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Underfloor

Air Distribution (UFAD)


Design Guide
This publication was prepared under ASHRAE Research Project RP-1064
in cooperation with TC 5.3, Room Air Distribution.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fred S. Bauman, P.E., is a research specialist with the Center for
the Built Environment (CBE) at the University of California, Berkeley.
He received his M.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of
California at Berkeley. He is an ASHRAE member, member of the
Golden Gate Chapter of ASHRAE, and registered mechanical engineer
in California. He is a member of Technical Committees 4.7 and 5.3,
and of Standards Project Committee 113-1990R. He served as Chair
of TC 5.3, 1995-1997, and Chair of SPC 113-1990R, 1995-2002. He
received two Best Symposium Paper Awards from ASHRAE (1992,
1993), and in 1997, received the ASHRAE Distinguished Service
Award. He currently leads CBEs research program on underfloor air
distribution and task/ambient conditioning, having conducted research
in this area since 1987.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR
Allan Daly, P.E., is a principal of Taylor Engineering located in
Alameda, California. He received his M.S. in civil engineering from
the University of California at Berkeley. He is an ASHRAE member,
member of the Golden Gate Chapter of ASHRAE, and registered
mechanical engineer in California. His work focuses on HVAC and
controls design for commercial and institutional projects. Recent
projects include design, analysis, and commissioning of 12 buildings
using Underfloor Air Distribution. He and Bauman have taught several
workshops together on UFAD design since 2000.
Allan Daly contributed to this design guide by writing Chapters 7
and 9 and parts of Chapters 11 and 12.
Underfloor
Air Distribution (UFAD)
Design Guide
Fred S. Bauman
American Society of Heating, Refrigerating
and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc.
ISBN 1-931862-21-4
2003 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating
and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc.
1791 Tullie Circle, N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30329
www.ashrae.org
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
Cover design by Tracy Becker.
ASHRAE has compiled this publication with care, but ASHRAE has not investi-
gated, and ASHRAE expressly disclaims any duty to investigate, any product, ser-
vice, process, procedure, design, or the like that may be described herein. The
appearance of any technical data or editorial material in this publication does not
constitute endorsement, warranty, or guaranty by ASHRAE of any product, service,
process, procedure, design, or the like. ASHRAE does not warrant that the informa-
tion in the publication is free of errors, and ASHRAE does not necessarily agree with
any statement or opinion in this publication. The entire risk of the use of any infor-
mation in this publication is assumed by the user.
No part of this book may be reproduced without permission in writing from
ASHRAE, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages or reproduce illustra-
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v
Contents
Acknowledgments xi
Chapter 1Introduction 1
1.1 Purpose of Guide 1
1.2 System Description 2
1.3 Background 7
1.4 Benefits 11
1.4.1 Improved thermal comfort 11
1.4.2 Improved ventilation efficiency
and indoor air quality 12
1.4.3 Reduced energy use 12
1.4.4 Reduced life-cycle building costs 13
1.4.5 Reduced floor-to-floor height
in new construction 14
1.4.6 Improved productivity and health 14
1.5 Technology Needs 14
1.5.1 New and unfamiliar technology 15
1.5.2 Lack of information and
design guidelines 15
1.5.3 Gaps in fundamental understanding 15
1.5.4 Perceived higher costs 16
1.5.5 Limited applicability to retrofit
construction 16
1.5.6 Problems with applicable
standards and codes 17
1.5.7 Cold feet and draft discomfort 17
1.5.8 Problems with spillage and dirt entering
UFAD systems 18
CONTENTS
vi
1.5.9 Condensation problems and
dehumidification in UFAD systems 18
1.6 Applications 19
1.7 Organization of Guide 20
Chapter 2Room Air Distribution 23
2.1 Conventional Overhead Mixing Systems 23
2.2 Displacement Ventilation and
Conditioning Systems 24
2.3 UFAD Systems 31
2.3.1 UFAD Room Air Distribution Model 31
2.3.2 Temperature Near the Floor 35
2.3.3 Stratification Height 36
2.3.4 Controlling Stratification 37
Chapter 3Thermal Comfort and Indoor Air Quality 41
3.1 Thermal Comfort Standards 43
3.2 Personal Control 44
3.3 Thermal Stratification 49
3.4 Ventilation Performance 49
3.5 Productivity 50
Chapter 4Underfloor Air Supply Plenums 53
4.1 Description 53
4.1.1 Pressurized Plenum 56
4.1.2 Zero-Pressure Plenum 56
4.2 Airflow Performance in Pressurized Plenums 57
4.2.1 Dimensional Constraints of the Plenum 57
4.2.2 Plenum Inlets 59
4.2.3 Horizontal Ducting within the Plenum 59
4.2.4 Obstructions within the Plenum 59
4.3 Air Leakage 60
4.3.1 Leakage Due to Construction Quality 60
4.3.2 Leakage Between Floor Panels 61
4.4 Thermal Performance 63
4.4.1 Thermal Decay 63
4.4.2 Ductwork and Air Highways 66
Chapter 5Underfloor Air Distribution
(UFAD) Equipment 69
5.1 Supply Units and Outlets 69
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
vii
5.1.1 Types of UFAD and TAC Diffusers 69
5.1.2 Passive Swirl Floor Diffusers 71
5.1.3 Passive VAV Floor Diffusers 73
5.1.4 Linear Floor Grilles 75
5.1.5 Active TAC Diffusers 77
5.2 Underfloor Fan Terminals 81
5.3 Raised Floor Systems 85
Chapter 6Controls, Operation, and Maintenance 89
6.1 Control Strategies in Pressurized Plenums 89
6.1.1 Supply Air Temperature (SAT) 89
6.1.2 Constant Pressure 90
6.1.3 Variable-Air-Volume (VAV) 91
6.1.4 Controlling Stratification 91
6.1.5 Humidity Control 93
6.2 Control Strategies in Zero-Pressure Plenums 94
6.3 Individual Outlet Controls 95
6.4 Operation and Maintenance 96
6.4.1 Cleaning Considerations in
Underfloor Plenums 96
6.4.2 Reconfiguring Building Services 97
6.4.3 Acoustic Performance 97
Chapter 7Energy Use 99
7.1 Air Distribution Energy 99
7.2 Air-Side Economizers 102
7.2.1 Extended 100% Free Cooling 105
7.2.2 Extended Integrated-Economizer
Free Cooling 105
7.2.3 Climate Factors 105
7.3 Cooling-System Efficiency 106
7.4 Occupant Thermal Comfort 106
7.5 Pre-Cooling Strategies 107
Chapter 8Design, Construction,
and Commissioning 109
8.1 Design Phase 109
8.2 Construction 110
8.3 Retrofit Projects 115
8.4 Space Planning 115
8.5 Commissioning 116
CONTENTS
viii
Chapter 9Perimeter and Special Systems 119
9.1 Perimeter System Definition 119
9.2 Perimeter System Options 120
9.2.1 Two- or Four-Pipe Constant-Speed
Fan Coils 120
9.2.2 Hydronic Heat Pumps 122
9.2.3 VAV or Fan-Powered VAV with Reheat 122
9.2.4 Cooling from VAV Diffusers, Heating
from Heating-Only Fan Coil 122
9.2.5 Fan-Powered Outlets 123
9.2.6 Convector or Baseboard Heating
Coupled with Central UFAD
System Cooling 123
9.2.7 Variable-Speed Fan Coils 125
9.2.8 VAV Change-Over Air Handlers 127
9.3 Conference Rooms or Other Special Systems 130
9.4 Issues to consider in the Design of Perimeter
and Special Systems 132
Chapter 10Cost Considerations 133
10.1 Standard First Cost Components 137
10.1.1 Raised Floor System 137
10.1.2 Slab Modification and Preparation 137
10.1.3 Cleaning and Sealing the Plenum 138
10.1.4 Fire Detection and Sprinkler Systems 138
10.2 Design-Dependent First Cost Components 138
10.2.1 UFAD System Design 138
10.2.2 Cable Management Systems 139
10.2.3 Floor-to-Floor Heights 140
10.2.4 Ceiling Finishes and Acoustical
Treatment 140
10.3 Life-Cycle Cost Components 141
10.3.1 Churn (Reconfiguration) 141
10.3.2 Operation and Maintenance 141
10.3.3 Tax Savings 142
10.3.4 Increased Property Value and Rents 142
10.3.5 Productivity and Health 142
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
ix
Chapter 11Standards, Codes, and Ratings 143
11.1 ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 55-1992:
Thermal Environmental Conditions
for Human Occupancy 143
11.2 ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62-2001:
Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality 145
11.3 ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2001:
Energy Standard for Buildings
Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings 146
11.4 ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 113-1990:
Method of Testing for Room Air Diffusion 146
11.5 ASHRAE Standard 129-1997:
Measuring Air Change Effectiveness 147
11.6 Title-24: CEC Second Generation
Nonresidential Standards 147
11.7 NFPA 90A: Standard for the Installation
of Air-Conditioning and Ventilating Systems 148
11.8 Uniform Building and Other Applicable Codes 150
11.9 LEED (Leadership in Energy &
Environmental Design) Rating System 150
Chapter 12Design Methodology 153
12.1 UFAD vs. Conventional Overhead System Design 153
12.2 Building Structure Considerations 153
12.2.1 Building Plan 153
12.2.2 New Construction 154
12.2.3 Retrofit Applications 157
12.3 Determination of Space Cooling
and Heating Loads 158
12.3.1 Space Cooling Load Calculation 158
12.3.2 Space Heating Load Calculation 159
12.4 Determine Ventilation Air Requirements 164
12.5 Temperature Control and Zoning 165
12.5.1 Interior Zones 165
12.5.2 Perimeter Zones 166
12.5.3 Other Special Areas 166
12.6 Air Distribution System Configuration 167
12.6.1 Plenum Configuration 167
12.6.2 Duct Requirements 170
12.7 Determine Zone Supply Air Temperature
and Air Flow Requirements 172
CONTENTS
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12.8 Select and Locate Diffusers 174
12.9 Determine Return Air Configuration 176
12.10 Select and Size Primary HVAC Equipment 177
12.11 Thermal Storage Opportunities 178
Chapter 13UFAD Project Examples 181
Chapter 14Future Directions 185
14.1 Research 186
14.1.1 Room Air Stratification 186
14.1.2 Underfloor Air Supply Plenums 186
14.1.3 Whole-Building Energy
Simulation Model 186
14.1.4 Thermal Comfort 186
14.1.5 Ventilation Performance 186
14.1.6 Field Studies 187
14.1.7 Productivity Studies 187
14.1.8 Cost Studies 187
14.2 Design Tools 187
14.3 Standards and Codes 188
14.4 Building Industry Developments 188
14.5 Technology Transfer 188
Glossary 189
References and Annotated Bibliography 207
Index 237
xi
Acknowledgments
The development of this design guide on underfloor air distribution
(UFAD) is the result of a cooperative research agreement between the
American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning
Engineers, Inc. (ASHRAE), and the Center for the Built Environment
(CBE) at the University of California, Berkeley, for ASHRAE
Research Project RP-1064. The financial support of both ASHRAE
and CBE is gratefully acknowledged. CBE is an NSF/Industry/Uni-
versity Cooperative Research Center whose current sponsors are Arm-
strong World Industries, Arup, California Department of General
Services, California Energy Commission, EHDD Architecture, HOK,
Keen Engineering, NBBJ, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., SOM, Steelcase,
Inc., Tate Access Floors, Inc., the Taylor Team (Taylor Engineering,
Engineering Enterprise, Guttmann & Blaevoet, Southland Industries,
Swinerton Builders), Trane, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. General
Services Administration, United Technologies, the Webcor Team
(Webcor Builders, Critchfield Mechanical, Rosendin Electric, and
C&B Consulting), York International, the National Science Founda-
tion (NSF), and the Regents of the University of California.
I would like to thank Allan Daly of Taylor Engineering for serving
as a contributing author for this design guide. He has strong practical
experience with UFAD systems. Allan was the primary author of Chap-
ters 7 and 9, and contributed sections to Chapters 11 and 12.
Technical oversight was provided by ASHRAE Technical Commit-
tee TC 5.3 (Room Air Distribution). I would like to express my sincere
appreciation for the guidance, constructive comments, and many hours
of discussion provided by members of the Project Monitoring Subcom-
mittee (PMS) led by Chair Ken Loudermilk (Trox USA). Other PMS
members were Hans Levy (Argon Corp.), Arsen Melikov (Technical
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
xii
University of Denmark), and Takashi Akimoto (Kanto-Gakuin Univer-
sity). Andrey Livchak (Halton Company) of TC 5.3 also contributed
important comments near the end of the review period.
I would like to thank Alisdair McGregor (Arup), Robert Shute (The
Mitchell Partnership), Jeff Blaevoet (Guttmann and Blaevoet), and
Shin-ichi Tanabe (Waseda University), all experts in UFAD technol-
ogy, for their input at the early stages of this project. Many other indi-
viduals have made contributions through their reviews of earlier drafts
and generous sharing of ideas and data. I would like to especially
acknowledge Mike Critchfield (Critchfield Mechanical), Alf Dyk
(E.H. Price Ltd.), Gus Faris (Nailor Industries), Steve Guttmann (Gutt-
mann and Blaevoet), Ralph Hockman (Tate Access Floors), Eric Horn
(Webcor Builders), Dan Int-Hout (Krueger), Tim Irvin (York Interna-
tional), Blair McCarry (Keen Engineering), Jim Reese (York Interna-
tional), Dennis Stanke (Trane), Steve Taylor (Taylor Engineering),
Dave Troup (HOK), Mark Vranicar (Critchfield Mechanical), and
David Wyon (Technical University of Denmark).
Several graduate student researchers in the Department of Archi-
tecture at UC Berkeley assisted me on this project. I would like to thank
Rachel Bannon for her writing and editorial skills, and Jane Lin, Amiee
Lee, and Susie Douglas, who produced the majority of the graphics.
Many of my research colleagues at UC Berkeley have made valu-
able contributions through their critical reviews, interest, and enthusi-
astic support of our UFAD research program. In particular, I would like
to thank Tom Webster, my primary co-researcher within the CBE
UFAD research program, for our many discussions of UFAD issues
that improved our collective understanding of UFAD technology and
guided our research directions. I would also like to express my warm
appreciation to Ed Arens, Gail Brager, Charlie Huizenga, Cliff Feder-
spiel, Zhang Hui, and David Lehrer, all with CBE. In addition, my
thanks go to William Fisk, David Faulkner, and Doug Sullivan of the
Indoor Environment Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab-
oratory for their technical advice and interest.
Finally, I give my love and thanks to Jenny and Rocko for all their
support and understanding during the many days, nights, and long
hours that I worked on the design guide.
1
Chapter 1
Introduction
1.1 PURPOSE OF THIS GUIDE
Underfloor air distribution (UFAD) systems are innovative meth-
ods for delivering space conditioning in offices and other commercial
buildings. Underfloor air distribution derives its name from the use of
the underfloor plenum below a raised (access) floor system to supply
conditioned air directly into the occupied zone of the building, typically
through floor diffusers. The use of UFAD technology is increasing in
North America because of the benefits that it offers over conventional
overhead air distribution.
The purpose of this design guide is to provide assistance in the
design of UFAD systems that are energy efficient, intelligently oper-
ated, and effective in their performance. This guide also describes
important research results that support current thinking on UFAD
design and includes an extensive annotated bibliography for those
seeking additional detailed information. This guide does not cover con-
ventional overhead air distribution system design procedures in depth
but rather focuses on the major differences between UFAD systems and
conventional design. For more information on standard heating, ven-
tilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) design, please refer to other
books published by ASHRAE, including the Handbook series
[ASHRAE 2000, 2001a, 2002, 2003a], Air-Conditioning Systems
Design Manual [ASHRAE 1993], and Designers Guide to Ceiling-
Based Air Diffusion [Rock and Zhu 2001].
Task/ambient conditioning (TAC) systems are a special class of air
distribution systems characterized by their ability to allow individuals
to have personal control over their local environment, without
adversely affecting that of occupants in the surrounding area. A large
majority of TAC systems use UFAD with furniture- or partition-based
CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTION
2
supply outlets because of the effectiveness of this configuration at pro-
viding individual control for nearby occupants. These two closely
related air distribution systems share many common features in terms
of their design, construction, and operation. This guide also presents
preliminary design guidance for TAC systems where available,
although applications and experience using this technology are still
rather limited.
The development of this guide is based on a compilation of avail-
able information, including research results from laboratory and field
experiments and simulation studies, design experience described in the
literature as well as from interviews with practicing engineers, manu-
facturers literature, and other relevant guidelines from users of the
technology. Despite recent growth in the UFAD market, widespread
experience with these systems is still at an early stage, with significant
issues the subject of ongoing research. The guidelines presented here
are based on the most current and best available data and information.
Designers and operators are encouraged to use common sense and good
engineering judgment when applying methodologies described in this
guide. The guide is intended for use by design engineers, architects,
building owners, facility managers, equipment manufacturers and
installers, utility engineers, researchers, and other users of UFAD tech-
nology.
1.2 SYSTEM DESCRIPTION
An underfloor air distribution (UFAD) system uses the open space
(underfloor plenum) between a structural slab and the underside of a
raised floor system to deliver conditioned air to supply outlets located
at or near floor level within the occupied zone (up to 6-ft [1.8-m]
height) of the space. Floor diffusers make up the large majority of
installed UFAD supply outlets, and throughout this guide, unless oth-
erwise noted, use of the term UFAD system will refer primarily to
this configuration. As discussed in Chapter 3, supply outlets can pro-
vide different levels of individual control over the local thermal envi-
ronment, depending on diffuser design and location. Additional details
of UFAD systems are presented below.
A task/ambient conditioning (TAC) system is defined as any space
conditioning system that allows thermal conditions in small, localized
zones (e.g., regularly occupied work locations) to be individually con-
trolled by nearby building occupants while still automatically main-
taining acceptable environmental conditions in the ambient space of
the building (e.g., corridors, open-use space, and other areas outside of
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
3
regularly occupied work space). Typically, the occupant can control the
perceived temperature of the local environment by adjusting the speed
and direction, and in some cases the temperature, of the incoming air
supply, much like the dashboard of a car. Although not a requirement,
the design of a large majority of TAC systems has involved the use of
underfloor air distribution (UFAD). For purposes of presentation in
this guide, TAC systems are distinguished from standard UFAD sys-
tems by their higher degree of personal comfort control provided by the
localized supply outlets. TAC supply outlets use direct velocity cooling
to achieve this level of control and are therefore most commonly con-
figured as fan-driven (active) jet-type diffusers that are located as part
of the furniture or partitions. Active floor diffusers are also possible.
Throughout this guide, use of the term TAC system will refer to a
UFAD system featuring active supply outlets with the above-described
individual control capabilities. TAC systems that do not employ UFAD,
such as desktop systems ducted down from an overhead system, are not
covered by this guide. For further information on a complete range of
TAC systems, see Bauman and Arens (1996) and Loftness et al. (2002).
Figures 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3 present and compare schematic diagrams
of a conventional overhead system, UFAD system, and UFAD with
TAC system, respectively, for a cooling application in an open-plan
office building. Some of the most important advantages of UFAD sys-
tems over ceiling-based systems occur for cooling conditions, which
Figure 1.1 Conventional overhead air distribution system.
CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTION
4
Figure 1.2 Underfloor air distribution system.
Figure 1.3 Cutaway of typical office work space showing UFAD with
TAC system.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
5
are required year-round in interior office space in many parts of North
America.
Historically, the approach to HVAC design in commercial buildings
has been to supply conditioned air through extensive duct networks to
an array of diffusers located in the ceiling. As shown in Figure 1.1, con-
ditioned air is both supplied and exhausted at ceiling level. Ceiling ple-
nums are typically quite deep to accommodate the large supply ducts.
Return air is most commonly configured as an un-ducted ceiling ple-
num return. Often referred to as mixing-type air distribution, conven-
tional HVAC systems are designed to promote complete mixing of
supply air with room air, thereby maintaining the entire volume of air
in the occupied space at the desired setpoint temperature and evenly
distributing ventilation air.
UFAD systems are the same as conventional overhead systems in
terms of the types of equipment used at the cooling and heating plants
and primary air-handling units (AHU). As shown in Figure 1.2, all
UFAD systems are configured to use an underfloor air supply plenum
to deliver conditioned air directly into the occupied zone, typically
through floor outlets. TAC systems use active diffusers that are located
as part of the furniture or partitions, although floor-based diffusers are
also possible (Figure 1.3). The major features of a UFAD system, with
or without TAC supply outlets, are described briefly below.
Supply air containing at least the minimum volume of outside air is
filtered and conditioned to the required temperature and humidity.
It is then delivered by the air-handling unit (AHU) to an underfloor
plenum, traveling through a shorter distance of ductwork than for
ceiling-based systems.
The underfloor plenum is formed by installation of a raised floor
system, typically consisting of 2 ft 2 ft (0.6 m 0.6 m) concrete-
filled steel floor panels. Raised floors used with UFAD systems
have typically been installed at heights of 1218 in. (0.30.46 m)
above the concrete structural slab of the building, although lower
heights are possible. The raised floor system also allows all power/
voice/data (PVD) cabling services to be conveniently distributed
through the underfloor plenum (Figure 1.3). Savings associated
with these services offset much of the initial cost of the raised floor
system.
When configuring an underfloor air supply plenum, there are three
basic approaches: (1) pressurized plenum with a central air handler
delivering air through the plenum and into the space through pas-
sive grilles/diffusers, modulated diffusers, and fan-powered termi-
CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTION
6
nal units, either used alone or in combination with one another; (2)
zero-pressure plenum with air delivered into the conditioned space
through local fan-powered (active) supply outlets in combination
with the central air handler; and (3) in some cases, ducted air supply
through the plenum to terminal devices and supply outlets. The use
of pressurized underfloor plenums appears to be the focus of cur-
rent practice, although zero-pressure plenums pose no risk of
uncontrolled air leakage to the conditioned space, adjacent zones,
or the outside.
Within the plenum, air flows freely in direct contact with the ther-
mally massive slab and floor panels and enters the workspace
through diffusers at floor level or as part of the furniture or parti-
tions. Because the air is supplied directly into the occupied zone,
floor supply outlet temperatures should be maintained no lower
than in the range of 61-65F (16-18C) to avoid uncomfortably cool
conditions for the nearby occupants. For TAC supply outlets located
closer to the occupant (e.g., furniture- or partition-based diffusers)
where the occupant is exposed to diffuser velocity cooling, even
warmer supply temperatures may be advisable.
UFAD systems are generally configured to have a relatively larger
number of smaller supply outlets, many in closer proximity to the
building occupants, as opposed to the larger diffusers and spacing
used in conventional overhead systems. Outlets that are located
within workstations or otherwise near occupants at their work loca-
tions are typically adjustable or thermostatically controlled, provid-
ing an opportunity for adjacent individuals to at least have some
amount of control over their perceived local thermal environment.
Fan-driven TAC diffusers can more directly influence local thermal
comfort by using increased air movement to provide occupant cool-
ing.
Air is returned from the room at ceiling level, or at the maximum
allowable height above the occupied zone. This produces an overall
floor-to-ceiling airflow pattern that takes advantage of the natural
buoyancy produced by heat sources in the office and more efficiently
removes heat loads and contaminants from the space, particularly for
cooling applications. In contrast to the well-mixed room air condi-
tions of the conventional overhead system, during cooling conditions,
UFAD system operation can be optimized to promote some amount
of stratification in the space, with elevated temperatures and higher
levels of pollutants above head height where their effect on occupants
is reduced.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
7
1.3 BACKGROUND
In todays rapidly changing work environment, new factors have
emerged that are driving corporate thinking on the type of facility that
they will own or occupy. One of the leading drivers is integrated design
solutions that provide maximum flexibility to allow facilities to easily
adapt to new technologies and new business directions. Secondly, the
needs of building occupants are increasingly being recognized as crit-
ical in terms of life-cycle cost-effectiveness. Communication, com-
puter, and internet-based technologies enable individual workers to
have tremendous control over where, when, and how they work.
Advanced and flexible interior furnishings have been developed that
can be configured to support a variety of individual and team work pat-
terns. The potential economic benefits of using these and other new
building technologies to achieve greater satisfaction within the work-
force are known to be very large. These benefits include increased
worker productivity, employee retention, reduced operating costs
(fewer occupant complaints), and increased market value of facilities.
In contrast, HVAC technology has not kept pace with the changing
workplace. HVAC approaches have changed little since variable-air
volume systems were first introduced 30 years ago. For the vast major-
ity of buildings, it is still standard practice to provide a single uniform
thermal and ventilation environment within each building zone, offer-
ing little chance of satisfying the environmental needs and preferences
of individual occupants (unless, of course, they happen to have a private
office with a thermostat). As a result, the quality of the indoor environ-
ment (i.e., thermal comfort and indoor air quality) continues to be one
of the primary concerns among workers who occupy these buildings.
Several documented surveys of building occupants have pointed out the
high dissatisfaction with indoor environmental conditions [e.g.,
Schiller et al. 1988, Harris 1989]. More recently, the Building Owners
and Managers Association (BOMA), in partnership with the Urban
Land Institute (ULI), surveyed 1,829 office tenants in the U.S. and Can-
ada [BOMA/ULI 1999]. In the survey, office tenants were asked to rate
the importance of 53 building features and amenities and to report how
satisfied they are with their current office space for those same catego-
ries. The following quotes from the report demonstrate the importance
of indoor environmental quality and personal control.
The most important features, amenities, and services to the
responding tenants are related to the comfort and quality of
CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTION
8
indoor air, the acoustics, and the quality of the building man-
agements service.
Tenants ability to control the temperature in their suite is the
only feature to show up on both the list of most important fea-
tures (96%) and the list of items where tenants are least satis-
fied (65%). To make an immediate and positive impact on
tenants perception of a building, landlords and managers
could focus on temperature-related functions by updating
HVAC systems so that tenants can control the temperature in
their suite or by helping tenants make better use of their exist-
ing system.
The concept of task/ambient conditioning (TAC) was developed to
address many of the problems and concerns outlined above. Just as with
task/ambient lighting systems, TAC systems allow ambient air-condi-
tioning requirements to be reduced in noncritical areas. Individually
controlled diffusers provide task conditioning only when and where it
is needed to maintain occupant comfort. In contrast to the centralized
approach described above in which a large zone of the building is con-
trolled by a single wall thermostat, the TAC system concept approaches
the optimal solution of providing a collection of many small control
zones (e.g., workstations), each under the control of an ideally located
and calibrated human thermostat. In addition, by delivering fresh air
in the near vicinity of the occupants, TAC systems are more likely to
provide improved air movement and preferential ventilation in the
occupied zone, as compared to conventional mixing-type air distribu-
tion systems.
Underfloor air distribution, originally introduced in the 1950s in
spaces having high heat loads (e.g., computer rooms, control centers,
and laboratories), has proved to be the most effective method for deliv-
ering conditioned air to localized diffusers in the occupied zone of a
building. In these early installations, the raised floor system was used
to handle the large amounts of cables serving the computers and other
equipment. By supplying cool air through floor diffusers and returning
air at the ceiling, the overall floor-to-ceiling airflow pattern supported
the buoyancy-driven air movement and efficient removal of heat loads
from the space. The maintenance of thermal conditions within the com-
fort zone was not a major focus of these early applications as they were
primarily concerned with equipment cooling, not people cooling. As a
result, the first floor diffusers were not designed to be easily adjustable.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
9
In the 1970s, underfloor air distribution was introduced into office
buildings in West Germany as a solution to these same cable manage-
ment and heat load removal issues caused by the proliferation of elec-
tronic equipment throughout the office [David 1984; Sodec and Craig
1990]. In these buildings, the comfort of the office workers had to be
considered, giving rise to the development of occupant-controlled
localized supply diffusers to provide task conditioning. Some of the
first systems in Europe used a combination of desktop outlets (TAC) for
personal comfort control and floor diffusers (UFAD) for ambient space
control [Sodec 1984; Barker et al. 1987].
