Tyler Jensen
Studio Leader, High Performance Buildings
Environmental Systems Design, Inc., Chicago

Mehdi Jalayerian
Senior Managing Director
Environmental Systems Design, Inc., Chicago

The coronavirus pandemic has forever changed the way buildings are designed and the how they operate. There was already a trend towards improved health and wellness in commercial office indoor environments, which has only been accelerated by the current pandemic. In the years ahead, building owners and developers must place much greater focus on indoor air quality to ensure the health, safety, and wellness of occupants.

The question arises: What is the best design approach for high-rise commercial office buildings in this new environment? High performing HVAC systems of the future will minimize air recirculation and pathogen spread both between floors and within the office space and will be designed with inherent flexibility.

We will evaluate different overall HVAC systems configurations that can prioritize IAQ from the onset, highlighting the distinct advantage of floor-by-floor air handling units.

We will then zoom into the zone level to compare underfloor air distribution (UFAD) systems to traditional overhead mixing systems. Using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), we will evaluate air distribution methods and air exchange rates to assess contaminant transport within the office space and highlight the benefits of low velocity UFAD systems that provide heat and contaminant stratification above the breathing zone.

We will provide guidance on HVAC system design and operations best practices that can mitigate risk and improve indoor air quality in the context of post-pandemic high-rise commercial office building ventilation performance.