hour or litres per second

 Velocity of air: metres per second  Air temperature: degrees Celsius  Difference in air temperature: Kelvin  Noise: db, NR or NC

These are the critical dimensions of air movement and all of these elements are calculated and considered when creating air conditioned environments. No matter if you are designing and installing a system for commercial offices or a laboratory, these areas should be accounted for to ensure efficient and balanced distribution of clean air around a space. Although the critical dimensions largely remain the same, the design and installation varies from space to

28 July 2018

space and system to system. Therefore, it is crucial to invest in air distribution systems which offer the most technically advanced solutions for the most complex of building structures. A commercial office space should have a completely different air distribution system to an industrial installation for all sorts of reasons, not least safety and legal reasons. All in all, the more premium the solution, the better the air quality is for a building’s occupants.

Commercial spaces

Air movement in commercial spaces is designed to enhance general wellbeing and health for employees. Heat is relative to each individual; some people might feel the cold easier than others, meaning advanced air conditioning systems must be employed to satisfy the needs of all inhabitants. HVAC systems are one of the most sophisticated solutions used to prevent overheating, ensuring equal air distribution across interiors. HVAC systems are designed to remove contaminants and odours through the use of diffusers, filters and grilles distributed evenly around a room. There is a corresponding unit to each ‘zone’ of a room, guaranteeing effective air conditioning around a space. These systems control temperatures, filtering stagnant air in an unobtrusive and noise-free manner.

HVAC systems assure a refined level of air distribution in a space. The antithesis of efficient air conditioning systems is referred to as ‘turbulent flow’. With turbulent flow, ineffective diffusers pump cool air in irregular intervals to dispel high levels of hot air. This large, incessant amount of cool air is commonly known as a draught – the one plight of a bad air conditioning system. Draughts often occur when large, open spaces need heating and cooling simultaneously. In theatres or opera houses, the space is heated beforehand for the paying audience’s comfort. However, as people enter their bodies emit heat, increasing the space’s temperature. The thermostat switches to cooling mode to combat the heat, leading to diffusers churning out large levels of cold air.

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