To date, UFAD systems have achieved considerable acceptance in
Europe, South Africa, and Japan. However, growth in North America
was relatively slow until the late 1990s. As with any new and unfamiliar
technology, resistance to wider use has been driven by the perceived
higher risk to designers and building owners primarily due to a lack of
objective information and standardized design guidelines, a lack of
well-documented case studies with performance and cost-savings data,
and, in the case of underfloor air, the perceived higher first costs of
raised flooring. (Most of the cost of access flooring, if not all of it, is
amortized by the savings in wiring for electric, power, telephone, and
computers, as well as reduced ductwork.) In addition, there are impor-
tant gaps in our fundamental understanding of UFAD. Key areas where
information is lacking are: impact of air diffuser characteristics on
stratification, behavior of thermal plumes at solar-heated windows,
interaction between thermal plumes and diffuser airflows, ventilation
efficiencies, thermal performance of underfloor air supply plenums,
and health and comfort benefits.
UFAD technology is now in a situation where systems are being
designed and installed at an increasingly rapid pace, even before a full
understanding and characterization of some of the most fundamental
aspects of UFAD system performance have taken place. Although
independent market data are not available, estimates from several lead-
ing manufacturers of raised flooring and floor diffusers provide the fol-
lowing statistics for the market penetration of raised floors and UFAD
systems. In 1995, less than 3% of new office buildings in North Amer-
ica used raised floors, with UFAD considered as a fringe practice. In
1999, 8% of new offices used raised floors with 20%-25% of these
including UFAD systems. Prior to the recent economic downturn, man-
ufacturers had predicted that by 2004, 35% of new offices would be
using raised floors, with 50% of those using UFAD [Krepchin 2001].
The attainment of these numbers is likely to be delayed, as at the time
of writing of this guide, raised floor market penetration is at about 12%
CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTION
10
to 15% with about 40% of these using UFAD systems [Hockman
2002].
In terms of previous research, UFAD and TAC systems have
attracted the attention of a number of investigators who present data
from test chamber studies of several floor diffusers [Barker 1985; Tud-
denham 1986; Rowlinson and Croome 1987; Hanzawa and Nagasawa
1990; Arens et al. 1991, 1995; Bauman et al. 1991a, 1995; Fisk et al.
1991; Yokoyama and Inoue 1991, 1993, 1994; Fountain 1993; Foun-
tain et al. 1994; Tanabe 1994; Faulkner et al. 1995; Matsunawa et al.
1995; Tanabe and Kimura 1996; Tsuzuki et al. 1999; Kim et al. 2001;
Webster et al. 2002a, 2002b]. Other laboratory studies are reported in
the literature describing the performance of TAC desk-based supply
diffusers [Arens et al. 1991, 1995; Bauman et al. 1993, 2000b; Faulkner
et al. 1993, 1999, 2002; Fountain 1993; Fountain et al. 1994; Tsuzuki
et al. 1999; Levy 2002] and partition-based supply diffusers [SHASE
1991; Zhu et al. 1995].
As more underfloor and TAC system installations have been com-
pleted in recent years, the experience and knowledge base of these sys-
tems have grown. The results of field measurements, occupant surveys,
and case studies have also been reported [Wyon 1988; Spoormaker
1990; Hedge et al. 1992; Kroner et al. 1992; Bauman et al. 1993, 1994;
Matsunawa et al. 1995; Oguro et al. 1995; McCarry 1998; Webster et
al. 2002c; Daly 2002]. Several authors have discussed energy perfor-
mance, operating characteristics, and occupant issues for UFAD sys-
tems in buildings [Tuddenham 1986; Barker et al. 1987; Genter 1989;
Arnold 1990; Heinemeier et al. 1990; Sodec and Craig 1990; Drake et
al. 1991; Imagawa and Mima 1991; SHASE 1991; Tanaka 1991; Shute
1992; Nagoya University 1994; Matsunawa et al. 1995; Bauman and
Webster 2001]. A number of publications have addressed design meth-
ods [Spoormaker 1990; Sodec and Craig 1991; Houghton 1995;
McCarry 1995; Shute 1995; Bauman and Arens 1996; Bauman et al.
1999a; Bauman 1999; AEC 2000]. In recent years several manufactur-
ers of HVAC systems and components have developed publications and
literature addressing UFAD systems [e.g., Trox 1997; York 1999; Int-
Hout 2001; Stanke 2001; Argon 2002]. Many design firms specializing
in UFAD design now feature project profiles of completed UFAD
projects on their web sites.
Currently, research on UFAD and TAC systems is ongoing at three
university research centers:
1. Center for the Built Environment (CBE), University of
California, Berkeley, http://www.cbe.berkeley.edu (includ-
ing funding from ASHRAE for this design guide). CBE
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
11
has developed a public web site on underfloor air technol-
ogy (http://www.cbe.berkeley.edu/underfloorair).
2. Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics (CBPD),
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pittsburgh, http://
www.arc.cmu.edu/cbpd. CMU recently completed a state-
of-the-art review of Flexible and Adaptive HVAC Distri-
bution Systems for Office Buildings, with funding from
the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology Insti-
tute (ARTI) [Loftness et al. 2002].
3. International Centre for Indoor Environment and Energy
(ICIEE), Technical University of Denmark, http://
www.ie.dtu.dk. ICIEE is conducting research on both
physical measurements and human response to personal-
ized ventilation, as provided by TAC diffusers.
Additional references will be referred to during the discussions pre-
sented later in this guide and may also be found in the References and
Annotated Bibliography.
1.4 BENEFITS
What are the potential advantages that UFAD systems have over
traditional overhead air distribution systems? Well-engineered systems
can provide the following.
1.4.1 Improved Thermal Comfort
By allowing individual occupants to control their local thermal
environment, their individual comfort preferences can be accommo-
dated. In todays work environment, there can be significant variations
in individual comfort preferences due to differences in clothing, activ-
ity level (metabolic rate), and individual preferences. Recent labora-
tory tests show that commercially available task/ambient conditioning
systems with fan-driven supply outlets (airflow directed at the occu-
pant) provide personal control of an occupants microclimate over a
sizable rangeup to 13F (7C) for desktop outlets and up to 9F (5C)
for floor-based outlets [Tsuzuki et al. 1999]. These tests measured only
sensible cooling rates; total cooling (including latent effects) would be
even higher. This amount of control is more than enough to allow the
full range of individual thermal preferences to be accommodated. Pas-
sive diffusers (diffusers that do not rely on local fans), such as the com-
monly used swirl floor diffusers in UFAD systems, will not provide this
same magnitude of control. However, by being accessible to the occu-
CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTION
12
pants, these diffusers can still be effective at influencing the perceived
local comfort conditions. For further discussion, see Section 3.2.
1.4.2 Improved Ventilation Efficiency and
Indoor Air Quality
Some improvement in ventilation and indoor air quality at the
breathing level can be expected by delivering the fresh supply air at
floor level or near the occupant and returning at the ceiling, resulting
in an upward displacement of indoor air and pollutant flow pattern,
similar to that achieved in the displacement ventilation systems com-
monly used in Scandinavia [Nielsen 1996]. Displacement ventilation
systems (used for cooling only) typically achieve their improved ven-
tilation performance by supplying 100% outside air at a temperature
slightly below comfort conditions and at a very low velocity. Because
the supply air has little momentum, buoyancy forces influence the air-
flow pattern and the supply air spreads out at floor level and then flows
upward. Air temperatures and concentrations of some pollutants
increase with height in the displacement zone.
Because UFAD systems supply air at higher outlet velocities than
true displacement systems, greater mixing will occur, diminishing the
degree of displacement flow. In addition, the recirculation of indoor air
by some underfloor systems will cause mixing of indoor air and pol-
lutants. An optimized ventilation strategy is to control supply outlets to
confine the mixing of supply air with room air to just below the stan-
dard respiration height (3-5 ft [0.9-1.5 m]) of the space. Above this
height, stratified and more polluted air is allowed to occur. The air that
the occupant breathes will have a lower concentration of contaminants
compared to conventional uniformly mixed systems.
Recent research has shown that desk-mounted TAC diffusers can
provide significantly improved ventilation effectiveness over mixing
systems [Faulkner et al. 2002; Melikov et al. 2002]. For further discus-
sion, see Section 3.4.
1.4.3 Reduced Energy Use
Energy savings for UFAD systems over conventional overhead sys-
tems are predominately associated with two major factors: (1) cooling
energy savings from economizer operation and increased chiller COP
and (2) fan energy savings. Economizer savings result from increased
hours of full or partial economizer operation due to higher return air
temperatures (77-86F [25-30C] vs. 75F [24C] for overhead sys-
tems) and the reduction in cooling energy required during economizer
operation because of the use of higher supply air temperatures (61-65F
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
13
[16-18C] vs. 55F [13C] for overhead systems). Chiller savings
result from using higher chiller leaving water temperatures due to the
higher supply air temperatures. However, this benefit is climate depen-
dent; moisture control requirements in humid climates will reduce or
eliminate these cooling energy savings. Many designers caution
against this approach since it presents the opportunity to lose humidity
control if not done carefully.
Fan energy savings are associated with two factors: reduced total air
volume and reduced static pressure requirements. The stratified floor-
to-ceiling airflow pattern in UFAD systems allows most convective
heat gains from sources above the lower mixed zone (see Chapter 2) of
the space to be returned directly at ceiling level and therefore to not be
included in the calculation of the air supply quantity (air-side load). The
determination of air supply volumes required to maintain a given com-
fort condition are therefore only based on heat sources that enter and
mix with air in the occupied zone. Static pressures are reduced due to
the elimination of most branch ductwork, as the supply air flows freely
through the underfloor plenum at low plenum pressures (typical pres-
sures are 0.1 in. H
2
O (25 Pa) or less). From a recent analysis of central
fan energy use in UFAD systems, the average savings using a variable-
air-volume (VAV) control strategy over conventional VAV systems can
be estimated to be about 40% [Webster et al. 2000]. Due to the common
practice of using fan-powered solutions in perimeter zones, the total fan
energy savings may be significantly reduced when the energy use of
these additional smaller fan units is considered. Characterization of
additional energy savings potential is being addressed by ongoing
research. For further discussion, see Chapter 7.
TAC systems provide additional energy considerations. In terms of
fan energy use, the reduced energy consumption of the central AHU
must be traded off against the additional energy used by the active (fan-
driven) supply outlets. If all occupants have access to a TAC diffuser
that provides velocity cooling, the entire space can be operated at a
higher temperature with potentially significant cooling energy savings.
1.4.4 Reduced Life-Cycle Building Costs
In modern businesses, churn is a fact of life; a 1997 survey found
the national average churn rate (defined as the percentage of workers
and their associated work spaces in a building, %/year, that are recon-
figured or undergo significant changes) to be 44% [IFMA 1997]. The
cost savings associated with reconfiguring building services is a major
factor in the decision to install access flooring. By integrating a build-
ing's HVAC and cable management systems into one easily accessible
CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTION
14
underfloor plenum, floor diffusers along with all power, voice, and data
outlets can be placed almost anywhere on the raised floor grid. In-house
maintenance personnel can carry out these reconfigurations at signifi-
cantly reduced expense using simple tools and modular hardware.
Firms that are more likely to install underfloor systems are also, for the
very same reasons, more likely to churn at a higher rate. For further dis-
cussion, see Chapter 10.
1.4.5 Reduced Floor-to-Floor Height in New Construction
Buildings using UFAD have the potential to reduce floor-to-floor
heights compared to projects with conventionally designed ceiling-
based air distribution. This can be accomplished by reducing the over-
all height of service plenums and/or by changing from standard steel
beam construction to a concrete (flat slab) structural approach. Con-
crete flat slab construction can take longer than steel beam construction
but is preferred for underfloor systems due to thermal storage benefits,
as well as reduced vertical height requirements. By placing most build-
ing services in the underfloor plenum, it is not uncommon and certainly
possible to eliminate the ceiling plenum. For further discussion, see
Section 12.2.2.
1.4.6 Improved Productivity and Health
Research evidence suggests that occupant satisfaction and produc-
tivity can be increased by giving individuals greater control over their
local environment and by improving the quality of indoor environ-
ments (thermal, acoustical, ventilation, and lighting). A review of rel-
evant research has concluded that improvements in productivity in the
range of 0.5% to 5% may be possible when the thermal and lighting
indoor environmental quality is enhanced [Fisk 2000]. These percent-
ages, though small, have a life-cycle value approximating that of the
capital and operating costs of an entire building! For further discussion,
see Sections 3.5 and 10.3.5.
1.5 TECHNOLOGY NEEDS
Despite the advantages of UFAD systems, there exist some barriers
(both real and perceived) to widespread adoption of this technology.
Resistance to wider use has been driven by the perceived higher risk to
designers and building owners primarily due to a lack of objective
information and standardized design guidelines, perceived higher
costs, limited applicability to retrofit construction, problems with
applicable standards and codes, and a lack of well-documented case
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
15
studies with whole-building performance and cost-savings data. These
barriers are summarized below along with ongoing efforts to address
these technology needs.
1.5.1 New and Unfamiliar Technology
For the majority of building owners, developers, facility managers,
architects, engineers, and equipment manufacturers, UFAD systems
still represent a relatively new and unfamiliar technology. Lack of
familiarity can create problems throughout the entire building design,
construction, and operation process, including higher cost estimates,
incompatible construction methods, and incorrect building control and
operation on the part of both facility managers and building occupants.
As UFAD technology continues to grow, these problems should
become less prevalent.
1.5.2 Lack of Information and Design Guidelines
Although in recent years there have been an increased number of
publications on UFAD technology, including some with design meth-
ods, there has not previously existed a set of standardized design guide-
lines for use by the industry. To address this problem, ASHRAE has
funded the development of this design guide through ASHRAE
research project 1064-RP, thereby making it available to the profes-
sional design and engineering community at large. In addition, a public
web site on UFAD technology has recently been developed [Bauman
et al. 2000a].
1.5.3 Gaps in Fundamental Understanding
Currently, there exists a strong need to improve the fundamental
understanding of several key issues related to energy and comfort per-
formance of UFAD system design. These issues include the following.
1.5.3.1 Room air stratification. What fraction of the convec-
tive heat sources in the space will rise up as thermal plumes and be
exhausted directly at ceiling level and can therefore be neglected in
the calculation of the room cooling air quantity? What effect do sup-
ply airflow, supply air temperature, and ceiling height have on room
air stratification? Although some empirical design methods exist
[Loudermilk 1999], an understanding of controlled/optimized ther-
mal stratification is critical to provide designers with a reliable
energy-estimating tool as well as a sound basis from which to
develop design tools and guidelines. Recent research is providing
new information about the impact of various UFAD system design
and operating parameters on room air stratification [Webster et al.
CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTION
16
2002a, 2002b; Lin and Linden 2002; Yamanaka et al. 2002]. For fur-
ther discussion, see Chapter 2.
1.5.3.2 Underfloor air supply plenum. An important differ-
ence between conventional and UFAD system design is the heat
exchange between the concrete slab, raised floor panels, and the sup-
ply air as it flows through the underfloor plenum. If the slab has
absorbed heat, particularly from warm return air flowing along the
underside of the slab, then supply temperature will increase with dis-
tance from the plenum inlet. Energy and operating cost savings,
including peak shaving, can be achieved by using the concrete slab in
a thermal storage strategy, but further research is still needed to opti-
mize and quantify this effect. For further discussion, see Chapter 4.
1.5.3.3 Whole-building performance. There currently does
not exist a whole-building energy simulation program capable of
accurately modeling UFAD systems, a subject discussed by Addison
and Nall (2001). This is one of the top technology needs identified by
system designers. Additionally, whole-building performance data are
needed from completed UFAD projects in the form of energy use,
indoor environmental quality, occupant satisfaction, comfort, health,
and performance, and first and life-cycle (operating) costs to quantify
the relative benefits of the technology.
1.5.4 Perceived Higher Costs
The perceived higher cost is one of the main reasons why UFAD
and TAC technology has been slow to be adopted by the U.S. building
industry. As discussed above, this situation is now changing due to sig-
nificant savings in life-cycle costs. In general, the added first cost of the
access floor may be offset by cost reductions associated with decreased
ductwork and cable and wire installation. Projects are frequently sold
on the basis that UFAD is an add-on after the choice is already made
to install access flooring for its cable management and reconfiguring
benefits for high churn businesses. Considered in this light, the first
cost of a UFAD system is commonly less than a conventional system.
This technology is still in the early stages of adoption and certainly will
see cost reductions as volumes increase and more UFAD-specific prod-
ucts become available. For further discussion, see Chapter 10.
1.5.5 Limited Applicability to Retrofit Construction
The installation of UFAD systems and the advantages that they
offer are most easily achieved in new construction. However, the wide-
spread use of underfloor air distribution in renovation work has been
restricted by the feasibility of adding a raised floor in the large majority
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
17
of buildings having limited floor-to-floor heights. Current practice
calls for typical raised floor heights of 12-18 inches (0.30-0.46 m). A
recent full-scale field experiment has found that low-height underfloor
plenums (8 in. [0.2 m] and lower) can, in fact, provide very uniform air-
flow performance across a 3,200 ft
2
(300 m
2
) area of a building [Bau-
man et al. 1999a]. In cases of major remodeling, substantial cost
savings may be achieved through the use of raised flooring. UFAD sys-
tems can also be installed at considerable savings and with improved
performance as a retrofit in high-ceiling spaces, such as warehouses
(see Section 12.2.3).
1.5.6 Problems with Applicable Standards and Codes
Since UFAD and TAC technology is relatively new to the building
industry, its characteristics may require consideration of unfamiliar
code requirements and, in fact, may be in conflict with the provisions
of some existing standards and codes. Three ASHRAE standards have
direct relevance to UFAD and TAC systems. ASHRAE Standard 55-
1992 [ASHRAE 1992] specifies a comfort zone, representing the
optimal range and combination of thermal and personal factors for
human occupancy. Standard 62-2001 [ASHRAE 2001b] provides
guidelines for the determination of ventilation rates that will maintain
acceptable indoor air quality. The revised version of Standard 62 is
expected to allow some adjustment in ventilation rates based on the
ventilation effectiveness of the air distribution system, a feature that
may give credit to UFAD and TAC systems. ASHRAE Standard 113-
1990 [ASHRAE 1990] is the only existing building standard for eval-
uating the air diffusion performance of an air distribution system. Cur-
rently only applicable to conventional overhead systems, Standard 113
is now being revised to be compatible with UFAD, TAC, and displace-
ment ventilation systems.
Local building and fire codes need to be considered early in the
design process. Code officials having limited experience with UFAD
and TAC systems have been known to create unexpected roadblocks
due to misunderstandings or narrow interpretations of code language.
However, fundamentally the codes governing underfloor plenums
should be no different than those for ceiling plenums. For further dis-
cussion, see Chapter 11.
1.5.7 Cold Feet and Draft Discomfort
UFAD systems are perceived by some to produce a cold floor and,
because of the close proximity of supply outlets to the occupants, the
increased possibility of excessive draft. These conditions are primarily
CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTION
18
indicative of a poorly designed or operated underfloor system. Typical
underfloor supply air temperatures are no lower than 61F (16C) and
usually higher except under peak load conditions. Nearly all office
installations are carpeted so that cold floors should not be a problem.
Individually controlled supply diffusers allow occupants to adjust the
local airflow to match their personal preferences and avoid undesirable
drafts.
1.5.8 Problems with Spillage and
Dirt Entering UFAD Systems
Concern is sometimes expressed about the increased probability of
spillage and dirt entering directly into the underfloor supply airstream
and therefore being more widely distributed throughout the occupied
space. Most floor diffusers, however, have been designed with catch-
basins (e.g., to hold the liquid from a typical soft drink spill). Tests have
shown that floor diffusers do not blow more dirt into the space than
other air distribution systems [Matsunawa et al. 1995]. In addition, air
speeds within the underfloor plenum are so low that they do not entrain
any dirt or other contaminants from the plenum surfaces into the supply
air. Using furniture- or partition-based TAC supply outlets, it is also
possible to design a system without floor grilles.
1.5.9 Condensation Problems and
Dehumidification in UFAD Systems
In humid climates, outside air must be properly dehumidified
before delivering supply air to the underfloor plenum where conden-
sation may occur on cool structural slab surfaces. While humidity con-
trol of this sort is not difficult, given the large surface area of the
structural slab in the underfloor plenum, it is important that it be done
correctly. If a higher cooling coil temperature is used (allowing an
increased chiller efficiency) to produce the warmer supply air temper-
atures needed in UFAD and TAC systems, the cooling coils capacity
to dehumidify will be reduced. In humid climates, a return air bypass
control strategy can be employed in which a portion of the return air is
bypassed around the cooling coil and then mixed with the air leaving
the coil to produce the desired warmer supply air temperature (61-65F
[16-18C]). In this situation other system design considerations will
dictate whether a conventional cooling coil temperature (producing a
coil leaving temperature of 55F [12.8C]) or a colder one (e.g., from
ice storage) is used.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
19
1.6 APPLICATIONS
UFAD systems are well suited for all office buildings, especially
those with open office plans in which adjustable diffusers can allow
occupants to individually control their local workstation environments.
In high-tech offices and other businesses with extensive use of infor-
mation technologies and typically high churn rates (e.g., dot-com
offices, call centers, trading floors), the flexibility provided by service
delivery systems, including cable management, is a great benefit.
Because of the significant savings in life-cycle costs for UFAD sys-
tems, owner-occupied buildings are strong candidates for application.
Other buildings suitable for UFAD systems include schools, television
studios, and light manufacturing installations that dont involve spill-
age of liquids.
Any building that already is using a raised floor system for cable
distribution or other purposes should consider a UFAD system. An
exception would be clean room applications that are designed to return
air at floor level. There are other areas in buildings where raised floors
and underfloor air distribution are generally not appropriate. These
areas include those in which spillage has the potential to occur, such as
in laboratories, cafeterias, and shop areas. Bathrooms have often been
considered as an area where raised floor systems should be avoided, but
there are cases where they have been used successfully. Although
requiring a membrane on top of the floor to protect against leaks,
plumbing costs can be reduced by simplifying the piping installation.
In high ceiling spaces UFAD systems provide good energy-savings
opportunities in cooling applications by promoting thermal stratifica-
tion. Comfort and improved indoor air quality are maintained in the
occupied zone near the floor, while allowing increased temperatures
and pollutant concentrations to occur at higher elevations in the space.
Auditoriums, theaters, libraries, museums, and converted warehouses
all make good UFAD applications. In contrast, these types of buildings
can present problems for conventional overhead air distribution design.
Buildings using UFAD systems located in dry, mild climates will
achieve the best energy savings. These are primarily associated with
increased economizer operation and increased chiller COP due to the
higher supply air temperatures used in these systems. These climates
are also more suitable for the implementation of thermal storage con-
trol strategies using the concrete floor slabs of the building. Many of
these energy benefits are not available in more humid climates.
CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTION
20
1.7 ORGANIZATION OF GUIDE
Since this document represents the first extensive design guide on
UFAD technology, most readers will benefit from reading, or at least
skimming, all of the sections. The primary focus of the guide is on
underfloor air distribution, since this technology has by far the most
information and design experience from which to develop the guide.
When available, preliminary guidance is also provided on the design of
the closely related task/ambient conditioning systems that use UFAD.
Although the guide touches upon the principles of conventional over-
head air distribution for comparison, it does not contain detailed design
guidance for these systems. Instead, the reader is referred to other pub-
lications for information on standard HVAC system design.
The topics selected for presentation in this guide represent areas in
which important differences exist between conventional systems and
UFAD design. Chapters 2-11 provide detailed background information
on one of these major topics by discussing the knowledge and experi-
ence gained through previous research and applications. Chapter 12
steps through the entire design process by providing a more concise
discussion of the issues and refers to other sections in the guide for
additional details. The following is a summary of the material con-
tained in the sections of this guide.
Chapter 1, Introduction, defines UFAD and TAC systems and
provides background and an overview of current information about
benefits and needs of these technologies.
Chapter 2, Room Air Distribution, describes and compares three
approaches to room air distribution design (overhead mixing, dis-
placement ventilation, and UFAD) to illustrate key characteristics
of room air distribution using UFAD systems. Included in the dis-
cussion is how room air distribution impacts thermal stratification,
airflow requirements, ventilation performance, and indoor air qual-
ity.
Chapter 3, Thermal Comfort and Indoor Air Quality, discusses
how delivering conditioned air in the near vicinity and under indi-
vidual occupant control can improve thermal comfort and ventila-
tion performance.
Chapter 4, Underfloor Air Supply Plenums, discusses current
research and design information on configuring and operating
underfloor air supply plenums.
Chapter 5, Underfloor Air Distribution (UFAD) Equipment,
describes the range of UFAD and TAC products that are currently
available.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
21
Chapter 6, Controls, Operation, and Maintenance, discusses
control strategies for optimal and energy-efficient operation and
maintenance issues for UFAD systems.
Chapter 7, Energy Use, summarizes the major system design and
operation issues that influence the efficient energy performance of
UFAD systems.
Chapter 8, Design, Construction, and Commissioning, reviews
issues associated with the design, construction, and commissioning
process for UFAD installations.
Chapter 9, Perimeter and Special Systems, presents and illus-
trates a range of system design solutions for conditioning perimeter
and other special zones.
Chapter 10, Cost Considerations, introduces key economic con-
siderations associated with first and life-cycle costs of UFAD sys-
tems.
Chapter 11, Standards, Codes, and Ratings, reviews applicable
building standards and codes and discusses their compatibility with
UFAD and TAC technology. In addition, a description of the LEED
(Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Rating System is
provided.
Chapter 12, Design Methodology, presents a summary of recom-
mended design procedures for UFAD systems. In particular, those
areas where UFAD design differs from conventional overhead air
distribution design are discussed.
Chapter 13, UFAD Project Examples, presents a list of web sites,
references and other sources describing examples of UFAD and
TAC system configurations.
Chapter 14, Future Directions, describes ongoing research and
standards development work, as well as recommended future direc-
tions within the building industry, addressing UFAD and TAC tech-
nology needs.
Glossary, defines terminology related to UFAD and TAC technol-
ogy specifically and to HVAC design in general.
References and Annotated Bibliography, provides a complete list
of references for all sections as well as other publications related to
UFAD and TAC technology for readers seeking additional informa-
tion. Brief descriptions of the contents of key references are pro-
vided.
23
Chapter 2
Room Air Distribution
The movement of air through the conditioned spaces of buildings
plays a critical role in the performance of a buildings heating, venti-
lating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, directly affecting thermal
comfort, indoor air quality, and energy use. Most of the potential per-
formance advantages of underfloor air distribution (UFAD) systems
over conventional air distribution system design arise from the fact that
conditioned air is delivered at or near floor level, directly into the occu-
pied zone of the building, and is returned at or near ceiling level. In this
chapter, three approaches to room air distribution design (overhead
mixing, displacement ventilation, UFAD) are described and compared
to illustrate the characteristics of room air distribution using UFAD
systems.
2.1 CONVENTIONAL OVERHEAD MIXING SYSTEMS
Historically, the approach to HVAC design in commercial buildings
has been to both supply and remove air at ceiling level (Figure 2.1).
Conditioned air is typically supplied at velocities that are much higher
than those acceptable for occupant comfort. Supply air temperature
may be lower, higher, or equal to the desired room air temperature set-
point, depending on the cooling/heating load. Incoming high-speed
turbulent air jets create rapid mixing with the room air so that the supply
jets temperature quickly approaches that of the entire room. As the jet
proceeds into the room, it entrains room (secondary) air into the pri-
mary air jet, causing it to grow and spread in size and therefore to
reduce in air speed. A system of overhead diffusers is designed and
operated so that the ceiling-based supply air jets slow to an acceptable
air speed (no higher than 50 fpm [0.25 m/s]) before entering the occu-
pied zone (up to 6 ft [1.8 m]) [ASHRAE 2001a; Rock and Zhu 2001].
CHAPTER 2ROOM AIR DISTRIBUTION
24
Often referred to as mixing-type air distribution, conventional over-
head systems promote complete mixing of supply air with room air,
thereby maintaining the entire volume of air in the occupied space at the
desired setpoint temperature and evenly distributing ventilation air. In
this system, room air conditions approach those of the return air leaving
the room at ceiling level. Mixing-type systems maintain acceptable
indoor air quality through dilution of the pollutants in the space with a
sufficient amount of outside air. This uniform mixing control strategy
provides little opportunity (other than by increasing the number of
zones) to accommodate different thermal preferences among the occu-
pants or to provide preferential ventilation in the occupied zone. In
open plan offices, even by adding more zones, overhead systems can
never allow individual control of local workstation environments.
Available data from field measurements indicate that the ventilation
effectiveness within the occupied zones of rooms is usually uniform
within ~15% [Fisk and Faulkner 1992; Persily 1986; Persily and Dols
1989]. Poorer mixing and a significant short-circuiting airflow pattern
can sometimes occur when warm air is supplied at ceiling level for
heating [Fisk et al. 1997]. Int-Hout (1998) discusses the proper selec-
tion of diffusers for overhead systems to ensure adequate mixing of the
ventilation air in the space and occupant comfort.
2.2 DISPLACEMENT VENTILATION
AND CONDITIONING SYSTEMS
Displacement ventilation (DV) is based on many of the same prin-
ciples that are also important in the cooling performance of UFAD sys-
tems. Extensive research on DV systems has produced a substantial
Figure 2.1 Conventional overhead air distribution system.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
25
scientific literature base. It is therefore instructive to review this liter-
ature to understand both the similarities and differences between DV
and UFAD systems. Skistad (1994), Nielsen (1996), and most recently
REHVA (2001) provide good comprehensive overviews of displace-
ment ventilation based on both theoretical and experimental consider-
ations. Recently, ASHRAE has also sponsored research on the
application of DV systems in the U.S. [Yuan et al. 1998, 1999].
In cooling operation, DV and UFAD systems deliver cool air into
the conditioned space at or near floor level and return it at or near ceil-
ing level. Thermal plumes that develop over heat sources in the room
play a major role in driving the overall floor-to-ceiling air motion by
entraining air from the surrounding space and drawing it upward. This
buoyancy-driven floor-to-ceiling airflow pattern also adapts naturally
to locally high heat loads as the stronger thermal plume rising above
these larger heat sources entrains additional cooler room air from low
elevations in the space surrounding the heat sources.
The primary difference between DV and UFAD systems is in the
manner in which the air is delivered into the space. The classic DV sys-
tem delivers air at very low velocities while UFAD (and TAC) systems
employ higher velocity diffusers with correspondingly greater mixing.
Additional details and discussion of DV systems are presented below.
Displacement ventilation has been widely used in Scandinavia dur-
ing the past two decades, particularly in industrial facilities with high
ceilings and high thermal load [Svensson 1989]. The main goal of this
method of room air distribution is to provide improved indoor air qual-
ity (ventilation performance) in the occupied zone compared to the
dilution ventilation provided by overhead mixing systems. DV systems
are especially effective when pollutants are associated with heat
sources in the space (e.g., people and printers in offices). As air is
heated and rises into the region above the occupied zone, some of it
exits the space with only partial mixing with the room air. This princi-
ple enables the room load to be satisfied with a lower volume of supply
air than would be needed if the room was completely well mixed, all
other conditions being equal. The upward movement of air in the room
takes advantage of the natural buoyancy of heat gain to the space, pro-
ducing a vertical temperature gradient. This thermal stratification typ-
ically creates two characteristic horizontal zones, as shown in Figure
2.2, for an office configuration. The lower zone predominantly contains
cool fresh air and the upper zone contains warm, more polluted air. The
horizontal interface separating the two zones features changes in gra-
dient for both temperature and pollutant concentrations. Due to com-
monly occurring disturbances (drafts, people moving, etc.) these
CHAPTER 2ROOM AIR DISTRIBUTION
26
changes generally occur more gradually over a region or layer separat-
ing the upper and lower zones rather than at a distinct height. This inter-
face has been identified by various researchers using different names,
including stratification height, stratification boundary, interface height,
and shift point. We will refer to it as stratification height (SH) in this
guide.
In the classic definition of a DV system, which is applied only for
cooling purposes, air is supplied at very low velocity through supply
devices located near floor level (the most common are low side-wall
diffusers) and is returned near ceiling level. Although possible, it is not
necessary, nor is it common practice, to install a raised floor to operate
a DV system. Because supply air is delivered directly into the occupied
zone, it is introduced at a temperature only slightly (5-10F [3-6C])
below comfort conditions. In contrast to both overhead mixing systems
and UFAD systems, the incoming supply air has very little momentum,
and as the cooler, heavier supply air enters the space, it spreads across
the floor in much the same way as water would. The air is heated as it
flows across the floor and then is drawn upward, primarily through
entrainment by thermal plumes (Figure 2.2). The aim of a DV system
is to deliver fresh conditioned air directly to the occupants without
unnecessarily conditioning other space heat sources. In European
applications, displacement ventilation systems usually supply 100%
outside air (no recirculated indoor air) and can therefore achieve
improved ventilation effectiveness compared to mixing systems. Due
to hot and humid climatic conditions in many parts of the U.S., most
displacement ventilation installations in this country use return air.
Improved indoor air quality compared to mixing systems can still be
Figure 2.2 Displacement ventilation system.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
27
achieved because of stratification of contaminants and extended hours
of economizer operation [Livchak and Nall 2001].
As shown in Figure 2.2, a stratification height (SH) is established
that divides the room into two zones (upper and lower) having distinct
airflow conditions. Plume theory helps to explain this two-zone airflow
pattern. As a thermal plume rises due to natural convection above a heat
source, it entrains surrounding air and therefore increases in size and
volume, although gradually decreasing in velocity from its maximum
just above the heat source (Figure 2.3). The maximum height to which
a plume will rise is dependent primarily on the heat source strength and
secondarily on the stratification in the room (which decreases the buoy-
ancy of the rising plume). The lower zone below the stratification
height has no recirculation. In this region, as described above, the fresh,
cool supply air gradually flows across the room like cold water in a thin
layer that is typically 4-6 in. (100-150 mm) thick. It is drawn horizon-
tally toward the heat sources where it joins the rising air in the thermal
plumes and is entrained vertically upward. Depending on the amount
of supply air, above some height in the space the rising plumes will
require additional (recirculated) air from the upper part of the room to
Figure 2.3 Thermal plume from a point source.
CHAPTER 2ROOM AIR DISTRIBUTION
28
feed the entrainment. These plumes will expand and rise until they
encounter equally warm air in the upper regions of the space. The upper
zone above the stratification height is characterized by low-velocity
recirculation, which produces a fairly well mixed layer of warm air
whose contaminant concentration exceeds that in the lower levels of the
space.
A key feature of the stratification height in a true DV system is that
vertical air motion across the level is due only to the effects of buoy-
ancy. In an idealized configuration in which only heat sources are
present, only thermal plumes of sufficient strength will rise into the
upper zone. The net result will be that once the warmer and more pol-
luted air enters the upper zone, it will never reenter the lower zone. This
principle is the basis for the improved ventilation effectiveness and heat
removal efficiency associated with DV systems. In some practical
applications (e.g., morning start-up, winter), there will also be sources
of cooling present in the space, such as a cold perimeter window. In this
situation, the resulting cold downdraft may transport some air from the
upper zone back down into the lower zone. Figure 2.4 shows these basic
elements in a simplified schematic of a DV system. In the figure, q
0
rep-
resents the supply airflow into the room from a low side-wall diffuser,
q
1
is the upward moving airflow contained in thermal plumes that form
above heat sources, and q
2
is the downward moving airflow resulting
Figure 2.4 Schematic diagram of major flow elements in a room
with displacement ventilation.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
29
from cool surfaces. In terms of this simplified configuration, the strat-
ification height will occur at a height (y
st
) where the net upward moving
flow, q
1
q
2
, equals q
0
. Clearly, an important objective in designing
and operating a DV system is to maintain the stratification height near
the top of the occupied zone (1.8 m [6 ft]). If the building occupants are
in a seated work position, a lower stratification height (e.g., 1.2 m [4 ft])
may be acceptable.
Figure 2.5 illustrates how the stratification height influences indoor
air quality in the occupied zone for the idealized case of a DV system
with only a heat source (person) in the space and a contaminant source
(persons breathing) associated with the heat source [Skistad 1994].
The figure shows two typical vertical profiles of pollutants from a per-
sons breathing. Normalized pollutant concentrations (c/c
R
) are plotted
vs. normalized room height (y/H), where c
R
is the concentration at the
return grille near ceiling level and H is the height of the room. Both pro-
files demonstrate how a large increase in pollutant concentration occurs
at the stratification height, with cleaner, less polluted air in the lower
zone and higher pollutant concentrations in the upper zone. Profile A
is produced by a lower airflow rate that results in a stratification height
(SH-A) somewhat below head height of a standing occupant. By
increasing the airflow rate (loads remain constant) the stratification
Figure 2.5 Vertical profiles of pollutant concentrations in a room
with displacement ventilation.
CHAPTER 2ROOM AIR DISTRIBUTION
30
height (SH-B) is raised above head height in profile B, producing
improved indoor air quality at the breathing height. It has also been
observed that the stratification height can be locally displaced about 0.7
ft (0.2 m) upward around a person [Nielsen 1996]. This represents the
entrainment of cleaner air from lower levels in the room by the thermal
plume rising around a person up to the breathing height.
The characteristic vertical temperature profiles for DV systems will
exhibit similar behavior to those shown in Figure 2.5 for pollutant con-
centrations. In general, temperatures are lower below the stratification
height, increase at a higher rate across the stratification height, and are
highest in the upper zone of the room. Measurements have demon-
strated that this profile is very stable horizontally in a room, meaning
that similar temperatures will be obtained at the same height through-
out the space. The vertical temperature gradient is also independent of
the location of heat sources in the room, as long as the height of the
sources remains constant. The gradient is, however, strongly dependent
on variations in height of the heat sources. The most efficient heat
removal occurs for heat sources located higher in the space, such as
overhead lighting fixtures.
Unfortunately, when applied to office configurations in the U.S and
other locations with high heat load densities (>9.5-12.7 Btu/h-ft
2
[30-
40 W/m
2
]) and reduced ceiling heights compared to industrial build-
ings, DV systems cannot satisfy the cooling demand without imposing
excessive thermal stratification in the space and overly cool conditions
near the floor. This subject is reviewed by Yuan et al. (1999), who sug-
gest that cooling loads as high as 40 Btu/h-ft
2
(120 W/m
2
) can be han-
dled. However, to accomplish this, very high airflow rates would be
required with obvious energy consumption implications. Another con-
sideration in the design of DV systems is that higher airflow rates
require larger diffuser inlet areas (to maintain the low inlet velocities).
The availability of wall space for standard low side-wall DV diffusers
may limit their application to higher airflow rates. One configuration
for a floor-supply DV system has been described by Akimoto et al.
[1995].
In summary, the stratification height depends primarily on the room
airflow rate relative to the magnitude of the heat sources. Increasing the
airflow rate or decreasing the cooling load will raise the stratification
height, thereby improving indoor air quality and reducing thermal
stratification in the occupied zone. On the other hand, decreasing the
airflow rate or increasing the cooling load will lower the stratification
height, potentially reducing ventilation performance and reducing ther-
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
31
mal comfort (due to increased stratification) in the occupied zone while
reducing fan energy use (for a given load).
2.3 UFAD SYSTEMS
UFAD and TAC systems differ from true DV systems primarily in
the way that air is delivered to the space: (1) air is supplied at higher
velocity through smaller-sized supply outlets, and (2) local air supply
conditions are generally under the control of the occupants, allowing
comfort conditions to be optimized. By introducing supply air with
greater momentum, UFAD and TAC systems alter the behavior in the
lower region of the space compared to DV systems by increasing the
amount of mixing, increasing the temperature near the floor, and reduc-
ing the temperature gradient, all other conditions being equal.
Although still the subject of ongoing research, this altered behavior in
the lower region helps to explain why UFAD systems may have the
potential to handle higher cooling loads than typical DV systems in
spaces with 9- to 12-ft (2.7- to 3.7-m) ceiling heights (e.g., offices). At
higher elevations in the room, above the influence of the supply outlets,
the overall airflow performance is very similar to that of DV systems.
Based on recent experimental results [Webster et al. 2002a, 2002b; Lin
and Linden 2002; Yamanaka et al. 2002] and an extension of displace-
ment theory, the following model, consisting of up to three distinct
zones in the room, can be proposed to describe the room air distribution
for UFAD systems.
2.3.1 UFAD Room Air Distribution Model
Figure 2.6 shows a schematic diagram of typical airflow patterns in
an UFAD system in an office environment. The diagram identifies the
two characteristic heights in the room that define the three zones in the
room: (1) the throw height (TH) of the floor diffusers and (2) the strat-
ification height (SH), similar to that found in DV systems. As shown in
the figure, UFAD diffusers typically create clear zones in their imme-
diate vicinity, representing regions within which long-term occupancy
is not recommended due to excessive draft and cool temperatures.
However, when under direct individual control by the occupanta fea-
ture of UFAD and especially TAC systemsthese local thermal con-
ditions may be acceptable and even desirable for short-term occupancy.
There is a price for improving comfort conditions (at high load) as the
increased mixing in the occupied zone diminishes the ventilation per-
formance compared to DV systems. In any case, the control and opti-
CHAPTER 2ROOM AIR DISTRIBUTION
32
Figure 2.6 Underfloor air distribution system with diffuser throw
below the stratification height.
Figure 2.7 Comparison of typical vertical temperature profiles for
underfloor air distribution, displacement ventilation, and
mixing systems.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
33
mization of stratification is crucial to system design and sizing, energy-
efficient operation, and comfort performance of UFAD systems.
Figure 2.7 presents and compares typical vertical temperature pro-
files for the UFAD room air distribution model, displacement ventila-
tion, and conventional overhead mixing systems. The profiles shown
are representative of normal operating conditions and are intended to
demonstrate key differences and similarities between the three air dis-
tribution methods, as discussed below. The UFAD profile is based on
temperatures in a space outside of the direct influence of supply outlets
(outside clear zones) and can vary significantly depending on several
control factors (see Section 2.3.4) [Webster et al. 2002a]. In Figure 2.7,
the nondimensional temperature, or temperature ratio, is plotted vs.
room height, where T is the room air temperature as a function of
height, T
S
is the supply temperature at the floor, and T
E
is the exhaust
temperature at the ceiling. The linear profile for DV systems is based
on the 50% rule of thumb that applies to rooms of conventional
height and normal heating loads [Skistad 1994]. The temperature near
the floor is assumed to be halfway between the supply and exhaust tem-
peratures. The DV profile is assumed to join the UFAD profile at the
stratification height. As long as the throw height of the UFAD diffusers
is below the stratification height, the upper zone is assumed to perform
in a similar manner for both of these systems (for the same room load
to supply volume ratio). The mixing system profile represents a uni-
formly well-mixed room with the temperature everywhere equal to the
exhaust temperature.
2.3.1.1 Lower (Mixed) Zone. The lower mixed zone is directly
adjacent to the floor and varies in depth according to the vertical pro-
jection of the (floor-based) supply outlets employed. The air within this
layer is relatively well mixed due to the influence of high-velocity jets
in the vicinity of the supply air outlets. The upper boundary of the lower
zone coincides with the elevation at which the supply air reaches a ter-
minal velocity of around 50 fpm (0.25 m/s). For TAC system applica-
tions having diffusers with horizontal projections in some cases, the top
of this zone will be similarly defined as the height above which the sup-
ply outlets have negligible influence on room air movement. The
greater mixing in this zone increases the temperature ratio near the
floor to about 0.7 and reduces the gradient in comparison to DV sys-
tems. The lower mixed zone will always exist, although its height may
vary greatly depending on the vertical projection of the supply outlet(s)
and the ratio of the space heat load to the supply airflow to the space.
2.3.1.2 Middle (Stratified) Zone. The middle stratified zone is
a transition region between the lower and upper zones of the room. The
CHAPTER 2ROOM AIR DISTRIBUTION
34
air movement in this zone is entirely buoyant, driven by the rising ther-
mal plumes around convective space heat sources. The formation of
these thermal plumes is uninhibited in this region, as air movement is
not affected by supply air jets. The vertical temperature gradient in this
zone tends to be greatest, approaching that for DV systems. The middle
stratified zone only exists when the throw height of the supply outlets
is below the stratification height, or upper boundary of the room,
whichever is lower.
2.3.1.3 Upper (Mixed) Zone. The upper mixed zone is com-
posed of warm (contaminated) air deposited by the rising heat plumes
within the space. Although its average air velocities are generally quite
low, air within this zone is relatively well mixed as a result of the
momentum of thermal plumes penetrating its lower boundary. This
zone is analogous to the upper zone found in spaces served by DV sys-
tems (compare Figures 2.2 and 2.6). Its bottom boundary, the stratifi-
cation height, is primarily a function of the ratio of the space heat load
to the supply airflow rate. As discussed below, if jets from the supply
outlets penetrate into this zone, its depth (or even existence) may be
affected, although if properly controlled this may be a secondary effect
(Figure 2.8).
In cases where the supply airflow rate is equal to or greater than the
volume of the heat plumes generated within the space, the upper mixed
zone will not form and the space may be modeled as a two-zone model,
consisting only of the lower mixed and middle stratified zones.
Figure 2.8 Underfloor air distribution system with diffuser throw
above the stratification height.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
35
2.3.2 Temperature Near the Floor
As shown in Figure 2.7, the greater mixing provided by turbulent
supply outlets used in UFAD systems increases the temperature near
the floor compared to DV systems (for the same supply air temperature
and volume). This effect is shown more clearly in Figure 2.9, which
plots the nondimensional temperature near the floor as a function of
overall room airflow rate, where Tf is the temperature near the floor, Ts
is the supply temperature at the floor, and Te is the exhaust temperature
at the ceiling. The measurement heights for Tf are in the range of 3-4
in. (0.1 m). Experimental data for both swirl and variable-area floor dif-
fusers are taken from Webster et al. [2002a]. The curve for DV systems
is based on a large number of measurements in different rooms [Mundt
1990].
The results for UFAD systems show that the nondimensional tem-
perature near the floor remains close to a constant level of 0.7 over a
fairly wide range of airflow rates. For DV systems with minimal mixing
by the supply diffusers, however, the nondimensional temperature near
the floor gets relatively cooler (closer to the supply air temperature) as
room airflow rate increases. This helps to explain the potential advan-
Figure 2.9 Nondimensional temperature near the floor vs. room
airflow rate. Experimental UFAD data taken from Web-
ster et al. [2002a], DV results from Mundt [1990]. Tf =
temperature near the floor; Ts = supply air temperature;
Te = exhaust air temperature.
CHAPTER 2ROOM AIR DISTRIBUTION
36
tage that UFAD systems have over DV systems when trying to maintain
comfort at higher heat loads. For the same room airflow rate, DV sys-
tems will need to use a higher supply air temperature than UFAD sys-
tems to avoid overly cool temperatures near the floor. Assuming all
conditions are the same (heat load, supply airflow, and temperature),
DV systems will produce higher stratification in the occupied zone
compared to UFAD systems. The only way for DV systems to avoid
excessive stratification at high heat loads is to increase the room airflow
rate, a subject discussed by Yuan et al. (1999). While suggesting that
cooling loads as high as 40 Btu/h-ft
2
(120 W/m
2
) can be handled by DV
systems, Yuan et al. also state that this requires sufficient space for large
supply diffusers (often impractical in office configurations), and that
the energy consumption will increase significantly.
2.3.3 Stratification Height
In the same manner as for DV systems, the stratification height
plays an important role in determining thermal, ventilation, and energy
performance. Convective heat sources occurring at or above this height
will rise up and exit the space without mixing into the lower zone,
enabling lower airflow rates to be used for design load calculations
compared to overhead mixing systems. Despite the existence of supply
diffusers blowing higher velocity air into the occupied zone (primarily
vertically for floor diffusers and horizontally for desk and partition dif-
fusers), the stratification height is predominantly determined by the
overall room air supply volume relative to the strength of heat sources
in the space, and not (within limits) by the vertical throw of the diffusers
[Nielsen 1996]. If the vertical throw is equal to or less than the strati-
fication height (Figure 2.6), the only airflow crossing it will be due to
buoyancy effects, similar to DV systems. In the limit as throw and the
amount of mixing are reduced, UFAD systems tend to approach the
operation of DV systems. If the diffuser throw is close to the stratifi-
cation height or already exceeds it, the cooler supply air will penetrate
into the warmer upper layer before dropping back down into the lower
region and bringing warm air down with it (Figure 2.8). Although still
a subject of ongoing research, recent results indicate that as long as the
diffuser throw does not penetrate too far into the upper zone (up to 7 ft
[2.1 m] in a 10-ft [3-m] high room), relatively similar comfort condi-
tions will be produced in the occupied zone in comparison to diffusers
with lower throws [Webster et al. 2002a].
The amount of air brought down influences the temperatures in the
lower region and can also increase the stratification height, but this is
a secondary effect. Higher throws that penetrate above the stratification
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
37
height will result in slightly warmer temperatures and less gradient in
the lower region, all other conditions being constant.
Ongoing research will investigate the effects of diffuser throw on
thermal performance in greater detail [Lin and Linden 2002]. In the
limit when a very strong supply air jet penetrates far into the upper
zone, it is possible to disrupt the stably stratified airflow pattern in the
space. For example, previous laboratory experiments [Bauman et al.
1991a; Fisk et al. 1991] demonstrated that when a fan-driven floor sup-
ply module was operated at higher air supply volumes, the cool supply
jets were able to reach the ceiling, thereby minimizing stratification and
producing close to uniform ventilation conditions. This operating strat-
egy of providing a well-mixed space would reduce or eliminate the
potential improvements in energy and ventilation performance
described above. To avoid eliminating a stably stratified space with
UFAD systems, maximum vertical throws of diffusers should be lim-
ited to no closer than 2-3 ft (0.5-1.0 m) from the ceiling. To achieve
optimal performance, it is recommended that diffuser throw heights be
closer to the head height of occupants in the space.
2.3.4 Controlling Stratification
Recent laboratory experiments have investigated the thermal strat-
ification performance of UFAD systems using floor diffusers [Webster
et al. 2002a, 2002b]. Figure 2.10 shows the impact of variations in total
room airflow on stratification for swirl diffusers operating in a simu-
lated interior space with total heat input of 18 Btu/h-ft
2
(56 W/m
2
) and
a supply air temperature of 64F (18C). The figure illustrates how
stratification increases when room airflow is reduced for constant heat
input. The figure also demonstrates how a control strategy might be
approached to optimize stratification performance. At the highest flow
rate of 1 cfm/ft
2
(5 L/s/m
2
), the temperature profile exhibits only a
small amount of stratification with a head-foot temperature difference
of 1.3F (0.7C). This would represent a case where the space is being
over-aired. On the other hand, at the lowest flow rate of 0.3 cfm/ft
2
(1.5 L/s/m
2
), the head-foot temperature difference has increased to
6.8F (3.8C), exceeding the limit of 5F (3C) specified in ASHRAE
Standard 55 [ASHRAE 1992]. This temperature profile demonstrates
the sensitivity to changes in airflow rate, although it is highly unlikely
that a system with cooling loads of this magnitude would be operated
at such a low airflow rate. To improve energy performance (reduce air-
flow) while maintaining thermal comfort (avoiding excessive stratifi-
cation), the middle profile at a flow rate of 0.6 cfm/ft
2
(3 L/s/m
2
) may
be a reasonable target, as it has a head-foot temperature difference of
CHAPTER 2ROOM AIR DISTRIBUTION
38
Figure 2.10 Effect of room airflow variation at constant heat input,
swirl diffusers, interior zone.
Figure 2.11 Effect of supply air temperature variation at constant
heat input, interior zone.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
39
3.2F (1.8C). The difference between the middle and first profiles also
demonstrates that despite a 40% reduction in airflow rate, the temper-
ature in the space only increases by about 1F (0.5C) up to a height of
nearly 4 ft (1.2 m).
Figure 2.11 shows test results from Webster et al. [2002b] where
supply air temperature (SAT) was varied over the range of 60-67F (16-
19C) for constant heat input (19 Btu/h-ft
2
[59 W/m
2
]) and room air-
flow rate (0.5 cfm/ft
2
[2.7 L/s/m
2
]) for a simulated interior space. As
shown, the temperatures of the profiles increase or decrease with the
change in supply air temperature but retain approximately the same
shape. Resetting SAT may be advisable in combination with adjust-
ments in total room airflow to achieve optimal comfort conditions
throughout the occupied zone.
41
Chapter 3
Thermal Comfort
and Indoor Air Quality
Thermal comfort and indoor air quality are two of the leading fac-
tors in determining the success of a buildings HVAC system perfor-
mance. As described in Chapter 2, the traditional design solution in the
vast majority of commercial buildings has been to use an overhead air
distribution system that attempts to maintain close to uniform temper-
atures and ventilation air throughout the conditioned space. In this
arrangement, supply diffusers are positioned at regular intervals on the
ceiling, far from the individual occupants, and, particularly in open
plan offices, each control zone will contain several diffusers and a sig-
nificant number of occupants. This control strategy provides little
opportunity to satisfy different thermal preferences among the building
occupants (Figure 3.1) or to provide preferential ventilation in the
occupied zone. In contrast, underfloor air distribution (UFAD) systems
deliver conditioned air directly into the occupied zone of the building
close to the occupant. UFAD and, in particular, TAC systems provide
an opportunity for individuals to have some amount of control over
their local environment (Figure 3.2).
This section focuses on TAC systems, due to their strong potential
for improved thermal comfort and ventilation performance over other
system configurations. UFAD systems with floor diffusers will provide
most of the same benefits, although generally at a lower level than TAC
systems. Thermal comfort research and standards are discussed and
recent ventilation research is also briefly reviewed. Test results are pre-
sented that define the occupant cooling performance of three TAC dif-
fusers (two desk-based and one floor-based). The potential benefits and
implications of personal comfort control and improved indoor air qual-
ity, including increased worker productivity, are discussed.
CHAPTER 3THERMAL COMFORT AND INDOOR AIR QUALITY
42
Figure 3.1 Conventional overhead air distribution system.
Figure 3.2 Underfloor air distribution system.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
43
3.1 THERMAL COMFORT STANDARDS
Current comfort standards, see ASHRAE Standard 55-1992
[ASHRAE 1992] and ISO Standard 7730 [ISO 1994], specify a com-
fort zone on the psychrometric chart, representing the optimal range
and combinations of thermal factors (air temperature, radiant temper-
ature, air velocity, humidity) and personal factors (clothing and activity
level) with which at least 80% of the building occupants are expected
to express satisfaction. These standards are based on a large number of
laboratory studies in which subjects (primarily university students)
were asked to evaluate their comfort in steady-state environments over
which they had little or no control. The standards were developed for
mechanically conditioned buildings typically having overhead air dis-
tribution systems designed to maintain uniform temperature and ven-
tilation conditions throughout the occupied space.
Given the high value placed on the quality of indoor environments,
it is rather astonishing that a buildings HVAC system can be consid-
ered in compliance with thermal comfort standards and yet provide a
thermal environment with which up to 20% of the building population
will be dissatisfied. This is, however, exactly the case in the conven-
tional one-size-fits-all approach to environmental control in build-
ings. The primary scientific justification for this seemingly low level of
occupant satisfaction is clearly revealed in the large body of thermal
comfort research on human subjects in a laboratory setting. These tests,
which form the basis for the ASHRAE Standard 55 comfort zone, dem-
onstrate that on average at least 10% of a large population of subjects
will express dissatisfaction with their thermal environment, even when
exposed to the same uniform thermal environment considered accept-
able by the majority of the population. In practice, the standard uses a
20% dissatisfaction rating by adding an additional safety factor of 10%
dissatisfaction that might arise from locally occurring non-uniform
thermal conditions in the space (e.g., stratification, draft, radiant asym-
metry). Furthermore, there is an ongoing debate about the degree of rel-
evance of laboratory-based research for occupants in real buildings,
where the range of individual thermal preferences will likely be even
greater (see discussion below). The bottom line is that a conventionally
designed HVAC system using overhead air distribution may result in a
surprisingly large number of occupants who are not satisfied with the
thermal environment.
Air velocity is one of the six main factors affecting human thermal
comfort. Because of its important influence on skin temperature, skin
wettedness, convective and evaporative heat loss, and thermal sensa-
CHAPTER 3THERMAL COMFORT AND INDOOR AIR QUALITY
44
tion, it has always been incorporated into thermal comfort standards on
a not to exceed basis. In ASHRAE Standard 55, there are two rec-
ommendations for allowable air velocities in terms of (1) minimizing
draft risk and (2) providing desirable occupant cooling [Fountain and
Arens 1993]. The elimination of draft is addressed by placing rather
stringent limits on the allowable mean air speed as a function of air tem-
perature and turbulence intensity (defined as the standard deviation of
fluctuating velocities divided by their mean for the measuring period).
As an example, the draft risk data (representing 15% dissatisfaction
curves) for a turbulence intensity of 40% (typical of indoor office envi-
ronments with overhead mixing systems) would restrict the mean air
speed to 24 fpm (0.12 m/s) at 68F (20C) and 40 fpm (0.2 m/s) at
78.8F (26C). Although still under debate, the draft risk velocity limits
in Standard 55 appear to be most suitable for eliminating undesirable
air movement under cooler (heating mode) environmental conditions,
a more frequent situation in European climates.
In warmer climates, such as those frequently found in the U.S., air
motion is considered as highly desirable for both comfort (cool breeze
for relief) and air quality (preventing stagnant air). ASHRAE Standard
55 allows local air velocities to be higher than the low values specified
for draft avoidance if the affected occupant has individual control over
these velocities. By allowing personal control of the local thermal envi-
ronment, TAC systems satisfy the requirements for higher allowable air
velocities contained in Standard 55 and have the potential to satisfy all
occupants.
3.2 PERSONAL CONTROL
One of the greatest potential advantages of TAC systems over con-
ventional overhead systems is in the area of occupant thermal comfort,
as individual preferences can be accommodated. In every work envi-
ronment, there are significant variations in individual comfort prefer-
ences due to differences in clothing, activity level (metabolic rate),
body weight and size, and individual preferences. In terms of clothing
variations, if a person reduced their level of clothing from a business
suit (0.9 clo) to slacks and a short-sleeved shirt (0.5 clo), the room tem-
perature could be increased by approximately 4F (2C) and still main-
tain equivalent comfort. As an example of the variations in activity
level that commonly occur, a person walking around continuously in an
office (1.7 met) will experience an effective temperature of the envi-
ronment that is approximately 3F to 5F (2C to 3C) warmer than that
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
45
for a person sitting quietly at a desk (1.0 met), depending on clothing
level.
Among the floor or furniture-mounted diffusers that are commer-
cially available, active (fan-powered) diffusers are the most effective at
providing a wide range of control, particularly jet diffusers that deliver
air with a directional component (compared to swirl diffusers). Recent
laboratory tests have investigated the occupant cooling capacity of sev-
eral desk-based and floor-based fan-powered jet supply outlets [Tsu-
zuki et al. 1999; Bauman et al. 1999b; Bauman et al. 2000b]. Results
are shown for three fan-powered TAC diffusers, pictured in Figure 3.3:
(1) two desktop diffusers, (2) underdesk diffuser, mounted under the
desk surface in the kneespace, at the front edge of the desk [Levy 2002],
and (3) floor jet diffuser, featuring four grilles mounted in one raised
floor panel.
Test results are presented in Figures 3.43.6 in terms of prediction
models for whole-body sensible cooling rates (EHT) as a function of
maximum air velocity near the person and room-supply temperature
difference. The results shown in all cases are for a fixed supply air
Figure 3.3 Test configuration for manikin experiments of local cool-
ing from TAC diffusers (D = desktop, U = underdesk, F
= floor); perspective view.
CHAPTER 3THERMAL COMFORT AND INDOOR AIR QUALITY
46
direction toward the person seated at the desk. Note that occupants can
typically adjust the cooling rate from TAC diffusers such as these by
changing both the airflow rate and supply air direction. All three mod-
els provide good fits to the test data with R
2
in the range of 0.85-0.88.
EHT, or the change in equivalent homogeneous temperature [Wyon
1989], represents the amount of whole-body cooling provided by a dif-
fuser, compared to still-air conditions at the same average room tem-
perature. By presenting results in terms of the air velocity measured
where the diffuser air jet hits the person, the results can also be applied
to supply outlets that deliver air from generally the same direction
(desktop, underdesk, or floor). The results indicate that for the range of
test conditions investigated, these outlets can provide personal cooling
control of equivalent whole-body temperature over a sizable range: up
to 13F (7C) of sensible cooling for desktop-mounted outlets, up to
7F (4C) of sensible cooling for underdesk outlets, and up to 9F (5C)
of sensible cooling for floor-based outlets. This amount of control is
Figure 3.4 Sensible whole-body cooling rates, EHT (F), for two
desktop jet diffusers blowing air toward a person seated
in front of desk. Results applicable to average room tem-
peratures of 72F to 79F (22C to 26C), room-supply
temperature differences of 0F to 13F (0C to 7C), and
supply velocities of 55 to 370 fpm (0.28 to 1.89 m/s).
Velocity measured in front of chest of test manikin.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
47
clearly more than enough to allow individual thermal preferences to be
accommodated.
The results presented in Figures 3.43.6 are examples of how cool-
ing performance changes as a function of velocity, temperature, and
diffuser configuration. Please refer to manufacturers for product-spe-
cific performance data.
In addition to sensible cooling, evaporative cooling rates caused by
air motion over a person with wet skin can be significant. For a person
having a typical skin wettedness of 0.20, evaporative heat loss can more
than double the sensible whole-body cooling rates shown in Figures
3.43.6.
Swirl diffusers have not been tested under these same test condi-
tions, but they will not provide as much direct occupant cooling as the
jet-type diffusers described above will. Swirl diffusers are designed to
provide rapid mixing with the room air and thus minimize any high-
velocity air movement, except within a small imaginary cylinder
(approximately 3 ft [1 m] in diameter) directly above the floor diffuser.
Figure 3.5 Sensible whole-body cooling rates, EHT (F), for
underdesk jet diffuser blowing air toward a person
seated in front of desk. Results applicable to average
room temperatures of 79F to 82F (26C to 28C), room-
supply temperature differences of 0F to 13F (0C to
7C), and supply velocities of 60 to 570 fpm (0.31 to 2.90
m/s). Velocity measured 1 ft (0.3 m) in front of diffuser.
CHAPTER 3THERMAL COMFORT AND INDOOR AIR QUALITY
48
Unless an occupant chooses to move within this cylinder, often referred
to as the clear zone, room air velocities will be less than 50 fpm (0.25
m/s).
As further support for the benefits of providing personal control,
recent field research has found that building occupants who have no
individual control capabilities are twice as sensitive to changes in the
temperature of their environment compared to occupants who do have
individual thermal control [Bauman et al. 1998; de Dear and Brager
1998]. What this indicates is that people who know they have control
are more accepting of and in fact prefer a wider range of temperatures,
making it easier to satisfy their comfort preferences. Research in this
area has led to a proposal for an adaptive model of thermal comfort
(based on field observations in naturally ventilated buildings) that will
be added to the newly revised Standard 55 when it is released to aug-
ment the laboratory-based predictive models currently in widespread
use [de Dear and Brager 1998; Brager and de Dear 2000].
Figure 3.6 Sensible whole-body cooling rates, EHT (F), for fan-
powered floor jet diffuser blowing air toward a person
seated approximately 1 m (3 ft) to the side. Results appli-
cable to average room temperatures of 72F to 79F
(22C to 26C), room-supply temperature differences of
0F to 13F (0C to 7C), and supply velocities of 50 to 240
fpm (0.25 to 1.21 m/s). Velocity measured near arm of
test manikin on side toward diffuser.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
49
Recently, laboratory studies have investigated the human response
to personalized ventilation and individual control, as provided by desk-
mounted TAC diffusers [Kaczmarczyk et al. 2002; Zeng et al. 2002].
The promising performance benefits demonstrated by these studies
provide good reasons for further research to more accurately quantify
the impact of providing personal control in TAC systems.
3.3 THERMAL STRATIFICATION
Thermal stratification results in the air temperature at head level
being warmer than at ankle level. ASHRAE Standard 55 specifies a
maximum allowable vertical air temperature difference of 5F (3C)
between heights of 67 in. (1.7 m) and 4 in. (0.1 m) [ASHRAE 1992].
However, as discussed by Wyon [1994a], the research upon which this
recommendation is based was carried out in a test chamber in which
each subject was given individual control of the average space temper-
ature (thermal gradient was maintained constant). The implication is
that if people do not have individual control, they may report local ther-
mal discomfort at a higher rate than expected, even when exposed to a
stratified environment within Standard 55 specified limits, a finding
observed by Wyon and Sandberg [1990] for a displacement ventilation
system. UFAD and TAC systems that provide personal control, how-
ever, can be expected to achieve the same low proportion of dissatisfied
(5%) as in the original thermal gradient experiments.
3.4 VENTILATION PERFORMANCE
Research to date has shown that UFAD and TAC systems using
floor diffusers can provide modest increases in ventilation performance
compared to overhead mixing systems [Fisk et al. 1991; Yokoyama and
Inoue 1991, 1994; Faulkner et al. 1995; Tanabe and Kimura 1996].
Oguro et al. (1995) describe a field study in which the performance of
an underfloor air-conditioning system on one floor was compared to
the performance of a ceiling-based air-conditioning system on another
floor of the same building. In this field study, airborne particle concen-
trations were significantly lower for the underfloor air conditioning
system. Laboratory experiments with desktop-based diffusers have
shown that the ventilation efficiency can be improved significantly in
comparison to mixing-type air distribution at the workers breathing
level in the occupied zone when the percent of outside air is high and
when supply air is directed towards the work location at a low velocity
to reduce mixing [Faulkner et al. 1993, 1999]. Faulkner et al. [2002]
found that the air change effectiveness at breathing level produced by
CHAPTER 3THERMAL COMFORT AND INDOOR AIR QUALITY
50
an underdesk diffuser supplying 100% outside air ranged from 1.4 to
2.7. Recently, Melikov et al. (2002) have conducted an extensive series
of experiments using a breathing manikin to investigate personalized
ventilation for five different desk-mounted supply outlets. They report
ventilation effectiveness values of 1.3 to 2.4. These values are higher
than reported for commercially available task ventilation or displace-
ment ventilation systems.
Even if it is difficult to measure large improvements in ventilation
performance for UFAD systems using rapidly mixing floor diffusers,
it is generally accepted that by delivering fresh supply air near the occu-
pants and giving them some amount of control, the occupants will per-
ceive an improvement in indoor air quality (Figure 3.7).
3.5 PRODUCTIVITY
Research evidence suggests that occupant satisfaction and produc-
tivity can be increased by giving individuals greater control over their
local environment. In one of the first widely publicized productivity
studies of TAC systems, Kroner et al. (1992) analyzed routinely col-
lected worker performance data for an insurance company both before
and after moving from an older conventional office building into a new
Figure 3.7 Local air motion improves the perceived air quality.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
51
headquarters building having underfloor air distribution, with each
workstation equipped with the desktop diffuser and personal control
system described earlier in this section. They concluded that this desk-
top TAC system was responsible for a 2.8% increase in worker produc-
tivity.
In a review and analysis of previous research, Wyon (1996) esti-
mates that even under the conditions of thermal neutrality, the provi-
sion of individual control of local cooling and heating equivalent to
5F (3C) can improve group work performance by 2.7% for think-
ing tasks, 7% for typing tasks, 3.4% for skilled manual tasks, and 8.6%
for the speed of individual finger movements. This is because the aver-
age neutral temperature cannot satisfy all occupants, whose individual
thermally neutral points vary substantially. If the room temperature is
raised above thermal neutrality, Wyon estimates the performance
improvement to be significantly higher. Another more recent review of
relevant research has concluded that improvements in productivity in
the range of 0.5% to 5% may be possible when the thermal and lighting
indoor environmental quality is enhanced [Fisk 2000].
In a recently completed intervention study, researchers investigated
the relationship between ventilation rates and work performance in a
call center operated by a health maintenance organization (HMO)
[Federspiel et al. 2002; Fisk et al. 2002]. The call center was housed in
an open plan office building served by a conventional overhead air dis-
tribution system. The study is significant in that the productivity data
used in the analysis were obtained from the automated call distribution
system operated by the HMO. The agents at this call center perform
knowledge-based work by receiving inbound calls from clients and
responding by providing medical advice. The handling of each call
involved two tasks: talk and wrap-up. Among the results from this
study, agents were found to be 16% slower at wrap-up when the mea-
sured room temperature was greater than 77.8F (25.4C). The provi-
sion of local cooling under individual control by TAC systems would
be expected to reduce this observed negative impact of elevated room
temperatures.
53
Chapter 4
Underfloor
Air Supply Plenums
The use of an underfloor plenum to deliver conditioned air directly
into the occupied zone of the building is one of the key features that dis-
tinguish underfloor air distribution (UFAD) systems from conventional
ducted overhead air distribution systems. In the design of underfloor air
supply plenums, the primary objective is to ensure that supply air at the
required quantity and conditions (temperature and humidity), and con-
taining at least the minimum amount of ventilation air, is delivered
wherever it is needed on the floor plate of the building. This process dif-
fers from fully ducted designs because as the air passes through the ple-
num, it can come in direct contact with thermally massive materials
(concrete slab and floor panels) that will transfer heat to or from the
supply air, depending on the temperature difference and flow rate. In
some configurations, the amount of air reaching the desired locations
may be influenced by plenum inlet conditions, plenum height, obstruc-
tions within the plenum, and leakage from the plenum. These and other
design and performance considerations for underfloor plenums are dis-
cussed below.
4.1 DESCRIPTION
An underfloor plenum is the open service distribution space
between a structural concrete slab and the underside of a raised, or
access, floor system (Figure 4.1a). As shown in the photo in Figure
4.1b, the raised floor platform is made up of 2 ft 2 ft (0.6 m 0.6 m)
steel panels filled with concrete-like material (other compositions and
finishes are available). The floor panels are attached and supported at
each corner with a screw into the head of an adjustable pedestal that is
glued to the concrete slab. Although not shown in Figure 4.1, horizontal
stringers between pedestals and sometimes additional diagonal seismic
CHAPTER 4UNDERFLOOR AIR SUPPLY PLENUMS
54
bracing may be added for plenums of greater height (usually above 18
in. [0.45 m]).
Underfloor plenums have been used for years as an access route for
power, voice, and data cabling. In this arrangement, the cables are
installed using modular connections to outlet boxes located in floor
panels or system furniture. By providing easy access to make changes
to the modular cabling system (by temporarily removing floor panels)
and by enabling floor outlets to be located anywhere on the floor plate
(by relocating, removing, or adding panels), cabling services can be
Figure 4.1a Schematic diagram of raised (access) floor system.
Figure 4.1b Typical installation of a raised floor system on a concrete
slab, forming an underfloor plenum.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
55
reconfigured at great savings. When underfloor air distribution is added
to an underfloor cable management system, creating a truly integrated
service plenum, the same flexibility afforded the cabling system is now
available to the HVAC system. Although raised floor plenum heights
can be as low as 5 in. (127 mm) for modular cabling systems alone,
when combined with UFAD systems, typical plenum heights are 12-18
in. (0.3-0.45 m). Figure 4.2 shows a typical installation in an open plan
office with some of the floor panels removed to reveal the underfloor
plenum. As shown, carpet tiles are the most common finished floor
covering in office environments. Chapter 5 further discusses raised
floor and carpet tile products.
When designing an underfloor air supply plenum, there are three
basic approaches to distributing air through it:
1. Pressurized plenum with a central air handler delivering air
through the plenum and into the space.
2. Zero-pressure, or neutral, plenum with air delivered into the con-
ditioned space through local fan-powered (active) supply outlets
in combination with the central air handler.
3. In some cases, ducted air supply through the plenum to terminal
devices and supply outlets.
The designs that are installed often end up as hybrid solutions,
including some combination of the above configurations. This guide
Figure 4.2 Installation of raised floor system in open plan office.
CHAPTER 4UNDERFLOOR AIR SUPPLY PLENUMS
56
will focus on the first two approaches, as guidelines for fully ducted air
distribution systems are well established.
4.1.1 Pressurized Plenum
In pressurized plenums, the central air-handling unit (AHU) is con-
trolled to maintain a small, but positive pressure in the underfloor ple-
num relative to the conditioned space. Typical plenum pressures fall in
the range of 0.05 - 0.1 in. H
2
O (12.5 - 25 Pa). To date, pressurized ple-
nums have been the most commonly installed UFAD configuration. In
most practical situations, pressurized plenums can maintain a very con-
stant plenum pressure across a single control zone [Bauman et al.
1999a]. This allows any passive diffuser of the same size and control
setting (typical damper opening) located in the zone to deliver the same
amount of air to the space. However, airflow performance can be
impacted by uncontrolled air leakage and when floor panels are
removed for access to the underfloor plenum. See Sections 4.2 and 4.3
for further discussion.
When the supply air flows freely through the underfloor plenum,
heat exchange with the structural mass (concrete slab and raised floor
panels) may influence supply temperature variations as a function of
distance traveled through the plenum, as well as other thermal perfor-
mance issues. These are discussed in Section 4.4.
4.1.2 Zero-Pressure Plenum
In zero-pressure plenums, the central AHU delivers conditioned air
to the underfloor plenum in much the same manner as with pressurized
plenums, but in this case, the plenum is maintained at very nearly the
same pressure as the conditioned space. Local fan-powered (active)
supply outlets are required to supply the air into the occupied zone of
the space. To date, several zero-pressure plenum designs have been
installed, but they have not enjoyed the same amount of market pene-
tration as pressurized systems.
In terms of airflow performance, fan-powered outlets provide
improved control of the supply airflow rate compared to passive dif-
fusers. Active diffusers are well-suited for task/ambient conditioning
(TAC) system applications in which occupant control is a key design
objective. The removal of floor panels in zero-pressure plenums will
not impact airflow performance. Similarly, zero-pressure plenums pose
no risk of uncontrolled air leakage to the conditioned space, adjacent
zones, or outside.
The advantages of no leakage and improved local airflow control
must be traded off against several factors. Fan-powered supply outlets
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
57
may have a cost premium compared to passive diffusers used in pres-
surized plenum designs. In terms of energy use, although central fan
energy consumption will be reduced compared to that for a pressurized
plenum, this savings will be offset by the energy consumed by the large
number of small local fans. However, if a pressurized plenum leaks at
a high rate, this can also lead to excessive fan energy use. Another con-
sideration with local fan-driven units is the possibility of increased
noise levels, although underfloor systems are generally rated as being
quieter than conventional overhead systems.
Zero-pressure plenums share many of the same thermal perfor-
mance issues as pressurized plenums. See Section 4.4 for further dis-
cussion.
4.2 AIRFLOW PERFORMANCE IN PRESSURIZED PLENUMS
A series of experiments [Bauman et al. 1999a] were conducted in
a full-scale (3,200 ft
2
[300 m
2
]) pressurized underfloor plenum test
facility to assist in the development of design guidelines for acceptable
airflow performance, plenum size, plenum inlets, and the effects of
obstructions (i.e., cables, ductwork, equipment) within the floor cavity.
Results of these tests are presented in the subsequent sections.
4.2.1 Dimensional Constraints of the Plenum
One of the objectives of the aforementioned study was to identify
the minimum plenum height at which acceptable air distribution
throughout the plenum could be expected. Tests (see Figures 4.3 and
4.4) performed on plenums varying from 3 in. (75 mm) to 8 in. (205
mm) in height indicate that good distribution within the plenum can be
achieved with plenum heights as low as 4 in. (100 mm). However, low-
height plenums (approaching 4 in. [100 mm] deep or lower) should be
limited to applications where space airflow requirements do not exceed
1 cfm/ft
2
(5.1 L/(sm
2
)), as outlet distribution variances in excess of
10% were experienced. In the figures, airflow data are presented in
terms of delivered airflow ratio vs. distance from the plenum (fan)
inlet, which was located at one end of the plenum. The delivered airflow
ratio is defined as the measured airflow normalized by the amount of
airflow that would be delivered if it were uniformly distributed across
the plenum. In other words, a perfectly uniform distribution of air deliv-
ery through all floor outlets would yield a delivered airflow ratio of
100% at all distances from the inlet.
CHAPTER 4UNDERFLOOR AIR SUPPLY PLENUMS
58
Figure 4.3 Distribution of delivered airflow for 8-inch (205-mm)
plenum.
Figure 4.4 Distribution of delivered airflow for 4-inch (100-mm)
plenum.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
59
The maximum footprint of the plenum can be determined in rela-
tion to the feasible number (and size) of inlet locations. Plenum inlet
sizes and locations are discussed in the following sections.
4.2.2 Plenum Inlets
The maximum practical distance between the point where condi-
tioned air is injected into the open underfloor plenum and its point of
discharge into the space is generally determined by:
1. The degree of thermal decay experienced by the air as it moves to
the supply outlet.
2. The residence time of the conditioned air within the open floor
cavity.
While resident within the underfloor plenum, the conditioned air is
subject to heat transfer from the building slab, as well as the room (by
means of the raised floor panels). This thermal transfer rate, discussed
in greater detail in Section 4.4, generally limits the distance through
which the conditioned air may travel according to its maximum allow-
able temperature rise. Although additional research is needed in this
area, designers familiar with underfloor system design typically
employ as a guideline a 0.05-0.15F temperature gain per linear foot of
travel (0.1-0.3C/m), resulting in a maximum practical distance of 50-
60 ft (15-18 m) between the plenum inlet and point of discharge into the
space.
4.2.3 Horizontal Ducting within the Plenum
Horizontal ductwork and air highways (discussed in greater detail
in Section 4.4.2) may be used to bridge the distance between the point
of injection into the plenum and the farthest supply outlet. If employed,
the velocities in these conduits should be limited to a maximum of
1,200-1,500 fpm (6-7.5 m/s). Outlets can be located along the length of
the duct (or air highway) to optimally allocate the air within the ple-
num. The discharge velocity through these smaller outlets should, how-
ever, be limited to 800-1,000 fpm (4-5 m/s). The placement of
balancing dampers in these discharge outlets should also be considered
to avoid variances in the plenum distribution.
4.2.4 Obstructions within the Plenum
Tests with obstructions located within the plenum airflow indicated
that acceptable airflow performance (static pressure variations of
10% or less) was experienced as long as a 3-in. (75-mm) clear space
was maintained perpendicular to the airflow through the plenum (see
Figure 4.5).
CHAPTER 4UNDERFLOOR AIR SUPPLY PLENUMS
60
4.3 AIR LEAKAGE
While air leakage is not an issue for zero-pressure plenum designs,
evidence from completed projects using pressurized plenums indicates
that uncontrolled air leakage from the plenum can impair system per-
formance [Daly 2002]. If this leakage occurs across the building enve-
lope it will directly impact energy use. If the leakage occurs within the
building it may or may not impact energy use depending on where the
leakage takes place. In any case, it is highly recommended to minimize
leakage from the plenum and, when it is unavoidable, to account for
the leakage airflow rate in the operation of the system, as discussed
further below.
There are two primary types of uncontrolled air leakage from a
pressurized underfloor plenum: (1) leakage due to poor sealing or con-
struction quality of the plenum and (2) leakage between floor panels.
A third type of leakage occurs when floor panels are removed for access
to the plenum, but this is usually temporary.
4.3.1 Leakage Due to Construction Quality
It is important that proper attention be given to the sealing of edge
details all around the underfloor plenum, including window-wall con-
Figure 4.5 Distribution of delivered airflow for different obstruc-
tions in 8-inch (205-mm) plenum (1.5 cfm/ft
2
[7.6 L/
(sm
2
)]).
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
61
nections to the slab, interior walls, along pipe chases, stair landings,
elevators, and HVAC shaft walls during the construction phase of the
project. Even if this is done, the integrity of a well-sealed underfloor
plenum must be preserved over the lifetime of the building, as subse-
quent work can easily lead to new penetrations. If this is not done care-
fully, these types of leaks will be the most difficult to locate and fix later
in the project. In most cases, designers can expect to encounter leakage
losses of 10% to 30%, depending on quality of construction. See Sec-
tion 8.2 for further discussion of this construction issue.
4.3.2 Leakage Between Floor Panels
Leakage between floor panels, as depicted in Figure 4.6, is a func-
tion of the raised floor panel type and installation, carpet tile installa-
tion, and pressure difference across the plenum. Despite the relatively
low pressures (0.05 - 0.1 in. H
2
O [12.5 - 25 Pa]) used in pressurized ple-
nums, the large floor surface area makes this leakage an important con-
sideration for design and operation.
Table 4.1 lists air leakage data from recent tests conducted on a typ-
ical raised floor installation [Lee and Bauman (In press)]. Results rep-
resent the leakage through gaps between floor panels only, as all other
Table 4.1:
Air Leakage Through Gaps Between
Floor Panels (cfm/ft
2
) [L/(s
.
m
2
)]
Plenum Pressure
(in. H
2
O [Pa])
Carpet Tile Configuration
None Aligned Offset
0.05 [12.5]* 0.68 [3.5] 0.29 [1.5] 0.14 [0.7]
0.1 [25]** 0.96 [4.9] 0.41 [2.1] 0.20 [1.0]
*measured; **estimated
Figure 4.6 Airflow and leakage in a pressurized underfloor air sup-
ply plenum.
CHAPTER 4UNDERFLOOR AIR SUPPLY PLENUMS
62
gaps in the plenum were sealed during the tests. Measured data are
shown for a plenum pressure of 0.05 in. H
2
O (12.5 Pa) and for three dif-
ferent modes of floor covering: none (bare floor panels), aligned carpet
tiles, and offset carpet tiles. No adhesive was used to install the carpet
tiles during these tests so reported leakage values will be slightly con-
servative. As shown in Figure 4.7, aligned carpet tiles occur when the
size and edges of the carpet tile match those of the floor panel (2 ft
2 ft [0.6 m 0.6 m]). Offset carpet tiles occur when the carpet tile is
shifted over so that the edges are not aligned. The floor panels tested
represent a design that is known to have the lowest leakage of most
commercially available models. Experiments have shown that air leak-
age will vary approximately as the square root of plenum pressure
[ASTM 2000]. Based on this relationship, the air leakage values for a
plenum pressure of 0.1 in. H
2
O (25 Pa) can be estimated and are listed
in Table 4.1. Please refer to manufacturers test data for more precise
data on air leakage rates for specific raised floor configurations.
The magnitude of air leakage from a pressurized plenum shown in
Table 4.1 is surprisingly high. The results indicate that the layer of car-
peting plays an important role by significantly reducing air leakage
rates between floor panels. The performance of a UFAD system with
bare floor panels would be severely compromised if no additional
means of sealing between panels were installed. Placing carpet tiles
across the gaps between floor panels (offset mode) reduces the air leak-
age rate by 50% compared to aligned carpet tiles. Even with carpeting
in place, the results suggest that minimizing leakage from other parts
of the underfloor plenum should have a high priority.
Figure 4.7 Two different modes of carpet tile installation on raised
floor panels: aligned (left) and offset (right). White lines
indicate the floor panel edges.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
63
4.4 THERMAL PERFORMANCE
Thermal processes within the underfloor plenum and the surround-
ing thermal mass are known to have an important impact on the effec-
tiveness of the plenum as part of the buildings air distribution system.
These processes include (1) heat transfer between the slab and the ple-
num air, (2) heat transfer between the floor panels and the plenum air,
(3) variations in plenum air temperature with distance traveled through
the plenum, and (4) thermal storage performance of the slab and floor
panels. While the delivery of an adequate amount of air through the ple-
num can be quite reliable, it is more difficult to predict the thermal per-
formance of underfloor plenums. Ongoing research is aimed at
developing a thermal model for underfloor plenums as part of a whole-
building energy simulation code [Bauman et al. 2000a]. Additional
work is needed to develop design tools for practicing engineers.
4.4.1 Thermal Decay
An important design consideration is to limit the amount of varia-
tion in supply air temperature, often referred to as thermal decay, to
acceptable levels for diffusers that are located farther away from the
plenum inlet. Figure 4.8 shows a schematic diagram of the most com-
monly occurring form of thermal decay in underfloor plenums. In cool-
ing operation, cool supply air enters the plenum on the left. As it travels
through the plenum it is warmed by heat transfer from the floor panels
on the top (heat conducted from the room) and from the concrete slab
on the bottom (heat conducted from the return air plenum for the floor
below).
Based on ongoing research [Bauman et al. 2000a], simplified ther-
mal modeling [York International 1999], and the results of field mea-
surements [Fukao et al. 2002], current estimates for the range of
expected temperature increase with distance traveled through the ple-
num (for typical slab temperatures and airflow rates) are approximately
Figure 4.8 Thermal decay in an underfloor air supply plenum.
CHAPTER 4UNDERFLOOR AIR SUPPLY PLENUMS
64
0.05-0.15F/ft (0.1-0.3C/m). Applying this estimate in practice is
complicated by several variables, including the following: (1) the fact
that the air may not travel in a straight line between the plenum inlet and
the diffuser, (2) the number and location of plenum inlets employed, (3)
the temperature difference between the plenum air and the slab and
floor panels, and (4) the existence of return air directly entering the
underfloor plenum. These are discussed briefly below.
The example shown in Figure 4.9 indicates that it is possible to cre-
ate an overall airflow pattern through the plenum zone that increases
the distance and length of time that the air travels through the plenum
before reaching some of the diffusers. Installing plenum inlet vanes to
more uniformly spread the airflow across the full width of the plenum
could be a simple solution if temperature measurements at different dif-
fusers in the zone indicate that this is a problem. Adding additional ple-
num inlets or an air highway (see Section 4.2.3) is another approach for
improving the thermal uniformity of the airflow distribution within the
plenum. However, this must be traded off against the available access
points for plenum inlets and the additional cost of the required duct-
work.
The amount of heat transferred through the floor panels and slab
will have a direct impact on thermal decay in the underfloor plenum.
Figure 4.9 Plan view of plenum airflow patterns: (a) without inlet
vanes, (b) with inlet vanes.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
65
Recent laboratory experiments report heat transfer rates through a typ-
ical raised floor with carpet tiles in the range of 0.6-1.2 W/ft
2
(6.4-13
W/m
2
) [Webster et al. 2002a]. Since room and plenum air temperatures
are controlled, this floor heat transfer will remove heat from the room,
thereby reducing the zone airflow requirements. As the heat is trans-
ferred to the supply air, it will still appear as a load at the system level.
The heat transfer contribution through the concrete slab can be of
similar magnitude to the floor heat transfer rate. Warm return air flow-
ing along the underside of the slab structure on the next floor down will
be the main source of heat driving this heat transfer process. Where heat
loads are high and the room air is allowed to stratify, the resulting ele-
vated return air temperatures will increase the load on the slab above.
On the other hand, on ground floors with slabs-on-grade, single-story
buildings, and lightly loaded buildings, heat transfer through the slab
will be correspondingly reduced.
Conductive heat gain from sunlit facades is another potential con-
tributor to thermal decay. Large amounts of heat collected by the build-
ing skin and transferred to the directly coupled building slab can result
in a significant rise in adjacent plenum air temperatures. In practice,
plenum air temperature decays of as much as 10F (6C) have been
observed in the outer 4 ft (1.2 m) of the plenum near these sunlit walls.
As such, direct routing of plenum supply air through diffusers within
a few feet (less than 1 m) of such facades is discouraged. The employ-
ment of fan-assisted (cooling) terminals discharging into a common
(insulated) duct minimizes this problem by (1) drawing the supply air
from several feet (~2 m) inside the plenum and (2) insulating the dis-
charged air from the floor slab and warm faade. Chapter 9 discusses
the advantages and liabilities of various control strategies for perimeter
spaces.
In some plenum configurations, return air may directly enter the
plenum without being ducted back to the AHU where it can be easily
mixed with the primary supply air. The most typical pathway for this
to happen is in zero-pressure plenums with active diffusers, where
room air may enter through passive equalizing floor grilles, when air-
flow demand at the fan-powered outlets exceeds the primary air quan-
tity entering the plenum, creating a slightly negative-pressure plenum.
In pressurized plenums, it is unlikely that room air will reenter the ple-
num through passive diffusers. If this occurs, the major concern is the
impact of the warm return air on supply temperatures. The net effect
may be unexpectedly high supply air temperatures, giving the impres-
sion that thermal decay is severe, when in fact the source of the tem-
perature rise is the unmixed return air entering the plenum.
CHAPTER 4UNDERFLOOR AIR SUPPLY PLENUMS
66
It is difficult to predict the impact that the various factors described
above have on thermal decay in an underfloor plenum. To date, most
designers with experience in UFAD design are using a rule-of-thumb
limiting the maximum distance from the plenum inlet to the farthest
diffuser to about 50-60 ft (15-18 m) in pressurized plenum designs. In
zero-pressure plenum configurations with return air recirculating
directly into the underfloor plenum, a previously used solution is to
deliver the primary air at more frequently spaced intervals throughout
the plenum. Shute (1995) recommends distribution intervals for this
situation of no greater than 30 ft (9 m).
Nighttime precooling of the thermal mass in the plenum can also
partially offset some of the thermal decay by allowing higher plenum
inlet temperatures to be used. As illustrated in Figure 4.10, when the
exposed thermal mass in the plenum has been cooled to a lower tem-
perature, the magnitude of the thermal decay will be reduced (compare
to Figure 4.8). If properly implemented, this thermal storage control
strategy allows the building to act as a fly wheel during daytime cooling
periods, thereby saving energy and reducing energy costs (Section 7.5).
4.4.2 Ductwork and Air Highways
The use of ductwork and air highways to distribute supply air
through parts of the underfloor plenum is another common method for
controlling temperature variations in the plenum. In fact, early UFAD
designs tended to be very conservative and resembled ducted overhead
air distribution systems placed under the floor. These early designs fea-
tured a considerable amount of ductwork delivering air to temperature
control zones that were defined by underfloor partitions. This approach
made the thermal performance of the UFAD system easier to predict
but cluttered up the plenum with ducts, partitions, and other HVAC
equipment. In recent years, it has become recognized increasingly that
Figure 4.10 Reduced thermal decay in an underfloor air supply ple-
num with pre-cooled thermal mass.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
67
it is desirable to the extent possible to minimize the amount of installed
ducts, air highways, and other HVAC-related components. The result-
ing open plenum can more easily serve as a highly flexible and acces-
sible service plenum.
While ductwork can isolate airflow from the thermal decay
described in Section 4.4.1, air highways can still be influenced by heat
transfer from both the slab and floor panels. Although no research to
date has addressed this issue, designers should be aware that thermal
decay may occur in long runs of air highways.
69
Chapter 5
Underfloor
Air Distribution (UFAD)
Equipment
Due to growing interest in UFAD systems in the U.S., several new
products have been introduced in recent years and this trend is expected
to continue. In this section we briefly describe some of the products
currently available, including both UFAD and TAC diffusers, under-
floor fan terminals, and raised floor systems. Not all products are
included as this is intended to provide an overview of the range and
types of equipment obtainable. Product listings are provided for infor-
mation only and do not constitute a recommendation or endorsement.
Another recent review of UFAD and TAC equipment is provided by
Loftness et al. [2002]. It is recommended that you contact the equip-
ment manufacturers directly to obtain the most up-to-date product
information.
5.1 SUPPLY UNITS AND OUTLETS
5.1.1 Types of UFAD and TAC Diffusers
Figure 5.1 is a schematic diagram showing five possible locations
and types of supply diffusers that can be located within a typical work-
station. All diffusers that are positioned near an occupants work loca-
tion should be controllable to some extent by the occupant. The most
common occupant controls are velocity (volume) and/or supply air
direction. Floor diffusers are installed as part of a standard UFAD sys-
tem. As shown in Figure 5.1, diffuser #1 is a round swirl floor diffuser
and #2 is a rectangular jet floor diffuser. Other floor diffusers are avail-
able as discussed further below. The most effective TAC diffusers are
local fan-driven, jet-type diffusers that are located on the furniture in
close proximity to the occupant. This configuration makes their con-
trols easily accessible, allowing occupants to optimize their personal
CHAPTER 5UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION (UFAD) EQUIPMENT
70
comfort by controlling the quantity of air supply being directed toward
them. In Figure 5.1, diffuser #3 is a desktop diffuser, #4 is an underdesk
diffuser, and #5 is a partition-based diffuser. Refer to Chapter 3 for per-
formance data on effective cooling rates for three different TAC dif-
fusers.
In all areas outside of workstations, the same floor diffusers shown
in Figure 5.1 can also be used. Most manufacturers provide both pas-
sive and active diffusers. Passive diffusers are defined as air supply out-
lets that rely on a pressurized underfloor plenum to deliver air from the
plenum through the diffuser into the conditioned space of the building.
Active diffusers are defined as air supply outlets that rely on a local fan
to deliver air from either a zero-pressure or pressurized plenum through
the diffuser into the conditioned space of the building. Diffusers can be
configured as constant air volume (CAV) or variable air volume (VAV).
Although most diffusers have some form of manual control of supply
volume (by controlling a damper), only those that provide automatic
adjustment of the supply volume can be classified as true VAV diffus-
ers. Additionally, in perimeter zone applications where automatic con-
trol is needed to respond to rapidly changing loads, linear floor grilles
Figure 5.1 UFAD and TAC diffuser locations in a workstation.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
71
are frequently installed, typically ducted from a fan-coil unit to provide
cooling and heating when needed.
Several ceiling-mounted supply outlets that allow some amount of
personal adjustment have also been developed, but these are not
included in this design guide. Please refer to Loftness et al. [2002] for
information on these products.
5.1.2 Passive Swirl Floor Diffusers
Figures 5.25.4 show four different passive swirl diffuser designs
that are commonly installed in UFAD systems. More models are avail-
able for this than for any other type of diffuser. The swirling airflow pat-
tern of air discharged from this round floor diffuser provides rapid
mixing of supply air with the room air up to the height of the vertical
throw of the diffuser. Although the discharge pattern for most swirl dif-
fusers is not adjustable, nearby occupants have limited control of the
amount of air being delivered by rotating the face of the diffuser (Fig-
ures 5.2 and 5.3) or by opening the diffuser and adjusting a volume con-
trol damper (Figure 5.4). Different models and sizes are available, but
the maximum flow rate for passive swirl diffusers operated at typical
underfloor plenum pressures is 90-100 cfm (40-47 L/s) at 0.08 in. H
2
O
(20 Pa). Most models are equipped with a catch basin for dirt and liquid
spills. Figure 5.4 shows the various components that are assembled to
install a complete floor diffuser. Grilles are supported in the predrilled
Figure 5.2 Cutaway photo of passive swirl floor diffuser [Trox 2002].
CHAPTER 5UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION (UFAD) EQUIPMENT
72
Figure 5.3 Passive swirl floor diffuser [Nailor 2002].
Figure 5.4 Passive swirl floor diffusers [Price 2002].
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
73
hole through the carpet tile and raised floor panel with a trim ring on
top and a retainer, or mounting ring, below. Two grille designs are
shown in Figure 5.4. The one on the right with radial slots produces the
standard swirl discharge pattern. The two on the left feature a combi-
nation grille with part (radial slots) producing the same swirl discharge
pattern and part (circular slots) producing more of an inclined jet dis-
charge pattern. The directional characteristics of the jet discharge allow
an occupant to control the amount of air blowing toward them (for
increased cooling) or away from them by rotating the grille.
5.1.3 Passive VAV Floor Diffusers
Figure 5.5 shows a variable-area diffuser that is designed for VAV
operation. It uses an automatic or manual internal damper to adjust the
active area of the diffuser in order to maintain a nearly constant dis-
charge velocity, even at reduced supply air volumes. At maximum flow,
the diffuser is designed to deliver 150 cfm (71 L/s) at a plenum pressure
of 0.05 in. H
2
O (12.5 Pa). This passive diffuser does not require a local
fan, but 24-volt power is needed for the thermostatically controlled
damper motor. Air is supplied through a slotted square floor grill in a
jet-type airflow pattern. Occupants can adjust the direction of the sup-
ply jets by changing the orientation of the grille. Supply volume is con-
trolled by a thermostat on a zone basis or as adjusted by an individual
user.
Figures 5.6 and 5.7 present two different approaches for converting
swirl diffusers to VAV diffusers. Both require control power to auto-
Figure 5.5 Passive variable-area (VAV) diffuser [York 2002].
CHAPTER 5UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION (UFAD) EQUIPMENT
74
Figure 5.6 Passive VAV swirl diffuser [Trox 2002].
Figure 5.7 VAV floor boot for swirl diffuser [Price 2002].
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
75
matically adjust a volume control damper. In Figure 5.6, which is the
same grille as Figure 5.2, the circular damper is raised and lowered to
change the height of the opening for air to enter from a pressurized ple-
num. Figure 5.7 is a floor boot that is designed to be mounted on the
underside of a raised floor panel containing a round swirl diffuser. The
round control damper located in the inlet can be rotated over a range of
90 to adjust the inlet opening from fully open to fully closed. Supply
air either enters the boot directly from a pressurized plenum or can be
ducted from a fan-powered terminal unit.
5.1.4 Linear Floor Grilles
Linear grilles have been used for many years, particularly in com-
puter room applications. Air is supplied in a jet-type planar sheet, mak-
ing them well matched for placement in perimeter zones adjacent to
exterior windows (Figure 5.8). Although linear grilles may be config-
ured as passive diffusers in a pressurized plenum, care should be exer-
cised to prevent heat transfer from the building faade to the slab when
Figure 5.8 Placement of linear grilles along exterior glazing in
perimeter zones.
CHAPTER 5UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION (UFAD) EQUIPMENT
76
Figure 5.9 Photo and schematic of linear floor grille with VAV cool-
ing and CAV heating (Price 2002).
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
77
using them in perimeter zones (see Section 4.4.1). Instead, perimeter
zone applications should involve ducting the grilles from fan coil units
or some other means of minimizing heat gain from the slab and warm
faade. Linear grilles typically have multi-blade dampers that are not
designed for frequent adjustment by individuals and are therefore not
used in densely occupied office space where some amount of occupant
control is desirable.
Figure 5.9 shows a recently introduced linear floor grille for perim-
eter zone applications. The heating inlet (shown) is designed for ducted
fan-powered supply air when there is a call for heating. The inlet also
features a backdraft damper to prevent air supply when the fan is turned
off. On the opposite side of the unit (not shown) is the cooling inlet.
Cooling air supply is delivered directly from a pressurized plenum and
is modulated in VAV mode by a control damper. The control damper
closes down to the minimum opening on a call for heating. Control
power is required for the VAV operation of the unit. The unit delivers
up to 200 cfm (94 L/s) at 0.1 in. H
2
O (25 Pa).
5.1.5 Active TAC Diffusers
Figure 5.10 shows a TAC supply unit that features two desktop air
supply pedestals, which are fully adjustable for airflow direction, as
well as air supply volume by adjusting a control panel on the desk. Air
Figure 5.10 Desktop TAC supply unit [Johnson Controls 2002].
CHAPTER 5UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION (UFAD) EQUIPMENT
78
is supplied from a mixing box that is hung in the back or corner of the
knee space of the desk and connected to the two desktop supply noz-
zles. The mixing box uses a small variable-speed fan to pull air from the
underfloor plenum and deliver a free-jet-type airflow from the nozzles.
The unit can supply a total of 12-150 cfm (6-70 L/s) through its two
nozzles. See Chapter 3 for occupant cooling performance data for this
diffuser. Recirculated air is also drawn from the knee space through a
mechanical prefilter. Both primary supply air and recirculated room air
are drawn through an electrostatic air filter. As shown in Figure 5.11,
the unit has a desktop control panel containing adjustable sliders that
allow the occupant to control the speed of the air emerging from the
nozzles, its temperature, the temperature of a 200-watt radiant heating
panel located in the knee space, the dimming of the occupants task
light, and a white noise generator for acoustical masking. The control
panel also contains an infrared occupancy sensor that shuts the unit off
when the workstation has been unoccupied for a few minutes.
Figure 5.12 shows an active (fan-driven) underdesk TAC diffuser
consisting of a panel attached to the underside of a conventional desk,
connected by a flexible duct to a portable filter and fan unit placed next
to the desk (shown) or in the underfloor plenum. Airflow from two
adjustable outlets at the front edge of the desk is used to condition the
Figure 5.11 The occupant can control local environmental condi-
tions using a desktop control panel [Johnson Controls
2002].
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
79
occupants local workspace. One of the supply outlets delivers supply
air directly upward into the occupants breathing zone. The other deliv-
ers air toward the occupants body for cooling purposes. The maximum
airflow from the unit is only 15 cfm (7 L/s) because the air is concen-
trated directly on the occupant. Heating of the lower part of the body
can be provided by a controllable radiant heating panel under the desk.
Figure 5.13 shows a schematic diagram of another active (fan-
driven) underdesk TAC diffuser consisting of five 4-way adjustable
grilles, similar to a car's dashboard. A fan unit located in the underfloor
plenum delivers air through a flexible duct to two outlet locations: (1)
the supply grilles (jet-type) mounted just below and even with the front
edge of the desk, and (2) in this example, a supply grille located on the
backside of the desk. This configuration permits a true task/ambient
control strategy to be employed. The total air supply delivered to both
supply outlets is thermostatically controlled to maintain overall com-
fort conditions in the ambient space. The amount of air supplied
through the underdesk diffuser can be adjusted by occupants using a
damper lever just behind the supply grilles to satisfy their personal
comfort preferences. The underdesk diffuser is nominally designed to
deliver 0-70 cfm (0-33 L/s) of supply air. See Chapter 3 for occupant
cooling performance data for this diffuser. Other configurations using
this same TAC control strategy are available (Figure 5.14).
Figure 5.12 Underdesk TAC supply unit [Johnson Controls 2002].
CHAPTER 5UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION (UFAD) EQUIPMENT
80
Figure 5.13 Underdesk TAC supply unit [Argon Corporation 2002].
Figure 5.14 Alternative TAC supply outlet configurations [Argon Cor-
poration 2002].
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
81
Figure 5.15 shows an active (fan-driven) floor supply unit, consist-
ing of two swirl diffusers mounted in a single raised floor panel. A wall-
mounted thermostat varies the speed of the fan (as shown mounted
directly below the floor diffusers) to control the air supply to the space.
These units can deliver up to 350 cfm (170 L/s) of supply air at maxi-
mum fan speed. They can also be configured with directional (jet type)
diffusers that can be adjusted by the occupant to direct the airflow dis-
charge.
Partition-based diffusers, mounted in the partitions immediately
adjacent to a desk, are another TAC diffuser design. A fan unit in the
underfloor plenum delivers air through passageways that are integrated
into the partition design to controllable supply grilles (jet-type) that
may be located just above desk level or just below the top of the panel.
Although uncommon in the U.S., some of these systems have been
installed in Japan [Matsunawa et al. 1995].
5.2 UNDERFLOOR FAN TERMINALS
Underfloor fan terminal units are typically used in perimeter zones
and other special zones where large and rapid changes in cooling and/
Figure 5.15 Active TAC floor supply unit [Trox 2002].
CHAPTER 5UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION (UFAD) EQUIPMENT
82
or heating load requirements occur. Figure 5.16 shows an example of
one such terminal unit featuring two variable-speed fans (for added
capacity) and a hot water reheat coil. Despite the larger profile of this
unit, Figure 5.17 demonstrates how its installation, as well as a standard
single-fan terminal unit, is compatible with the 2 ft 2 ft (0.6 m 0.6
m) grid of raised floor support pedestals in an underfloor plenum. The
height of fan terminals must also be considered to allow adequate clear-
ance below the raised floor panels. Units with heights as low as 8 in.
(200 mm), requiring only a 10-in. (250 mm) high floor, are available.
In addition, fan terminal units can be configured to serve a range of
operational needs, including constant- and variable-speed fans with
heating and cooling coils.
Figure 5.18 shows a schematic diagram of one possible fan-pow-
ered terminal configuration serving a perimeter zone. The terminal unit
with a hot-water or electric heating coil is used in combination with two
or more variable-area VAV diffusers (Figure 5.5) to provide both cool-
ing and heating operation. During cooling mode, the fan terminal is
turned off, and all diffusers operate in normal VAV mode to deliver the
desired amount of cool plenum air (full cooling is shown in Figure 5.18
(a)). During heating operation, the fan terminal is activated, pulling
return air from the room through one diffuser and supplying air to the
room through the other diffuser. Figure 5.18 (b) shows the diffuser
dampers adjusted in full heating position, although an adjustable stop
for the damper can be installed to provide minimum ventilation air from
Figure 5.16 Underfloor fan terminal with two variable-speed fans
and hot water reheat [Greenheck 2002].
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
83
Figure 5.17 Placement of single- and double-fan units between
raised floor support pedestals [Greenheck 2002].
(a) Full cooling mode
Figure 5.18 Perimeter solution using heating fan terminal with VAV
diffusers [York 2002].
(b) Full heating mode
CHAPTER 5UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION (UFAD) EQUIPMENT
84
the plenum. Under thermostatic control, room air provides the first
stage of heating followed by activation and modulation of the heating
coil. This perimeter solution requires no underfloor partitions.
Figure 5.19 shows a photo of another possible underfloor fan ter-
minal installation serving a perimeter zone. The fan operates only dur-
ing periods of reheat and peak cooling demand. Under normal cooling
operation, the VAV damper (on the left side of the unit) controls the
amount of cooling from a pressurized plenum. The first stage of reheat
occurs by closing the VAV damper so that the main source of air is recir-
culated room air entering through the floor grille at the lower left in the
photo. Ventilation air is assumed to enter the space from adjacent over-
ventilated spaces. Under peak heating conditions, an integral (hot water
or electric) coil is energized. The terminal discharge at the top of the
photo enters a small partitioned plenum zone containing typically 4-6
swirl diffusers (linear grilles could also be used). It is recommended
that you contact the equipment manufacturers directly to obtain the
most up-to-date information on fan terminal units and applications.
Also, see Chapter 9 for further discussion of perimeter and special zone
solutions.
Figure 5.19 Perimeter zone installation of fan terminal unit with VAV
cooling and reheat [Trox 2002].
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
85
5.3 RAISED FLOOR SYSTEMS
A raised, or access, floor system is an elevated platform constructed
on another floor, typically a concrete slab in a building. In North Amer-
ica, the raised floor platform is made up of 2 ft 2 ft (0.6 m 0.6 m)
floor panels that are supported at their corners by adjustable pedestals.
The installation of a raised floor system creates a convenient and acces-
sible space that can be used to cost-effectively distribute many building
services, including power, voice, data cabling, air-conditioning, fire
detection and suppression, and security. Figure 5.20 shows an example
drawing of cable and air distribution components in an underfloor ple-
num.
The majority of raised floor systems currently on the market are
engineered to meet the concentrated, uniform and rolling loads expe-
rienced in a typical workplace environment. For example, galvanized
steel-encased lightweight concrete panels combine the tensile strength
of steel with the compressive strength of concrete to offer a high degree
of rigidity. The lower self weight of both lightweight concrete or steel-
encased high-density particle board panels reduces deflection even fur-
ther and makes removing the panels an easier process than that for
equivalent standard concrete-filled panels.
High quality manufacturing processes enable panels made to very
low dimensional tolerances such as 0.15 in. (3.8 mm). Together with
a uniform panel thickness, good edge sealing, and flush-mounted floor
diffusers it is possible to achieve a homogeneous floor surface over
which loads can be distributed.
Currently the vast majority of UFAD installations in office envi-
ronments use carpet tiles as the finish floor covering. The quality of
manufactured carpet tile products has now advanced to the point where
attractive and professional installations are possible, suitable for cor-
porate offices. Raised floor systems typically include floor panels and
Figure 5.20 Installation of a raised floor system creates an integrated
service plenum.
CHAPTER 5UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION (UFAD) EQUIPMENT
86
carpet tiles from different manufacturers, often in different modular
sizes. Floor panels are 24 in. (600 mm) square, while carpet tiles are
commonly 18 in. (450 mm), although they are also available in 24 and
36 in. (600 and 900 mm). This brings up two important considerations:
(1) the method of securing tiles to panels and (2) the issue of alignment
versus overlap of the floor panel and carpet tile edges.
The majority of carpet tile installations are affixed to floor panels
with adhesive (Figure 5.21). It is important to avoid using an excessive
amount of adhesive during this process as the flexibility of easy
removal of carpet tiles and access to floor panels can be compromised.
Too much adhesive also risks bonding adjacent floor panels to each
other and gluing the panel screws into their corner holes, both of which
can complicate the removal of floor panels. Should the initial carpet tile
type need to be replaced, building owners are left with an adhesive res-
idue that must be removed before installation of an alternative tile sys-
tem.
The above issues have the potential to diminish some of the cost
savings that raised floor systems offer, as they impede flexibility and
ease of installation and maintenance. As an alternative, some manu-
facturers offer magnetic or dimpled carpet tiles that are indexed to
Figure 5.21 Adhesive is spread on the floor panels and allowed to
set up prior to laying the carpet tiles.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
87
matching holes on top of the underlying floor panels (Figure 5.22).
These carpet tiles also exactly match the floor panel in size, allowing
the greatest flexibility in repositioning service outlets to anywhere on
the floor plate; only one carpet tile must be moved for each floor panel.
By comparison, the more common use of 18-in. (450-mm) carpet tiles
requires a minimum of 4-6 carpet tiles to be removed to access one floor
panel.
Another consideration is the choice of aligning carpet tile edges
with those of the floor panels (matching one 2-ft. [0.6-m] carpet tile
with each floor panel) or offsetting the edges. While the one-to-one
match provides the maximum flexibility as discussed above, offset car-
pet tiles provide an improved seal for air leakage between floor panels
from a pressurized plenum (see Section 4.3.2). In addition, some
installers claim that offset carpet tiles reduce the chance of frayed car-
pet tile edges over time during floor panel removal and replacement.
All of the above trade-offs must be considered when making a final car-
pet tile selection. Loftness et al. [2002] provide further discussion of
these issues. It is recommended that you contact raised floor and carpet
tile manufacturers directly to obtain the most up-to-date information.
Figure 5.22 Non-adhesive carpet tile that is held in place with dim-
ples indexed to matching holes on top of floor panel
[Tate Access Floors 2002a].
89
Chapter 6
Controls, Operation,
and Maintenance
The control and optimization of temperatures in the occupied zone
and the amount of thermal stratification (during cooling operation) is
crucial to system design and sizing, energy-efficient operation, and
comfort performance of UFAD and TAC systems. This section presents
and discusses (1) recommended control strategies for effective system
operation, (2) incorporation of individual control, particularly with
TAC systems, to allow occupants to fine-tune their local environment,
and (3) operations and maintenance (O & M) issues that differ from
issues in conventional system operation. The discussion does not cover
all possible control scenarios but is intended to introduce some of the
key control strategies that have been frequently used in previously com-
pleted projects and explain how they differ from those typically used in
overhead mixing-type systems.
6.1 CONTROL STRATEGIES IN PRESSURIZED PLENUMS
This section presents control strategies that have been developed
and applied in underfloor air distribution (UFAD) installations, the
large majority of which have been pressurized plenum designs.
6.1.1 Supply Air Temperature (SAT)
As described in Chapter 1, since air is supplied directly into the
occupied zone near floor level, minimum supply outlet temperatures
should be maintained in the range of 61-65F (16-18C) to avoid over-
cooling nearby occupants. For TAC supply outlets located closer to the
occupants and used to provide velocity cooling, even warmer minimum
supply air temperatures may be advisable.
CHAPTER 6CONTROLS, OPERATION, AND MAINTENANCE
90
6.1.2 Constant Pressure
A common control method for interior zones maintains constant
static pressure in the underfloor plenum to ensure constant volume air-
flow from each diffuser (similar model and setting). Plenum pressure
is maintained by adjusting fan capacity at the air handler. Occupants
can make minor changes to local comfort conditions by manually
adjusting a diffuser, but such adjustments are viewed as setup adjust-
ments, not operating adjustments. As long as load variations in the zone
due to diversity and other occupancy changes are small, and the net
impact on plenum pressure by occupant diffuser adjustments is mini-
mal, this strategy results in very nearly a constant-air-volume (CAV)
operation and can maintain acceptably comfortable space conditions.
In this configuration, one strategy for controlling supply air tempera-
ture that has been applied successfully in practice is to use measured
return air temperature as a means of maintaining stratification at the
desired level.
However, even with proper design that promotes stratification at
peak conditions, CAV operation can result in a changing environment
in the occupied region as load changes. In CAV spaces, constant supply
air temperature with decreasing load causes the space temperature pro-
file to shift toward cooler temperatures and become less stratified. In
this case, the average occupied zone temperature tends to be a few
degrees cooler than the peak load thermostat temperature. Thus, supply
air temperature (SAT) reset is recommended. However, the system
response time during SAT reset can be significant due to the important
impact of the temperature of the thermally massive concrete slab on
supply air temperatures. CAV systems become progressively more
over-aired as loads decrease from peak conditions, eventually virtually
eliminating stratification. If the system is over-designed in the first
place, stratification is likely never to be experienced in actual opera-
tion, which may explain why many projects in operation today report
lack of stratification.
Many projects use CAV systems for large interior zones where the
perimeter zones are served by supply air passing through the plenum of
the interior zone. If these interior systems were conservatively sized
compared to actual loads and zone airflow is not properly adjusted dur-
ing system balancing, then the zone will be over-aired. As discussed in
Chapter 4, air leakage from pressurized plenums plus the additional
heat loss through the floor surface can provide a substantial portion of
the required cooling under part-load conditions. If part-load conditions
or over-airing in the interior lead to a significant increase in the SAT,
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
91
this may compromise the systems ability to accommodate peak perim-
eter cooling loads, if they occur simultaneously. In CAV systems, inte-
rior zone airflows should be well matched to actual loads; active and
robust control of SAT should be employed without starving the perim-
eter.
6.1.3 Variable Air Volume (VAV)
Perimeter zones typically experience load changes that are greater
in both magnitude and frequency than those encountered in interior
zones. Automatic VAV control is the preferred strategy in perimeter
and special zones (e.g., conference rooms) with these rapidly changing
loads. See Chapter 9 for additional discussion of perimeter and special
zone design solutions. Under VAV control, as load changes, room air-
flow and diffuser flow rate will change. Recent tests indicate that VAV
operation with constant supply temperature results in a characteristic
room air stratification temperature profile that is relatively consistent
for moderate changes in load [Webster et al. 2002a].
As described above, a recent trend in perimeter zone designs in
pressurized plenum installations is to have the supply air pass through
the plenum of the interior zone to serve the perimeter. Some designers
are now more frequently considering VAV control in the interior zone
as an approach to minimize over-airing (overcooling) and to avoid
starving the perimeter zone through SAT reset [Daly 2002].
6.1.4 Controlling Stratification
The objective of controlled stratification is to minimize energy use
(reduce room airflow) while maintaining comfort (acceptable temper-
atures and stratification in the occupied zone). Overall room air strat-
ification is primarily driven by the balance of room airflow rate in
relation to the room cooling load. As discussed in Chapter 2, as room
airflow is reduced for constant heat input, stratification will increase.
On the other hand, if too much air is delivered to the space, stratification
will be reduced, approaching a well-mixed room at the upper limit.
Increasing or decreasing the supply air temperature (for constant load
and room airflow) does not change the fundamental shape of the strat-
ification profile but simply moves it to higher or lower temperatures.
These principles are demonstrated in the example stratification control
sequence shown in Figure 6.1.
Figure 6.1 shows three different vertical temperature profiles (tem-
perature (T) vs. height (H)). The profiles are not based on measured
data but rather are shown for illustration purposes only. The sequence
of moving from Profile #1 to Profile #3 is intended to demonstrate how
CHAPTER 6CONTROLS, OPERATION, AND MAINTENANCE
92
controlling stratification in UFAD systems requires different consid-
erations than for traditional overhead systems. In this example, strati-
fication is controlled by adjusting airflow and SAT to achieve comfort
conditions in the occupied zone for various thermostat settings. The
cooling load is assumed to be constant and at its peak value in all three
cases.
Profile #1 shows a modest amount of stratification (temperature
gradient) characterized by supplying too much air to the room. As indi-
cated, the temperature at the thermostat height (shown to be 60 in. [1.5
m]) is TSTAT1, and the average temperature of the occupied zone
(from 4 to 67 in. [0.1 to 1.7 m]) is T
oz1, avg
. Profile #2 represents an
alternative design load condition where airflow is reduced. To meet the
same thermostat control point (TSTAT1=TSTAT2) with reduced air-
flow, the SAT also must be decreased. However, due to increased strat-
ification, the average temperature of the occupied zone (T
oz2, avg
),
which along with the gradient is representative of overall comfort con-
ditions, has been reduced. If the SAT is increased so that the occupied
zone temperature is equivalent (T
oz3, avg
= T
oz1, avg
) to that of Profile
#1, Profile #3 is produced. This simple example shows how both supply
Figure 6.1 Example sequence for controlling thermal stratification.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
93
volume and SAT can be manipulated to create various occupied zone
comfort conditions for given thermostat settings. The process of mov-
ing from Profile #1 to Profile #3 also demonstrates an approach that
could be followed during commissioning to achieve the desired amount
of stratification under peak load conditions.
More research is needed to more precisely define the relationship
between thermal comfort and stratification in UFAD systems. While
overhead mixing systems routinely use the thermostat temperature, it
is not yet known what the optimal control temperature is for stratified
systems (e.g., average occupied zone temperature, weighted occupied
zone temperature taking into account the increased sensitivity at head/
neck level, etc.). Readers are cautioned to use this example at their own
risk.
ASHRAE Standard 55-92 [ASHRAE 1992] specifies that the
amount of stratification in the occupied zone (temperature difference
between head and ankle heights for a standing person) be limited to 5F
(3C). One of the challenges of maintaining comfort in a stratified envi-
ronment is that the thermostat temperature can no longer be assumed
to represent the average temperature in the occupied zone. This is par-
ticularly true for thermostats located at a height of 5 ft (1.5 m) near the
top of the occupied zone and therefore measuring close to the maxi-
mum occupied zone temperature. Because of this, it may be necessary
to consider increasing the thermostat setpoint by up to 1-2F [0.5-1C]
above the desired occupied zone setting under peak load conditions.
The recently changed building code requiring thermostats to be
installed at a lower 4 ft (1.2 m) height may help alleviate the need to
adjust the setpoint as it will be measuring closer to an average temper-
ature in the occupied zone. In any case, a balance between the amount
of stratification and average, or representative, occupied zone temper-
ature must be achieved within the limitations of room airflow and SAT
available from the system.
6.1.5 Humidity Control
One way to achieve the required higher supply air temperatures
while still maintaining humidity control uses return-air face and
bypass. Cooling coil temperatures are typically in the range of 50-55F
(10-13C) for dehumidification purposes. Only the incoming outside
air and a portion of the return air is dehumidified (minimum amount
needed for humidity control). The remaining return air is bypassed
around the coil, if done at the air handler, and mixed with the cool pri-
mary air to produce supply air of the proper temperature and humidity
before being delivered directly into the underfloor plenum. The face
CHAPTER 6CONTROLS, OPERATION, AND MAINTENANCE
94
and bypass dampers are controlled to achieve the desired supply air
temperature as load changes. To save energy, the coil temperature can
be varied to control humidity so a greater coil leaving temperature can
be used when entering humidity conditions are low. If desired, this con-
figuration also allows a range of coil temperatures to be utilized,
including low-temperature air systems with or without ice storage.
6.2 CONTROL STRATEGIES IN ZERO-PRESSURE PLENUMS
Although active diffusers may be installed in both zero-pressure
and pressurized plenums, this section will focus on control issues asso-
ciated with zero-pressure plenums with diffusers that are more likely to
be adjusted by individual occupants. For additional discussion of task/
ambient conditioning (TAC) system control issues, see Bauman and
Arens [1996].
Control strategies for the building's central mechanical system
should be well coordinated with the local supply outlets. Since most
TAC systems are used for cooling applications, if the general office
space is overcooled by the ambient air distribution system control strat-
egy, the cool air provided by the fan-driven local supply units will be
unwanted by the occupants. By allowing the overall space temperature
to rise (an energy-saving strategy), local cooling can then be used as
needed to satisfy individual comfort preferences.
Supply volume control of the central air handler requires a different
approach with zero-pressure underfloor air distribution systems. Due
to the extremely small or nonexistent pressure differentials between the
supply plenum and the space, traditional pressure-sensing methods do
not provide accurate measurements for control purposes. A CAV-VT
approach has been successfully used, but the chance of over-airing or
resetting SAT too high under part-load conditions must be carefully
guarded against, as described above.
An ingenious VAV control strategy proposed by Shute [1992]
addresses the need to balance the airflow delivered by the central AHU
into the plenum with the airflow leaving the plenum. The approach uses
a temperature sensor in a vertical induction shaft directly connecting
the return air at ceiling level to the underfloor plenum. Under normal
operating conditions with this design, the active floor supply units will
be delivering slightly more air to the space than is provided by the cen-
tral system. So in fact, the plenum will be operated at a slight negative
pressure. In this case, the temperature sensor will measure normal room
return temperatures as the air is drawn down the induction shaft to mix
with incoming primary air. If, however, the temperature in the induc-
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
95
tion shaft decreases rapidly, it indicates that the demand for air supply
through the floor supply units has been reduced (i.e., fan units have
been turned down or off), resulting in the overpressurization of the
underfloor plenum. The central air handler can then be throttled down
until the reversal in flow direction through the induction shaft is elim-
inated. A minimum setpoint at the air handler can be used to ensure that
sufficient airflow is always supplied to the space.
Another task/ambient control strategy described in Section 5.1.5
(Figures 5.13 and 5.14) allows individuals to choose the amount of air
from an underdesk diffuser for personal comfort without influencing
the total amount of air being delivered to the space [Levy 2002]. A fan
unit located in the underfloor plenum delivers air to two outlet loca-
tions, one under the desk for personal control and one farther away for
control of the ambient space. The total air supply delivered to both sup-
ply outlets is thermostatically controlled to maintain overall comfort
conditions in the room. The individual controls simply divert a portion
of this total air quantity to the underdesk diffuser, as desired. A CAV-
VT strategy for controlling the central AHU would be the simplest
approach with this system. Of course, VAV control strategies could also
be applied.
TAC system configurations using fan-powered supply outlets pro-
vide a convenient means of allowing direct feedback from occupant
control actions to improve overall system operation. Advances in direct
digital control systems and monitoring capabilities allow this type of
solution to be implemented. By monitoring fan speed settings, adjust-
ments can be made to the setpoints for primary supply air temperature,
ambient space temperature, and central supply air volume. For exam-
ple, when a large enough percentage of occupants in the same zone of
the building select low fan speeds, indicating that they are too cool, the
primary air supply temperature to that zone could be raised.
6.3 INDIVIDUAL OUTLET CONTROLS
Due to the importance of individual controls, they should be well
designed and convenient to use. While most floor supply units cur-
rently on the market are based on manual control (requiring the user to
bend down to floor level), it may be advisable to incorporate remote
desktop controls to operate the floor units; one such remote-controlled
floor unit is described by Matsunawa et al. [1995]. Local supply outlets
that are located on a desk or nearby partition provide the best config-
uration for ease of use as they replicate the familiar environmental con-
trol system found on the dashboard of a car. It may also be advisable
CHAPTER 6CONTROLS, OPERATION, AND MAINTENANCE
96
to allow switching between local (individual) control and automatic
(thermostatic) control as needed.
While it is well recognized that building occupants prefer individ-
ual control, the extent to which they actually use the local controls, once
made available to them, can be surprising. Several field surveys of
buildings with operational TAC or UFAD systems have found that a rel-
atively small percentage (10-20%) of the occupants make adjustments
to their local controls on a regular basis [Hedge et al. 1992; Bauman et
al. 1993, 1998; Webster et al. 2002c]. There are a number of possible
reasons for this seemingly limited use of the occupant controls. (1) If
the ambient space is well conditioned, there may be little need for indi-
viduals to fine-tune their local environment. (2) The design of the con-
trols themselves may not be optimized, making their use difficult and
inconvenient. (3) Only an occasional adjustment may be customary
because individual preferences are relatively stable. (4) The sense of
control may be more important in creating comfort than the actual envi-
ronmental conditions. (5) The occupants may be unaware that they are
allowed to control the air supply outlet in their vicinity (either due to
lack of interest by the occupant or by intention of the operations per-
sonnel).
It is critical to provide clear operating instructions for the TAC sup-
ply units to the occupants. Most occupants are unaccustomed to the
idea of being able to control their local outlet.
6.4 OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE
As with any new building system, building operators should be
properly trained to allow the operation and control of the UFAD or TAC
system to be optimized. Experience with early projects has demon-
strated that UFAD and TAC systems that are operated using traditional
control strategies based on mixing air distribution system performance
are likely to have deficiencies in energy and operating costs as well as
comfort performance. In recent years, as more projects have come on-
line, operating guidelines such as those described above in Sections 6.1
and 6.2 are being developed that allow a wider range of system benefits
to be realized.
Among the O & M issues that may differ from those encountered
with conventional system design are the following.
6.4.1 Cleaning Considerations in Underfloor Plenums
A common concern among occupants of buildings with UFAD sys-
tems using floor grilles is that dirt and spillage will more easily enter
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
97
the underfloor plenum where it will mix with the air supply stream and
be distributed throughout the occupied space. Experience has shown
that if the plenum area is thoroughly cleaned at the end of construction,
the amount of dust buildup on the slab is not excessive and can be han-
dled through cleaning scheduled as part of normal plenum reconfigu-
ration work. The required frequency of this type of cleaning is
estimated to be two to three years depending on the observed rate of
buildup. Dirt and particulates that do fall into floor diffusers will be col-
lected by the catch basins beneath the diffusers. These basins should be
cleaned as part of the regular maintenance schedule, depending on rate
of build-up.
Two important considerations are that (1) except near the plenum
inlets, air speeds within the underfloor plenum are so low that they do
not entrain any dirt or other contaminants from the plenum surfaces into
the supply air, and (2) if a spill or other accidental contamination, such
as fire, arises that does require cleaning, the accessibility of the under-
floor plenum makes this process far simpler and more effective than in
the case of overhead ductwork.
6.4.2 Reconfiguring Building Services
As discussed in Sections 1.4.1 and 10.3.1, the improved flexibility
of raised floor systems provides significant cost savings associated
with the reconfiguration of building services. One consideration during
the relocation of workstations and furniture in open plan offices is that
floor diffusers will often need to be moved (even though it is easy to do
so) to accommodate the new positions of the furniture. This may actu-
ally add costs compared to overhead HVAC systems, which will typi-
cally not be reconfigured (at a potential cost of reduced system
performance). Building operations staff will also need to maintain an
adequate surplus stock of floor panels and carpet tiles to handle the
required reconfigurations in response to the churn rate of the building
occupants.
6.4.3 Acoustic Performance
Due to the elimination or minimal use of ductwork in underfloor
plenums, the noise generated from the operation of a UFAD system can
be substantially less than that from a conventional ducted overhead sys-
tem. This reduction in commonly found levels of background HVAC
noise may create a situation where active sound masking or other
acoustic design measures may be required, particularly in open plan
offices where lack of sound privacy is a common complaint.
99
Chapter 7
Energy Use
A commonly cited benefit of UFAD systems is that they save
energy when compared to standard overhead (OH) air distribution
systems. At present, this claim is difficult to prove quantitatively
because of the lack of an energy-modeling tool that properly addresses
all of the issues related to energy use with underfloor systems that
would allow direct comparison of two simulated systems.
To help designers understand the energy impacts of UFAD, this sec-
tion explains the variety of factors that affect energy use in a descriptive
manner. Topics include air distribution, economizer operation, cooling
system efficiency, occupant thermal comfort, and pre-cooling strate-
gies.
7.1 AIR DISTRIBUTION ENERGY
As described in Chapter 4, the underfloor plenum is a primary air
distribution route. Because the use of the plenum eliminates the need
for some portion of the ductwork, and because the large size of the ple-
num creates little restriction to the flow of air, the amount of fan pres-
sure required to deliver air in a building using UFAD can be less than
that required in an equivalent OH system.
For example, in an OH VAV-reheat system, a typical central fan
design might provide 3 in. H
2
O (750 Pa) of pressure to move air
through the index run. Typically to 1 in. (125-250 Pa) of this pressure
might be required by the VAV box, reheat coil, and downstream low-
pressure ductwork to the diffuser. Depending on the specific imple-
mentation of an equivalent UFAD system, most of this pressure loss
might be eliminated due to the elimination of ductwork to the zones.
This chapter was contributed by Allan Daly.
CHAPTER 7ENERGY USE
100
This reduction in pressure requirement can result in significant energy
savings for a building because air distribution fans account for a large
percentage of HVAC energy demand.
However, some perimeter system designs (discussed in Chapter 9)
can offset central-fan energy savings. A common approach to UFAD
perimeter system design employs ducted underfloor fan-powered mix-
ing or VAV boxes. These fans can erode energy savings due to the inef-
ficiencies inherent in small fans and motors.
In the example below (Table 7.1), two fan systems are compared
both delivering 20,000 cfm to an example small building. In option 1,
a single central fan is used. The fan is selected as an airfoil fan with a
30-inch wheel. At 3 in. H
2
O (750 Pa) pressure, this fan uses 13.4 bhp
and runs at a combined fan and motor efficiency of 70%.
In option 2, the same central fan is run at 2.5 in. H
2
O (623 Pa) of
pressure, and four small perimeter fans are designed to provide 0.25 in.
H
2
O (62 Pa) of pressure and deliver 3,000 cfm (1,420 L/s) each, sim-
ulating two-pipe underfloor VAV fan coils serving 60% of the total air-
flow of the central fan (the remaining air is assumed to serve interior
zones). Typical of manufacturer offerings available now, these under-
floor VAV fan coils are listed with electronically commutated motor
(ECM) efficiencies. The small fans require 0.3 bhp each. When com-
paring central fan power, Option 2 exhibits a 13% savings over Option
1. When comparing total fan power, Option 2 shows a 3% savings. The
reduced pressure requirements inherent in the underfloor system make
up for the decreased efficiency of the smaller fans in this example.
For the sake of keeping this comparison simple, the same air quan-
tities are used in both Option 1 simulating an overhead supply system
and Option 2 simulating a UFAD system.
This design fan power comparison does not capture the annual
energy performance of the two systems. Because the small fans handle
only the air volumes required by the varying perimeter loads, the
annual energy demand of this option will depend on the degree of load
variation and the part-load operation of both the central and perimeter
fans. A valid comparison of annual energy demand between the two
cases could take the form of an hour-by-hour energy simulation of the
two systems. Such a comparison is beyond this simple analysis, and
while the fan system models exist in computer software programs such
as DOE-2 to analyze this case, the physical performance characteristics
of zones using UFAD do not yet exist and so more detailed analysis is
difficult.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
101
Table 7.1:
Comparison of Fan Power for Overhead (Option 1)
vs. UFAD (Option 2) Systems
Option 1: Central Fan Only
Total Airflow 20,000 cfm
Fan Type Airfoil
Fan Wheel Size 30 in.
Design Static Pressure 3.0 in.
Motor Size 15 hp
Operating Power 13.4 bhp
Fan Efficiency 76%
Motor Efficiency 92.0%
Combined Efficiency 70%
Option 2: Central Fan + 4 Perimeter Fans
Total Airflow 20,000 cfm
Fan Type Airfoil
Fan Wheel Size 30 in.
Design Static Pressure 2.5 in.
Motor Size 15 hp
Operating Power 11.7 bhp
Fan Efficiency 73%
Motor Efficiency 92.0%
Combined Efficiency 67%
Fan Airflow 3,000 cfm
Fan Type Forward Curved
Fan Wheel Size 18 in.
Design Static Pressure 0.25 in.
Motor Size 3 hp
Operating Power 0.3 bhp
Fan Efficiency 50%
Motor Efficiency 75%
Combined Efficiency 38%
Number of Units 4
Total Power 13.0 bhp
Comparison 3%
CHAPTER 7ENERGY USE
102
A recent simplified analysis of central fan energy use explored the
impact of various design assumptions on the supply fan energy con-
sumption for pressurized UFAD systems vs. overhead (OH) systems
[Webster et al. 2000]. The study assumed that the UFAD system con-
figuration allowed the entire supply air volume to be handled by the
central air handler (no active, fan-driven outlets) and assumed a 25%
reduction in fan static pressure compared to the OH system. The aver-
age annual load factor for the combined core and perimeter zones was
assumed to be 65% of design load for both systems. The results showed
that the average annual fan energy savings using a VAV UFAD system
compared to a VAV OH system (both delivering the same amount of air)
was about 40%.
7.2 AIR-SIDE ECONOMIZERS
Because the operating conditions inherent in UFAD systems are
different from OH systems, the circumstances of when and how air-side
economizers can be used change from one system type to the other. The
two main factors that affect the use of economizers are the supply air
temperature (SAT) and the return air temperature (RAT). In general,
both the SAT and RAT are higher for UFAD systems than OH systems,
though the RAT elevation depends on how much stratification is devel-
oped at the zone level.
For the sake of comparison, typical OH and UFAD systems will be
assumed to have operating temperatures described as follows:
Both increased SAT and increased RAT extend economizer opera-
tion. The increased SAT extends 100% free cooling and the increased
RAT extends integrated economizer operation.
Consider the following simple example of a single room with a
cooling load of 22,000 Btu/h (6,450 W) run for each of the three system
variations described in the table above. The room setpoint is 75F
(24C) and exfiltrates 15% of the supply air volume at the room set-
point temperature (i.e., air quantity for building pressurization). In
Table 7.2, each group of three lines represents UFAD with stratifica-
System Type
SAT Room Setpoint RAT
[F] [F] [F]
UFAD w/stratification 65 75 85
UFAD w/o stratification 65 75 75
Overhead (OH) 55 75 75
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
103
Table 7.2:
Comparison of Sensible Cooling Coil Energy Use
for Overhead vs. UFAD Systems
CFM
supply
[ft
3
/min]
Q
room
[Btu/h]
OAT
[F]
SAT
[F]
Q
x
[Btu/h]
RAT
[F]
OA%
[-]
MAT
[F]
Cooling
Coil T
[F]
Cooling
Coil
Sensible
[Btu/h]
1,180 22,000 55 65 1946 85.0 67% 65.0 0 0
2,167 22,000 55 65 3576 75.0 50% 65.0 0 0
1,084 22,000 55 55 3576 75.0 100% 55.0 0 0
1,180 22,000 64 65 1946 85.0 95% 65.0 0 0
2,167 22,000 64 65 3576 75.0 91% 65.0 0 0
1,084 22,000 64 55 3576 75.0 100% 64.0 -9 10, 729
1,180 22,000 66 65 1946 85.0 100% 66.0 -1 1, 298
2,167 22,000 66 65 3576 75.0 100% 66.0 -1 2,384
1,084 22,000 66 55 3576 75.0 100% 66.0 -11 13, 113
1,180 22,000 74 65 1946 85.0 100% 74.0 -9 11,678
2,167 22,000 74 65 3576 75.0 100% 74.0 -9 21,458
1,084 22,000 74 55 3576 75.0 100% 74.0 -19 22,650
1,180 22,000 76 65 1946 85.0 100% 76.0 -11 14,273
2,167 22,000 76 65 3576 75.0 15% 75.2 -10.2 24,200
1,084 22,000 76 55 3576 75.0 15% 75.2 -20.2 24,021
1,180 22,000 84 65 1946 85.0 100% 84.0 -19.0 24,654
2,167 22,000 84 65 3576 75.0 15% 76.4 -11.7 27,061
1,084 22,000 84 55 3576 75.0 15% 76.4 -21.7 25,452
1,180 22,000 86 65 1946 85.0 15% 85.2 -20.2 26,146
2,167 22,000 86 65 3576 75.0 15% 76.7 -11.7 27,776
1,084 22,000 86 55 3576 75.0 15% 76.7 -21.7 25,809
1,180 22,000 90 65 1946 85.0 15% 85.8 -20.8 26,925
2,167 22,000 90 65 3576 75.0 15% 77.3 -12.3 29,207
1,084 22,000 90 55 3576 75.0 15% 77.3 -22.3 26,525
1,180 22,000 96 65 1946 85.0 15% 86.7 -21.7 28,093
2,167 22,000 96 65 3576 75.0 15% 78.2 -21.7 28,093
1,084 22,000 96 55 3576 75.0 15% 78.2 -23.2 27, 598
CHAPTER 7ENERGY USE
104
tion, UFAD without stratification, and an OH system, respectively. Fig-
ure 7.1 presents these same data graphically.
Other assumptions are that the room air supply volume for the
UFAD without stratification is twice the volume as for OH and is
slightly more than OH for UFAD with stratification. The slight varia-
tion in room air-volume requirements results from the assumption that
15% of the supply air exfiltrates at the room setpoint temperature. In the
UFAD case with stratification, this 15% effectively decreases the
room-air delta T and thus requires slightly more airflow to deal with the
load. For the amount of stratification shown, the actual room air-vol-
ume required is not known and has been assumed to be twice the OH
as a simplification. This example also assumes that the climate has low
humidity, so sensible energy is representative of relative energy per-
formance. When an air-side economizer is used in a more humid cli-
mate, enthalpy control is advisable.
CFM
supply
is the supply air volume delivered to the room. Q
room
is
the room cooling load. OAT, SAT, RAT have been defined above. MAT
is the mixed air temperature. Q
x
represents the heat exfiltrated from the
room. OA% indicated the position of the outdoor air damper. Cooling
Coil T indicates the required sensible cooling required, and Cooling
Figure 7.1 Example of sensible cooling energy as a function of out-
side air temperature.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
105
Coil Sensible indicates the net sensible cooling load provided by the
HVAC system.
7.2.1 Extended 100% Free Cooling
One hundred percent free cooling (meaning no cooling coil output
is required to maintain SAT, not 100% outdoor air [OA%] damper posi-
tion) only happens when outdoor air temperature (OAT) is less than or
equal to SAT. In the OH case, the system is on 100% free cooling up
to 55F (13C) OAT, corresponding to the OH SAT. In the UFAD cases,
100% free cooling is extended up the 65F (18C) OAT, corresponding
to the UFAD SAT. Depending on the number of hours in the range of
55-65F (13-18C) OAT in a given climate, this extended 100% free
cooling can represent significant energy savings. In effect, the cooling
compressors simply do not have to run during these extra 100% econ-
omizer hours.
7.2.2 Extended Integrated-Economizer Free Cooling
When the OAT is between a systems SAT and RAT, then the system
can take advantage of some free cooling, but it still needs to engage the
cooling coil. This situation is called integrated economizer operation
because the economizer and cooling coil work together in an integrated
manner to maintain the SAT downstream of the cooling coil.
As can be seen in Figure 7.1, above 55F (13C) and below 75F
(24C) for the OH system, above 65F (18C) and below 75F (24C)
for the UFAD non-stratified system, and above 65F (18C) and below
85F (29C) for the UFAD stratified system is where integrated econ-
omizer operation happens. In the UFAD cases without stratification,
integrated economizer operation is not extended. In the UFAD case
with stratification the integrated economizer operation is extended to
85F (29C).
7.2.3 Climate Factors
In the end, which effect dominates to extend economizer opera-
tionincreased SAT or increased RATdepends on OAT distribution
as well as the non-stratified UFAD RAT and building load dynamics.
Another key factor that depends on climate affecting UFAD system
energy benefits is the extent to which humidity control will drive the
system operation. If humidity control concerns dictate that SAT must
be low enough to dehumidify supply air, then none of the benefits
described here can be captured because the SAT cannot be elevated
unless OA humidity is removed in some other manner (i.e., desiccant
dehumidification).
CHAPTER 7ENERGY USE
106
7.3 COOLING-SYSTEM EFFICIENCY
Cooling system operation at higher temperatures can reduce energy
consumption. If cooling-coil leaving air temperatures can be elevated
in UFAD systems, then the chilled water temperature serving the cool-
ing coil can also be raised. In chilled water systems like this, or in DX
systems delivering warmer off-coil air temperatures, the compressor or
compressors serving the refrigerant loops will see lower lifts and con-
sequently run more efficiently and use less energy.
This effect is completely dependent on the refrigerant entering and
leaving the evaporator coils being warmer, thus reducing the compres-
sor lift; so again, if dehumidification is needed, then this effect cannot
be captured.
7.4 OCCUPANT THERMAL COMFORT
Recent research suggests that keeping occupied zones comfortable
may be in conflict with minimizing energy use (see Section 2.3.4). As
discussed in Chapter 2 on room air distribution, a temperature gradient
forms in the occupied zone of a space that is developing a stratified
room-air profile. This stratification is key to UFAD system dynamics
in that it allows the occupied zone of a room to be comfortable, but the
unoccupied zone at the top of a room reaches temperatures that would
be uncomfortably warm.
Energy-efficient system operation relies on a well-stratified room.
Unless the room-air temperature difference between the SAT and RAT
can be maintained at a high level, more air will be needed to remove the
load in a room, and fan energy will correspondingly increase. For
example, using the temperatures and systems described in Section 7.2
above, in the OH case a 20F (11C) temperature difference was devel-
oped between the SAT and the RAT75F (24C) RAT minus 55F
(13C) SAT. In the UFAD case without stratification, only a 10F (6C)
room temperature difference was developed. In this case twice as much
air is needed to remove the load. In the UFAD case with stratification,
again the system was able to generate and maintain a 20F (11C)
degree room-air temperature difference.
However, as the stratified temperature difference across a room
develops, so also develops a temperature difference from the bottom to
the top of the occupied zone. This occupied zone temperature gradient
can adversely affect occupant comfort. As described in Chapter 3, only
a 5F (3C) variation from ankle to neck is allowed by ASHRAE Stan-
dard 55.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
107
If a strong temperature gradient is needed for energy-efficient sys-
tem operation, but that gradient generates uncomfortable conditions,
then a conflict exists. Surveys and measurements in existing projects
suggest that this effect is happening to some extent, but without good
mathematical models of room-air temperature dynamics, its difficult
to design systems that will find the best balance between comfort (lim-
ited stratification) and energy (increased stratification). The determi-
nation of the design cooling air quantity required to maintain comfort
in UFAD systems requires a different approach from conventional
design methods. In addition to stratification, it can also be affected by
heat loss through the raised floor and, in perimeter zones, strong con-
vective plumes that may develop along the building skin. See Section
12.3.1 for further discussion.
7.5 PRE-COOLING STRATEGIES
Because the slab is typically exposed to the supply-air pathways in
UFAD systems, there exists an opportunity for harnessing the thermal
mass of the slab in thermal storage or pre-cooling applications.
Though this concept is elegant and offers the potential for reduced
energy costs and possibly lower cooling peak demands, it can be dif-
ficult to implement and proper control requires knowledge of future
weather conditions that are obviously difficult to predict. The benefits
of this control strategy are furthermore hard to measure. To date, only
a few earlier studies of completed projects present anecdotal evidence
of the potential energy benefits of this approach [Spoormaker 1990;
Shute 1995].
The concept is that, either using free-cooling or compressor cooling
at off-peak energy rates, the UFAD system would circulate cool air
throughout the building, effectively removing any stored heat from the
building and slab and pre-cooling it for the next day. If the next day
requires cooling from the time the system is enabled through the peak
part of the day, less cooling would need to be generated because the
cool storage in the building mass could be used to deal with some of the
load.
One downfall of this system is that if for some reason there is a
period of warmup required in the morning following the nighttime pre-
cooling, then the building mass would work against the heating system
and more heating energy would be required. This is why many heating
designs isolate the warm air supply (e.g., by ducting from a fan coil
unit) from the building thermal mass.
CHAPTER 7ENERGY USE
108
The potential benefits from this approach are real, but a proven
implementation has yet to be studied. More research is needed to
address thermal storage performance and support the development of
design and implementation guidance.
109
Chapter 8
Design, Construction,
and Commissioning
As underfloor air distribution (UFAD) systems often represent a
new approach for many contractors, it is important that members of the
design and construction team recognize the differences from the con-
ventional methods to which they are accustomed. In most projects, the
implications of the raised floor system and the creation of an underfloor
air supply plenum will represent the most significant change. This sec-
tion presents a number of planning, coordination, and installation
issues that should be considered from the beginning of the design
phase, through construction, and into occupancy, including the com-
missioning process.
8.1 DESIGN PHASE
The raised access floor platform, which represents a good example
of integrated building design, serves multiple functions. It helps create
the air supply plenum, conceals and protects cabling and other services,
and provides a stable and level walking surface. The physical dimen-
sions of the raised floor system should be considered early in the design
process. These include:
The existence of a 2 ft 2 ft (0.6 m 0.6 m) grid of pedestals (floor
panel supports) across all areas of the underfloor plenum (grid
dimensions may differ in raised floor installations outside the U.S.).
The finished floor height of the raised floor panels above the concrete
slab (typically 12-18 in. [0.3-0.45 m] from top of slab to top of floor
panel).
All members of the design team must understand the relationship
between these dimensions of the underfloor plenum, the size of all
CHAPTER 8DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, AND COMMISSIONING
110
building components that will be placed within the plenum, the place-
ment and requirements for other building services not located within
the underfloor plenum (e.g., elevators, access ramps, HVAC shafts), the
operating characteristics of the UFAD system, and the requirements for
their particular building-related concern. Engaging contractors with
some degree of experience in installing and commissioning UFAD sys-
tems will be conducive to a smooth installation.
It is important that the dimensions of all underfloor plenum com-
ponents be carefully specified and documented on the approved con-
struction drawings. The maximum allowable width of any fan terminal
unit, freestanding ductwork, or other HVAC component when placed
between standard pedestals is 22 in. (560 mm) (earthquake design is
less). Although it is possible to use a specially fabricated raised floor
support structure to span across larger underfloor components or duct-
work, this is rarely done in practice and is expensive. All items placed
in the underfloor plenum must fit in the clear space beneath the raised
floor panels. In new construction, the specified height of the underfloor
plenum is often determined by the largest HVAC component that must
be contained within the plenum. Keep in mind that floor sag and
unevenness of slabs will require some tolerance from precise theoret-
ical dimensions. In addition to the overall size of components, posi-
tioning of these within the plenum is important to provide access from
above in relation to furniture layouts, as well as to avoid obstructing the
route of various other services and equipment within the plenum.
The successful employment of UFAD systems requires coordina-
tion between all building trades throughout the design and construction
process. Successful projects have often allocated some amount of bud-
get to cover the additional effort required for effective coordination.
The amount required can be less than $0.10/ft
2
($1.10/m
2
) but has
proved to be very useful [Vranicar 2002].
Local building and fire code issues should be considered early in the
design process. For further discussion, see Chapter 11.
8.2 CONSTRUCTION
Although the number of projects using underfloor air distribution
has increased noticeably in the past five years, experience with the
installation of this technology is still rather limited within the U.S.
building industry. As guidelines have not been available, designers and
installers working on these projects have largely developed their own
methods and approaches. It is generally accepted that an underfloor air
supply plenum can provide benefits during the construction process.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
111
For example, working at floor level to install building services within
the underfloor plenum can speed up construction in comparison to the
conventional approach of installing most services in the ceiling ple-
num. On the other hand, there may be some penalty in terms of
increased cost or time involved for first-time contractors. As experi-
ence is gained, however, it can be expected that new standardized
design tools and construction methods will be developed that will pro-
vide important cost savings. The following discussion is based on
information obtained from designers and installers who have previ-
ously worked on UFAD projects.
Prior to installation of the raised floor system, the slab must be
cleaned and sealed to reduce dust and, if desired, to inhibit bacterial
growth. When a well-planned construction sequence is employed, the
finished raised floor surface is not installed until after most of the dirt-
generating construction work has been completed. Careful coordina-
tion of these activities can help reduce the number of times the slab will
need to be cleaned before installation of the raised floor. Any dirt/dust
or materials that enter the underfloor plenum prior to occupancy must
be removed (e.g., by vacuum cleaner or wet cloth) and the floor cleaned
one final time before the internal fit out is completed.
The main structural slab, the traditional working platform, will not
be available continuously during construction, and therefore a well-
coordinated construction sequence is necessary (see Shute [1995] and
McCarry [1995] for earlier discussions of this process). Recent UFAD
installations have reevaluated the typical schedule for work involving
the fabrication of the underfloor plenum. The following sequence is
recommended, as it limits the disruption of having to work on the slab
with pedestals in place, prior to the placement of the floor panels. Con-
tractors with experience may modify this sequence or develop their
own preferred methods.
1. Thoroughly clean slab surface.
2. Apply any coating or sealant to the slab.
3. Mark the grid of raised floor pedestal locations on the slab sur-
face, but do not install them. This requires careful preplanning
and layout of the raised floor grid in relation to all specified
underfloor services. By not installing the floor pedestals until
after all major building services in the underfloor plenum have
been installed on the clean slab surface, contractors can work
faster and safer.
4. Install perimeter and other required fan terminal units, other
HVAC components, and all required underfloor air distribution
ductwork, except air highways and underfloor partitions.
CHAPTER 8DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, AND COMMISSIONING
112
5. Install underfloor wiring for power/voice/data. Cable runs should
be terminated with a coil of extra lengths sufficient to reach all
possible locations (floor boxes or partition connections) served by
that run.
6. Install all required piping (e.g., hot water supply and return serv-
ing perimeter heating coils). Access may be provided along
perimeter columns.
7. Verify that all vertical surfaces that are to be located adjacent to
the access floor cavity have been adequately sealed according to
the floor plenum leakage specification (to be provided to all
involved contractors). This includes all junctions of these surfaces
with the building slab, penetrations of drywall and other vertical
partitions, and any other boundaries with the building slab.
8. Install pedestals and solid raised floor panels.
9. Install air highways and any underfloor partitioning at desired
locations. Pay close attention to the sealing of air highways since
they are operated at higher pressures than the plenum. Floor pan-
els forming the top surface of air highways should be sealed
(taped) around all edges and marked as being permanent (not to
be removed even temporarily). See further discussion of plenum
sealing below.
10. Determine floor diffuser and power/voice/data terminal locations.
In open plan offices, this requires careful preplanning of the loca-
tions for partitions and workstation furniture. It also requires con-
sideration of the locations of all major HVAC elements in the
underfloor plenum, including fan terminal units, large ductwork,
and air highways (if specified). Access to these underfloor com-
ponents will need to be maintained. All locations are tied to the
floor grid originally laid out in step 3 above. Diffusers and cable
outlets can then be assigned as desired (e.g., one per workstation,
etc.). Large HVAC components should not be located in areas
where diffusers will be placed, since nearly all diffusers include
baskets and catch basins that hang below the bottom surface of
the floor panels into the underfloor plenum.
11. It is preferable to keep solid floor panels in place until diffusers
are installed to maintain the raised floor as a safe working plat-
form and to help preserve the cleanliness of the underfloor ple-
num. Diffusers may be more efficiently installed in precut panels
at staging areas. If necessary, install precut floor panels (at loca-
tions determined in step 10) by exchanging with an existing solid
panel. Install temporary cover plates over the predrilled access
holes.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
113
12. When all dirt/dust-generating construction activity is completed,
thoroughly clean the top surface of the raised floor plenum and, if
needed, clean the underfloor slab surface at any locations that
have accumulated dirt.
13. Install floor diffusers/panel assemblies and power/voice/data ter-
minals.
14. Install carpet tiles according to manufacturers specifications, cut-
ting access holes for all diffusers, grilles, and power/voice/data
terminals.
During the construction stage, as-built drawings should be made
available, indicating the exact location of services within the under-
floor plenum for future access, maintenance and system upgrades.
Identification and coordination of trade responsibilities are also
considerations during the installation of a UFAD system. While
mechanical contractors will typically be responsible for all air distri-
bution ductwork in conventional systems, UFAD designs require that
dry wall and/or raised floor contractors be responsible for significant
portions of the air distribution system: the underfloor plenum and often
the air highways. This is particularly critical in pressurized UFAD sys-
tems, where greater care must be taken during construction to seal the
underfloor plenum to prevent uncontrolled air leakage [Daly 2002]. As
discussed previously, the use of a zero-pressure plenum design can sig-
nificantly reduce uncontrolled leakage between the plenum and the
conditioned space, adjacent zones, and the outside. However, it is
advisable in all projects to address the leakage issue, as discussed fur-
ther below.
The installation and sealing (to allowable leakage limits) of sheet
metal ducts use well-established methods and are governed by existing
building codes and standards. The situation is different for underfloor
air supply plenums and air highways. Due to the newness of this tech-
nology, applicable codes and standard construction methods have not
yet been established. Contractors outside of Division 15 are not accus-
tomed to paying close attention to the sealing of the air distribution
path. For example, the sealing of edge details all around the underfloor
plenum should address window-wall connections to the slab, stair land-
ings, and HVAC shaft walls. At these locations, other members of the
construction team, including the general contractor, may become
involved. It is important that the responsible contractors recognize and
perform the critical role that proper sealing plays in the effective oper-
ation of a pressurized UFAD system.
In addition to initial installation, the integrity of a well-sealed
underfloor plenum or air highway must be preserved over the course of
CHAPTER 8DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, AND COMMISSIONING
114
all subsequent work within the plenum, even after building occupancy.
Sheet metal underfloor partitions used to define separate control zones
or air highways can be easily and repeatedly penetrated during instal-
lation of other services, such as cabling and plumbing. Seismic bracing,
sometimes required for plenums of greater depth (generally higher than
18 in. [0.45 m]), can lead to unsealed openings, and penetrations
through exterior walls and along interior structural elements are also
commonplace. Specifications should be put in place for the lifetime of
the building requiring all such penetrations to be carefully repaired and
sealed. Another approach that has been used to reduce uncontrolled
penetrations is to pre-install access channels or sealable ports across air
highways or through partitions at periodic intervals.
Floor contractors generally provide access holes precut in the floor
panels for diffusers, power/voice/data terminals, and other outlet
boxes. Mechanical contractors should be responsible for all required
ductwork (except perhaps air highways) and the installation of all floor
diffusers, grilles, fan terminal units, and other mechanical equipment
in the underfloor plenum.
Trade responsibilities may also be shifted somewhat with regard to
the installation of furniture- or partition-based task/ambient condition-
ing (TAC) systems. Depending on the TAC supply unit design, these
systems may be installed by the mechanical contractor or, if well inte-
grated into the furniture and partitions, may become the responsibility
of the furniture installers.
In the large majority of raised floor systems for office applications,
carpet tiles are installed on top of the floor panels. In addition to pro-
viding the finished floor surface, the carpet tiles serve a second impor-
tant purpose by providing a seal over the top of the raised floor
installation. Due to the large surface area, leakage through the gaps
between floor panels can be significant in pressurized plenum systems.
Carpet tiles can reduce the amount of leakage by a factor of 2 or 3 in
comparison to bare floor tiles (see Chapter 4 for further discussion). If
bare floor panels without carpeting are used, some provision for sealing
between floor panels must be provided or large leakage rates can be
expected and must be accounted for in the operation of the UFAD sys-
tem.
The installation of carpet tiles raises a number of issues to be aware
of, especially as different manufacturers typically supply the carpet and
floor panels. Of particular note is the commonly used technique of
applying an adhesive to install carpet tiles on the floor panels. Care
must be taken to avoid using an excessive amount of adhesive as it may
make it difficult to remove carpet tiles to gain access to the floor panels
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
115
during subsequent relocation, replacement, or service work. Adhesive
accidentally seeping into the underfloor plenum may also damage
cable-management components and negatively affect the quality of the
supply air. For additional discussion of carpet tile selection and instal-
lation, see Section 5.3.
8.3 RETROFIT PROJECTS
In projects requiring the installation of a new HVAC system within
an existing building (e.g., retrofitting), UFAD offers many advantages.
Such projects often suffer from limited space for accommodating ducts
and other components. By eliminating large overhead ceiling ducts, the
total plenum height required in UFAD installations is less than that for
ceiling-based systems. Therefore, UFAD is feasible for existing build-
ings where, due to restricted floor-to-floor/floor-to-ceiling heights, it is
necessary to minimize the vertical space occupied by ductwork. In
addition, the installation of a raised floor system is less disruptive than
that of ducting for overhead systems as the floor can be easily installed,
and removed, as an independent platform, leaving relatively few struc-
tural scars. This issue is important in buildings where maintaining the
integrity of the existing building structure is important for heritage/cul-
tural/structural reasons. Furthermore, installation can be a relatively
dry process, once the concrete structural slab has been adequately
sealed, minimizing damage to other building elements.
8.4 SPACE PLANNING
In partitioned office spaces, consider the relationship between the
partition grid and floor grid. It is recommended to offset the partition
grid from the floor grid so that partitions do not cover joints between
floor panels, thereby preventing access to the underfloor plenum on
both sides of the partition. In addition, it is important that underfloor
equipment requiring regular maintenance be located in accessible
areas, such as corridors, and not underneath furniture and partitions. To
be most effective, access to larger underfloor equipment (e.g., perim-
eter fan coil boxes) should include more than just the floor panel(s)
directly above the equipment. Removing a unit for service will be
greatly facilitated by providing access to the floor panels surrounding
the unit.
Designers must consider that, depending on the particular zoning
arrangement of a project, fan rooms or access for HVAC distribution
may be required at more frequent intervals than with conventional air
distribution systems. In addition, for some designs return-air shafts
CHAPTER 8DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, AND COMMISSIONING
116
may be required to be placed directly between the ceiling and the
underfloor plenum. These can typically be accommodated around col-
umns or other permanent building elements.
At the service core of a building, it has been common practice to
omit the raised floor in areas such as restrooms, equipment rooms,
stairwells, and sometimes kitchenettes. Generally, a raised concrete
core is poured in these areas to accommodate the difference in floor
height between the service core and the finished raised floor in the sur-
rounding office areas. At junctions between raised flooring and areas
without it, allowances must be made for suitable transitions. More
recently, raised flooring has been used in the core areas as well.
8.5 COMMISSIONING
A carefully conducted commissioning of a UFAD installation will
go a long ways toward ensuring that all building systems are properly
applied, installed, and operated, despite the novelty of this technology
to some members of the design and construction teams. Commission-
ing is a systematic process that begins in the design phase and extends
through occupancy and the warranty period for the building and uses
documentation and verification methods to make sure that the facility
meets the design intent and the expectations of the owner and occupants
[ASHRAE 1996; Dasher et al. 2002; PECI 2002]. Because UFAD tech-
nology is classified as being energy-efficient and green, well-designed
systems will tend to be right-sized, not the more common over-
sized [York 1998]. With less of a safety margin, correct system oper-
ation, as verified by commissioning, takes on added importance.
Recent research has shown that promoting and maintaining room
air stratification is critical to successful design and operation (under
cooling conditions) of UFAD systems [Webster et al. 2002a, 2002b].
Overall room air stratification is primarily driven by room airflow rate
relative to load. As room airflow is reduced for constant heat input,
stratification will increase. On the other hand, if room airflow is
increased relative to load, stratification will be reduced, approaching
the well-mixed constant temperature profile characteristic of overhead
air distribution systems. The objective is to determine the operating
point that minimizes energy use (reduced room airflow) while main-
taining comfort (acceptable temperatures and stratification in the occu-
pied zone).
Because of the important balance between room airflow and heat
input to the space, proper and complete commissioning of a UFAD sys-
tem will require operation and adjustment of the system under peak (or
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
117
close to peak), as well as partial, cooling load conditions. During pre-
liminary HVAC system commissioning prior to building occupancy,
supply air quantities and temperatures can be established according to
design estimates. Since standardized design tools based on fundamen-
tal research are not yet available, designers will need to proceed cau-
tiously using an empirical approach where they rely on their previous
experience with UFAD systems, the experiences of others, or other
available information to guide their design decisions. Until the space is
occupied and subject to typical cooling loads, however, it will be dif-
ficult to verify the proper system operation. Commissioning performed
after occupancy (with more typical cooling loads present) will serve as
the best approach to achieve the desired system operation. For more
discussion, please see Chapter 2 for room air stratification and Chapter
6 for controls and operation.
119
Chapter 9
Perimeter and
Special Systems
This chapter discusses a range of system design solutions for perim-
eter and other special zones.
9.1 PERIMETER SYSTEM DEFINITION
Perimeter systems serve a number of functions in commercial
buildings. These include the following.
Local Heating. Almost all commercial buildings require heat at the
perimeter due to the influence of the building envelope. At the same
time, this heating demand is often intermittent and during swing
seasons can happen early in the same day that cooling is required
later.
Local Cooling. Perimeter systems are designed to allow wide vari-
ation in the amount of cooling that can be provided to a zone to deal
with dynamic solar and other envelope loads. The more efficient the
envelope that a building has, the more options that are available for
perimeter cooling systems.
Interior / Perimeter Separation. The perimeter space is defined as
the space in a system that is affected by weather and outside condi-
tions. Perimeter systems allow the perimeter to be separated from
the interior system to prevent fighting in winter. This is a require-
ment of virtually all energy codes.
Automatic Control. Because of the dynamic nature of perimeter
building loads, an important function of perimeter systems is to pro-
vide automatic control that can adjust to varying interior conditions.
Envelope and other perimeter loads change too quickly and con-
stantly to make manual control an effective option.
This chapter was contributed by Allan Daly.
CHAPTER 9PERIMETER AND SPECIAL SYSTEMS
120
9.2 PERIMETER SYSTEM OPTIONS
9.2.1 Two- or Four-Pipe Constant-Speed Fan Coils
The two- or four-pipe constant-speed fan coil system consists of a
fan-coil box located in each perimeter zone. In the two-pipe arrange-
ment, only heating water is provided to the box. In the four-pipe
arrangement, both heating and cooling pipes are provided. The dia-
grams in Figure 9.1 illustrate a two-pipe overhead fan-coil at left and
a two-pipe underfloor fan-coil at right. In Figure 9.1 and all subsequent
figures in this section, T refers to the room thermostat being used to
control the indicated equipment.
In both systems illustrated in Figure 9.1, ventilation and cooling air
is provided by the central air system. In the case of the overhead two-
pipe fan coil, the damper under the floor is connected to a segregated
portion of the plenum located below a perimeter zone. Cooling and
ventilation air is controlled to the zone through an underfloor modu-
lating, pressure-dependent damper. In heating mode, the damper goes
to minimum position and the fan in the fan-coil is engaged, recirculat-
ing return air to the space. If more heating is required, then the heating
coil is engaged.
In the underfloor two-pipe diagram, the fan-box intake is fitted with
a damper that allows air to be taken from the room in heating mode or
from the plenum in cooling mode. As cooling demand varies, either
room air or hot-water reheat is used to temper the cooling supply air
delivered to the space. In heating mode, the intake damper goes to a
minimum position to allow minimum ventilation while the remaining
air comes from recirculated room air. Heat is added via the reheat coil
as needed.
The constant-volume operation of this fan-coil option makes its
operation relatively energy inefficient. This system option is also
expensive compared to others. Care must be taken in design to address
the noise created by these fans.
Another variation on the underfloor constant-speed fan-coil ducts
55F (13C) air directly to the cooling inlet of the box. The fan-coil then
mixes 55F (13C) air and room air as needed to maintain comfortable
space conditions. The advantages of this option include an ability to
deal with high loads and minimized shaft area requirements. A disad-
vantage is that significant amounts of equipment and ductwork are
required under the floor.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
121
(a)
(b)
Figure 9.1 (a) Two-pipe overhead fan coil; (b) two-pipe underfloor
fan coil.
CHAPTER 9PERIMETER AND SPECIAL SYSTEMS
122
9.2.2 Hydronic Heat Pumps
Similar to the fan-coils described above, a hydronic heat pump can
be located either in the ceiling above a zone or in the underfloor plenum
below a zone. The heat pump would draw ventilation air from the cen-
tral system and either harvest or reject heat to a two-pipe heat-pump
loop.
This is an energy-efficient, though expensive, option. Other issues
include maintenance access to the units and the noise generated by the
compressors in the heat-pump units.
9.2.3 VAV or Fan-Powered VAV with Reheat
This perimeter system option consists of essentially an overhead
VAV system placed under the floor in the raised-floor plenum. In gen-
eral, this approach does not take advantage of the plenum as a low-pres-
sure air distribution pathway, and the large amount of equipment and
ducts placed in the plenum severely limit the flexible use of the plenum
space.
This system option is usually employed with conventional 55F
(13C) supply air temperature and can be necessary if envelope loads
are high, particularly solar loads. In the case of high envelope loads, the
63-65F (17-18C) supply air temperature typical of UFAD systems
may be too warm to effectively remove the loads. This underfloor con-
ventional VAV system using 55F (13C) air or colder can deal with
high loads.
The system efficiency and cost of this option is comparable to stan-
dard OH systems, though taken together with the cost of the raised floor
it can be an expensive choice.
9.2.4 Cooling from VAV Diffusers, Heating from
Heating-Only Fan Coil
This approach changes mode between cooling and heating opera-
tion (Figure 9.2). In cooling, thermostatically controlled VAV diffusers
modulate to maintain a room-temperature setpoint.
In heating, the same diffusers are used in conjunction with a heat-
ing-only fan coil. Some diffusers become return inlets for the fan coil
by changing the position of their dampers. Other diffusers become
heating outlets by changing the position of their dampers. Minimum
ventilation is accomplished with a mechanical stop on the heating inlet
diffuser. See Section 5.2 for further discussion.
Fan coils operate only in heating mode. This system also reduces
reheat by heating air from the space rather than heating cool air from
the plenum.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
123
9.2.5 Fan-Powered Outlets
In a fan-powered outlet perimeter system, a local fan is built into a
2 ft 2 ft (0.6 0.6 m) module that can replace one of the standard
raised-floor tiles. The fan is controllable by the occupant in the space
above, providing a high degree of control. This system is uncommon
in new projects, and one manufacturer recently discontinued selling
this product in the United States. It can be expensive because there are
few manufacturers of this type of outlet.
One advantage that this system has is that it is used in conjunction
with zero-pressure plenums, which have very low central fan energy
use. As described in Chapter 7 on energy use, the perimeter fans being
smaller are inherently less efficient, but if they can be implemented to
track the loads closely, perhaps their energy use could compare to cen-
tral system approaches because they completely eliminate any over-
pressurization of ductwork or plenums.
9.2.6 Convector or Baseboard Heating Coupled
with Central UFAD System Cooling
In this option, cooling and ventilation air are provided by the central
system. As illustrated in Figure 9.3, perimeter subdivisions of the ple-
num are created below each zone. A pressure-dependent modulating
Figure 9.2 VAV diffusers with heating-only fan coil.
CHAPTER 9PERIMETER AND SPECIAL SYSTEMS
124
Figure 9.3 Central system cooling with perimeter hot water
convector.
Figure 9.4 Variable-speed fan coil with reheat.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
125
damper varies the amount of air introduced to the zone based on a space
temperature sensor. In heating, the damper goes to minimum position
and a convector in a trench that is not open to the plenum, or a baseboard
heater located above the raised floor, engages to add heat to the zone.
9.2.7 Variable-Speed Fan Coils
This approach makes underfloor variable-speed fan coils the pri-
mary piece of equipment in perimeter zones (Figure 9.4). Where heat-
ing is needed, the units are fitted with two-pipe hot water coils or with
electric resistance heat. The fan boxes are placed un-ducted at the inlet
below each perimeter zone. The variable-speed fan increases or
decreases airflow depending on space demands. In heating the fan goes
to a minimum speed and the hot water or electric heat is engaged as
needed. Typically these fans are controlled with electronically com-
mutated motors, which offer good efficiencies for small fans.
This system has the cost advantage of a minimum amount of duct-
work and grilles/diffusers. The same diffuser or grille is used in both
heating and cooling. Ductwork on the discharge side of the fan-coil
needs to be insulated.
A disadvantage of this system is the electrical demand and energy
consumption of the fan coil, as described in Chapter 7. A further energy
disadvantage of this system is that it employs reheat, also as described
in Chapter 7.
This approach is less flexible than some other perimeter system
options. It will be accordingly more costly to reconfigure.
Because this system uses fans under the floor located close to build-
ing occupants, the noise generated by the fans must be considered in the
design and location of these units.
Another design consideration is that even with the fan off there is
bypass around the fan wheel due to the pressurized floor. This can allow
the fan to cycle off during the deadband between heating and cooling
since minimum ventilation air can be supplied through the inactive fan.
But it can also result in excess cooling if plenum pressures are high
(e.g., greater than 0.05 in. H
2
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Figure 9.5 shows how the fan and heating element (a hot-water coil
in this case) are sequenced to provide zone temperature control.
Figure 9.6 shows how this type of perimeter system can be imple-
mented as part of an entire building system.
CHAPTER 9PERIMETER AND SPECIAL SYSTEMS
126
Figure 9.5 Control sequence for variable-speed fan coil with reheat.
Figure 9.6 UFAD system schematic with variable-speed fan coil
with reheat in perimeter.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
127
Figure 9.7 shows a plan view of typical perimeter fan coils ducted
to supply grilles located at the perimeter of a zone.
One variation on this approach uses a small partitioned perimeter
plenum instead of ducted supply grilles. This variation is illustrated
both schematically (Figure 9.8) and in plan (Figure 9.9).
One caution to bear in mind with this approach is that the perimeter
plenum becomes pressurized because of the fans and, because it is
located directly adjacent to the exterior wall of the building, can poten-
tially become a major source of air leaks to the outdoors. Care must be
exercised in thoroughly detailing and sealing the slab and exterior wall
connections. Also, the plenum dividers reduce system flexibility.
9.2.8 VAV Change-Over Air Handlers
Another perimeter system option is the use of VAV change-over air
handlers, sometimes referred to as variable volume and temperature
(VVT) systems. The concept behind this approach is to provide only a
single temperature air to an entire building faade through boxes that
have a single duct and no reheat coil inside. If the building shape and
facades are large enough to justify the cost of the required air handler,
then the system overall can be relatively inexpensive. Figure 9.10
shows a system schematically.
Figure 9.11 shows how a VAV change-over system would be imple-
mented in an entire building.
Figure 9.7 Perimeter fan coil units ducted to linear bar grilles.
CHAPTER 9PERIMETER AND SPECIAL SYSTEMS
128
Figure 9.8 Fan coil unit serving partitioned perimeter plenum.
Figure 9.9 Plan view of fan coil unit serving partitioned perimeter
plenum.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
129
Figure 9.10 Perimeter VVT system.
Figure 9.11 UFAD system schematic with VAV change-over system
in perimeter.
CHAPTER 9PERIMETER AND SPECIAL SYSTEMS
130
Considering the VAV change-over system in detail makes an inter-
esting comparison with the underfloor VAV fan-coil approach.
The VAV change-over system has the advantage that it can cost less
in some cases due to many inexpensive zones that offset the added cost
of required air-handlers. In this system there is also no water piping
underfloor, which eliminates the problems associated with leaks. The
VAV change-over system can supply lower temperature air to reduce
supply air quantity for high glass loads, but there is the danger of drafts.
The VAV change-over system is efficient because there are zero reheat
losses. It can have lower fan energy in comparison to configurations
using small fan-coils with their reduced fan and motor efficiencies. And
finally, because the equipment is centralized, there are lower mainte-
nance costs.
When compared to the VAV underfloor fan-coil approach, the VAV
change-over system has the following disadvantages. It requires larger
mechanical rooms for the central equipment. It requires additional
small shafts at the building perimeter. It can create conflicts with oper-
able windows. It cannot heat and cool simultaneously. Finally, it
requires complex control logic that needs careful commissioning.
9.3 CONFERENCE ROOMS OR OTHER SPECIAL SYSTEMS
When conference rooms are located in the interior of a building,
they typically are designed with their own zone because of the rapidly
and significantly varying loads in these types of spaces. Virtually any
of the approaches described above can be adapted for use in conference
room or other special space zones.
One common approach is the use of a VAV underfloor fan terminal
without a reheat coil as illustrated in Figure 9.12. A single pressurized
plenum subdivision is created below the zone and that area is served by
the VAV fan terminal.
Another common approach is the use of modular active (fan-
driven) diffuser units as illustrated in Figure 9.13. A variable-speed fan
box is mounted below a single floor panel. Fan speed is thermostati-
cally controlled and integration with an occupancy sensor can allow the
fan to remain off during unoccupied periods.
Another consideration for conference rooms is to use a fan terminal
without heat to supply the conference room with air from adjacent over-
ventilated spaces to reduce the impact of the high ventilation percent on
the overall ventilation requirements in accordance with ASHRAE
Standard 62. This approach is analogous to using fan-powered VAV
boxes (or powered induction units) or exhaust/transfer fans commonly
used with conventional overhead systems.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
131
Figure 9.12 Variable-speed fan terminal serving conference room.
Figure 9.13 Active (fan-driven) diffusers serving conference room.
CHAPTER 9PERIMETER AND SPECIAL SYSTEMS
132
CO
2
sensors can be used effectively to save energy and reduce sub-
cooling in special zones like these as well.
9.4 ISSUES TO CONSIDER IN THE DESIGN OF
PERIMETER AND SPECIAL SYSTEMS
Some issues to consider when designing perimeter and special sys-
tems include the following.
The use of plenum partitions for thermal zoning reduces the flexi-
bility of the underfloor space.
Using underfloor fans to condition perimeter spaces typically
erodes some of the energy benefits of UFAD systems as described
in Chapter 7. The maintenance and noise impacts of underfloor fans
must also be addressed in a well-designed UFAD system.
As described in Chapter 7, some UFAD systems employ reheat in
their designs. In most designs, reheat energy losses are small rela-
tive to overhead systems because of the warm supply air tempera-
ture and the ability to use very low minimum volume setpoints due
to the warm air supply from the floor. Still, strategies to reduce or
eliminate reheat, such as fan-powered boxes supplying room air
rather than plenum air, can be applied effectively to UFAD systems.
Take advantage of the natural thermal plume at the skin due to solar
radiation, conduction, and infiltration during cooling to reduce sup-
ply air requirements. Use blinds and light shelves wherever possible
to capture the solar load at the skin.
Using the same diffusers for heating and cooling is an effective
strategy to reduce cost and floor penetrations.
When designing perimeter and special systems, consider the ease
and cost of system and equipment reconfiguration.
Due to the chimney effect of skin loads and solar with blinds or light
shelves plus cooling transmission of the floor, the underfloor system
can require the same or even less air to cool the perimeter space with
63-65F (17-18C) air than an overhead system with 55F (13C) air.
133
Chapter 10
Cost Considerations
Objective first and life-cycle costs are crucial to providing a sound
basis upon which UFAD systems can be compared to alternatives. As
the number of installed UFAD projects has grown in recent years, more
examples are available to reveal the cost-effectiveness of these systems.
Although costs vary from project to project, lately it has been demon-
strated that first costs for these system can be very comparable to con-
ventional overhead design [e.g., Loftness et al. 1999, 2002]. A cost
comparison tool containing backup data and information on a wide
range of UFAD cost components has recently been developed [Tate
2002b]. Engineers, architects, and contractors are becoming more
familiar with UFAD technology as more information becomes avail-
able. It is now well recognized by owners and developers that raised
floor systems with UFAD significantly reduce costs associated with
frequent office reconfigurations. More manufacturers are entering the
UFAD market with new products to respond to the increased demand.
As the above trends continue, costs can be expected to further decrease.
Table 10.1 summarizes many of the cost components that should be
considered when evaluating the economic impact associated with the
use of a raised floor with (or without) a UFAD system. In the table,
these components are segregated according to their expected (positive
or negative) contribution to the overall construction costs of the build-
ing. For further discussion in this section, the components are divided
into the following three groups: (1) standard first cost components, (2)
design-dependent first cost components, and (3) life-cycle cost com-
ponents. Actual cost data are not presented below, as these numbers can
fluctuate depending on market conditions. It is recommended that you
contact manufacturers, engineers, and installers with experience to
obtain the most up-to-date cost information.
CHAPTER 10COST CONSIDERATIONS
134
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UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
137
10.1 STANDARD FIRST COST COMPONENTS
Components labeled as standard are considered to be a required
or integral part of the installation of a UFAD system.
10.1.1 Raised Floor System
The raised floor system is the component with the single largest
cost increase of a UFAD system over a conventional air distribution
system. Like any other building component, the cost of raised flooring
can vary depending upon program requirements, location (shipping),
union or non-union labor, and size of the project. Since a raised floor
system forms an integrated service plenum that serves cabling, HVAC,
and other distribution needs, assigning the entire cost of the floor instal-
lation to the HVAC system alone is unwarranted. Instead, the cost jus-
tification for raised floor systems should be based on the benefits of the
entire (HVAC, power, voice, and data) service delivery system. The
percentage of new raised floor office buildings using UFAD has
increased significantly in recent years and is now near 40% [Hockman
2002]. The added first cost of the raised floor system must be weighed
against other first cost savings and the flexibility and reduced costs
associated with reconfiguring building services over the lifetime of the
building. As discussed below, normally not all of the total floor plate
area will be covered by an access floor system on any given floor of an
office building.
10.1.2 Slab Modification and Preparation
At the service core of a building, where restrooms, kitchenettes, and
elevators are located, it has been common to omit a raised floor. How-
ever, raised floors can be used in the core area as well with added ben-
efit and reduced cost. In particular, the cost of installing plumbing,
including the setting of traps, has the potential to be reduced. Previ-
ously, a raised concrete core was poured in these areas in order to
accommodate the difference in floor height between the service core
and the finished raised floor level in the surrounding area. The raised
concrete core is an expensive unit addition, although it represents a rel-
atively small fraction of a buildings floor area. In office buildings, the
core consumes anywhere from 3% to 4% of a given floor plate. The
HVAC and elevator vertical services typically account for about 4% to
5% of the floor plate. Conversely, raised flooring systems are leveled
during installation, eliminating the necessity (and associated costs) of
adding a finishing level to the floor.
CHAPTER 10COST CONSIDERATIONS
138
10.1.3 Cleaning and Sealing the Plenum
The cost of cleaning and sealing the underfloor plenum is directly
linked to the scheduling of the overall project (see Chapter 8). This is
an add-on cost compared to conventional systems and can become
larger than expected if mistakes are made. It is imperative for the
project to be extremely well organized, as there is a long list of con-
struction activities that would require a duplicate cleaning of the ple-
num prior to final placement of the finished raised floor surface.
10.1.4 Fire Detection and Sprinkler Systems
The cost variables of fire safety systems will vary according to the
local code requirements. If the raised floor is above a certain height,
typically 18 in. (0.46 m), the code may require a sprinkler system. For
this reason, many UFAD jobs limit the height of the underfloor plenum
to less than 18 in. Local inspectors often require a smoke detection sys-
tem in the plenum area. The fire safety cost components will not affect
all underfloor projects. It will depend on the local jurisdiction. The sig-
nificance of this category has much more to do with code requirements
and interpretation and less with the design of the underfloor system.
10.2 DESIGN-DEPENDENT FIRST COST COMPONENTS
Building components whose costs are more likely to change with
the choice of a UFAD system are labeled as design-dependent.
10.2.1 UFAD System Design
A very preliminary assessment shows that total costs for HVAC are
in the range of $10-15/ft
2
($110-160/m
2
) (~60% core and 40% tenant
improvement (TI)), which is roughly 10% of the total building cost.
Generally, the core HVAC costs will remain about the same for both
UFAD and overhead systems. Therefore, the primary difference will be
in TI costs, about $4-6/ ft
2
($43-65/m
2
) or 4% of total building costs.
This suggests that small differences in HVAC costs may not have a
large impact on the overall costs and differences from traditional sys-
tems. Other system design-dependent factors that affect TI HVAC costs
are described below.
10.2.1.1 Diffuser Type. Diffuser costs will be largely depen-
dent on the choice of diffusers for the interior zones of the building,
accounting for the majority of air delivery for a given floor plan. The
cost of perimeter zone diffusers, often linear grilles or variable-air-vol-
ume (VAV) diffusers, makes up a relatively small portion of total dif-
fuser costs. Although plastic diffusers have been the most commonly
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
139
installed to date, code officials in some jurisdictions may interpret cur-
rent fire code language to require metal diffusers because of the fire/
smoke danger with plastic material. This can increase the cost of dif-
fusers by as much as 35%. Also, automatic VAV diffusers and active
(fan-driven) diffusers are generally more expensive than passive (man-
ually controlled) diffusers. If a furniture- or partition-based TAC dif-
fuser is selected, installed costs may also be higher. The added first cost
and operating costs (fan energy use) of active floor or TAC diffusers
must be traded off against the improved personal control of local air-
flow provided to a nearby occupant.
10.2.1.2 System Category. Constant air volume (CAV) vs.
variable air volume (VAV) are the two predominant categories used
some systems use a combination of the two. The category will impact
the types and complexity of terminal devices used in perimeter and core
areas. How perimeter zone heating is accommodated will also impact
costs, but the cost differences between heating methods may be small
unless it includes electrical vs. hot water.
10.2.1.3 Underfloor Plenum Ductwork and Partitioning.
The extent that air highways and/or ducting and partitioning are used
for distribution and zoning must be compared to the typically large
amount of ductwork required for overhead air distribution in traditional
designs. If a relatively open underfloor plenum configuration can be
used, greater savings in the amount of required ductwork can be real-
ized. The range of cost savings associated with the elimination of over-
head ductwork is usually enough to offset a significant portion of the
added cost of the raised floor system.
10.2.1.4 Controls. These costs may not be significantly
affected if the basic zoning used for traditional systems is preserved in
the UFAD system design.
10.2.2 Cable Management Systems
Access floor systems provide a convenient platform for managing
cable systems that meet the demands of modern office space. With the
latest trend toward structured cabling, all telecommunications func-
tions power, data, and audio/video are contained within a single wir-
ing infrastructure. Although first costs of structured cabling will be
higher than standard cabling, installation costs can be significantly
reduced (working at floor level instead of up in the ceiling plenum),
resulting in a net savings in overall cabling first costs. The flexibility
of these integrated plug-and-play cabling systems makes them well
suited for office spaces with high churn rates. In terms of efficiency and
low-cost operation/maintenance, when structured cabling is installed
CHAPTER 10COST CONSIDERATIONS
140
as part of a raised floor system, in-house personnel using simple tools
and standardized connector pieces can easily carry out reconfiguration.
By comparison, traditional cabling systems consist of fixed outlets,
connections, and long cable runs for which changes usually involve
contracting outside labor and considerable disruption within the work-
place (see Section 10.3.1 on churn).
In open plan offices with partitioned workstations, a second cabling
cost consideration is the need for electrified workstations with built-in
cable management systems. By delivering power, voice, and data
cabling directly to virtually any location on the floor plate, raised floor
systems can allow non-electrified partitions and furniture to be
installed. Although there is a large range in price of workstations and
personal furniture, electrified furniture can cost as much as 20% more
than non-electrified equivalents.
10.2.3 Floor-to-Floor Heights
With the use of an underfloor system, the heights from slab-to-slab
have the potential to be reduced as much as 6 in. to 1 ft (0.15 to 0.3 m)
per floor. The amount of reduction is dependent on the structural and
plenum design of the baseline conventional building. Concrete flat
slab construction can be especially effective at reducing floor-to-floor
heights in comparison to standard steel beam construction. This new
dimension correlates to a reduction of up to about 7% in vertical struc-
tural, thermal, and mechanical components. The reduced area of the
curtain wall can be an important cost factor. The savings associated
with this component will primarily apply to high-rise office building
construction. It can be an important cost consideration in high-rise
development where building heights are limited by local building
codes.
10.2.4 Ceiling Finishes and Acoustical Treatment
If air distribution and power and data cabling are installed under the
floor, it opens up other design options for finishing the ceiling, includ-
ing the elimination of the suspended ceiling tiles and plenum space
above. In most cases, acoustical treatment of some kind will still be
needed on the ceiling, particularly with the documented reduced
mechanical noise levels for UFAD systems. Designing for acceptable
acoustical privacy in open plan offices is challenging enough, and if the
masking noise typically available with traditional HVAC design is
absent, careful attention must be paid to this issue.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
141
10.3 LIFE-CYCLE COST COMPONENTS
Life-cycle cost components include those building elements whose
costs are affected over the lifetime of the building and represent the pri-
mary means by which building owners can expect to receive a greater
return on their initial investment.
10.3.1 Churn (Reconfiguration)
In modern businesses, churn is a fact of life; a 1997 survey found
the national average churn rate (defined as the percentage of workers
per year and their associated work spaces in a building that are moved,
reconfigured, or undergo significant changes) to be 44% [IFMA 1997].
The cost savings associated with reconfiguring building services is a
major factor in the decision to install access flooring. By integrating a
buildings HVAC and cable management systems into one easily acces-
sible underfloor plenum, floor diffusers, along with all power, voice,
and data outlets, can be placed almost anywhere on the raised floor grid.
In-house maintenance personnel can carry out these reconfigurations at
significantly reduced expense using simple tools and modular hard-
ware. The amount of savings from churn is directly dependent on three
variables, whose value may vary from building to building and from
organization to organization: (1) annual churn rate, (2) cost savings of
moves and reconfigurations per worker (large differences exist
between simple moves and moves requiring renovation), and (3)
amount of floor area per worker. Firms that are more likely to install
underfloor systems are also, for the very same reasons, more likely to
churn at a higher rate.
10.3.2 Operation and Maintenance
The primary elements of operation and maintenance costs are: (1)
the salaries of operations personnel required to service and maintain the
HVAC system and to respond to occupant complaints, (2) replacement
costs for equipment, and (3) energy costs. Any differences in commis-
sioning costs between UFAD systems and traditional systems should
also be considered. It may be difficult to obtain long-term maintenance
cost data for UFAD systems since experience with these systems is lim-
ited in U.S. buildings. Some engineers believe that equipment mainte-
nance costs for raised floor-based systems will be slightly higher than
those for conventional systems. However, research suggests that the
frequency of occupant complaints will be reduced when occupants are
given some individual control over their local environment [Bauman et
al. 1998]. Most practicing engineers agree that UFAD systems have the
potential to save energy in comparison to traditional designs. To date,
CHAPTER 10COST CONSIDERATIONS
142
energy use data are only available on a project-by-project basis. Energy
costs are difficult to predict since no reliable whole-building energy
simulation tools are currently available that accurately model UFAD
system performance (see Chapter 14).
10.3.3 Tax Savings
Under some circumstances, raised flooring and other movable com-
ponents have the potential to qualify as personal property. As a seven-
year property, its cost could be depreciated at a favorable rate compared
to standard flooring systems, which would normally be 39-year prop-
erty. Seven-year property qualifies for double declining balance depre-
ciation, while 39- year property depreciates at a slower rate and over a
longer period of time. This potential savings should be investigated
carefully and will be largely dependent on tax law interpretations.
10.3.4 Increased Property Value and Rents
It is well documented that office tenants are willing to pay a pre-
mium for office space possessing the amenities they prefer. Naturally,
market conditions will continuously fluctuate, but in assessing the real
premium (if any) paid for a raised floor system, a secondary consider-
ation is the premium that tenants are willing to pay for space with raised
flooring. If raised flooring can be directly linked to increased rents and
sales prices, the first cost of a raised floor system may be inconsequen-
tial by comparison.
10.3.5 Productivity and Health
Research indicates that occupant satisfaction and productivity can
be increased by giving individuals greater control over their local envi-
ronment and by improving the quality of indoor environments (ther-
mal, acoustical, ventilation, and lighting). Improved ventilation and
thermal environments, which well-designed UFAD systems can pro-
vide, have also been associated with a reduction in the prevalence or
severity of adverse indoor health effects [Fisk 2000]. The financial
implications of improving productivity or reducing absenteeism
caused by illness by even a small amount have the potential to be very
large as employee salary and benefits costs typically make up at least
90% of all costs (including construction, operation, and maintenance)
over the lifetime of a building. Nationwide, a mere 1% increase in
worker productivity would translate into a potential annual cost benefit
of $25 billion. In todays competitive world economy, a companys
employees make up its most valuable economic assets. Protecting and
improving the productivity of these employees will have a strong influ-
ence on future investments.
143
Chapter 11
Standards, Codes,
and Ratings
Since UFAD technology is relatively new to the building industry,
its characteristics may require consideration of unfamiliar code
requirements and, in fact, may be in conflict with the provisions of
some existing standards and codes. Applicable standards should be
reviewed carefully; revisions and exceptions that are more compatible
with UFAD technology will likely be forthcoming as additional
research results are obtained. Local building codes and the interpreta-
tions of local officials should be considered early in the design process
of a building using underfloor air supply plenums. Experience has
shown that the first UFAD project in an area governed by an unfamiliar
jurisdiction will usually end up establishing the ground rules for code
interpretations on future projects.
Listed below are brief discussions of the applicable building stan-
dards and codes that have important provisions related to the design,
installation, and operation of UFAD systems. In addition, a brief
description of the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental
Design) Rating System is provided.
11.1 ANSI/ASHRAE STANDARD 55-1992: THERMAL ENVI-
RONMENTAL CONDITIONS FOR HUMAN OCCUPANCY
[ASHRAE 1992]
Earlier versions of Standard 55 were based on the assumption of a
well-mixed and uniformly conditioned environment. UFAD systems,
however, usually involve greater variability of thermal conditions over
both space and time. The effect of providing occupant control has not
been fully taken into account, although it is well established that occu-
pants will tolerate greater fluctuations in environmental conditions if
they have control over them. The rather strict air velocity limitations
CHAPTER 11STANDARDS, CODES, AND RATINGS
144
that were specified in the previous version of Standard 55 were incom-
patible with the increased local air velocities that are possible with
UFAD and task/ambient conditioning (TAC) systems. The current ver-
sion of ASHRAE Standard 55 [ASHRAE 1992] was revised to allow
higher air velocities than the previous version of the standard, if the
occupant has control over the local air speed. Figure 3 in Standard 55-
1992 (reproduced in Figure 11.1) was added to show the air speed
required to offset increases in temperature above those allowed in the
summer comfort zone. For example, Figure 11.1 indicates that at equal
air and radiant temperatures (tr ta = 0), a local air speed of 150 fpm
(0.75 m/s) can offset a temperature rise of about 4.4F (2.4C) for a pri-
marily sedentary building occupant wearing 0.5 clo. The figure is based
only on sensible heat transfer; total cooling would be expected to be
higher if latent effects are taken into account.
Standard 55-1992 also specifies allowable air speeds as a function
of air temperature and turbulence intensity with the objective of avoid-
ing unwanted drafts when the occupant has no direct local control. At
warmer temperatures, however, occupants will desire additional cool-
ing. Increased air movement (and turbulence) is an easy way of achiev-
ing such direct occupant cooling. Standard 55-1992 allows these
velocity limits, based on turbulence intensity level, to be exceeded if the
occupant has control over the local air speed.
Figure 11.1 Air speed required to offset increased temperature
[ASHRAE 1992].
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
145
11.2 ANSI/ASHRAE STANDARD 62-2001: VENTILATION FOR
ACCEPTABLE INDOOR AIR QUALITY [ASHRAE 2001b]
Standard 62-2001 provides guidelines for the determination of ven-
tilation rates that will maintain acceptable indoor air quality. This most
recent version of Standard 62 allows some adjustment in ventilation
rates based on the ventilation effectiveness (E
v
) of the air distribution
system. Mixing-type air distribution systems can at best achieve a per-
fectly mixed space, defined as having an E
v
of 1.0, as determined in
accordance with ASHRAE Standard 129 (see below). By definition,
mixing-type systems cannot provide preferential ventilation (E
v
> 1),
in which some credit could be obtained for improved air change effec-
tiveness at the breathing level in the space.
Displacement ventilation systems that deliver supply air at low
velocity near floor level and extract air at ceiling level are known to pro-
vide improved ventilation effectiveness in the occupied zone (see
Chapter 2). This performance characteristic is being addressed more
specifically in the newest addendum of Standard 62 [ASHRAE 2003]
in which default values for E
v
are recommended for different air dis-
tribution system configurations and modes of operation. These values
can and should be used to determine required outdoor air quantities if
it is decided to not measure E
v
directly. The recommended values of E
v
are (1) 1.2 for displacement ventilation system, (2) 1.0 for an overhead
system in cooling mode, and (3) 0.8 for an overhead system in heating
mode (known to cause shortcircuiting). UFAD systems are not explic-
itly addressed since more definitive research on ventilation effective-
ness is still needed, but it is expected that E
v
for UFAD with floor
diffusers will be less than or equal to 1.2 but higher than 1.0. Research
has shown that E
v
for personally controlled TAC diffusers can be sig-
nificantly higher than 1.2 when the supply air is directed toward the
occupants breathing level [Faulkner et al. 2002; Melikov et al. 2002].
It has not yet been determined how to apply these elevated performance
numbers for TAC diffusers in Standard 62, since ventilation perfor-
mance will change when an individual moves away from their local air
supply or decides to turn it off.
Standard 62-2001 sets minimum ventilation rates for office space
and conference rooms at 20 cfm (9.4 L/s) per person and reception
areas at 15 cfm (7.1 L/s) per person. In the design and operation of TAC
systems containing a large number of occupant-controlled supply mod-
ules, some means must be provided to ensure that minimum ventilation
rates are maintained, even when people choose to turn off their local air
supply.
CHAPTER 11STANDARDS, CODES, AND RATINGS
146
11.3 ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA STANDARD 90.1-2001: ENERGY
STANDARD FOR BUILDINGS EXCEPT LOW-RISE RESI-
DENTIAL BUILDINGS [ASHRAE 2001c]
ASHRAE Standard 90.1 describes requirements for the energy-
efficient design of new buildings intended for human occupancy. In
Section 9.5.2, the prescriptive criteria for zone controls state that there
can be no simultaneous operation of heating and cooling systems to the
same zone. Some of the unique aspects of UFAD and TAC systems may
be in conflict with this requirement. For example, if occupants have
control of supply air temperature for heating or cooling from their local
diffusers, situations may occur in which some people are requesting
heating and others are requesting cooling at the same time within the
same zone. In another example, with underfloor air distribution con-
figured to have fan coil units in the perimeter fed from cool plenum air
from the interior zone, if there is a call for heating, this will require local
reheating of the underfloor supply air to satisfy the heating demand (see
Title 24 below for further discussion). These and other relevant situa-
tions should be carefully considered as there are exceptions to the cri-
teria described in Standard 90.1 and perhaps subtle differences in the
operation of UFAD and TAC systems compared to a conventional over-
head air distribution system.
11.4 ANSI/ASHRAE STANDARD 113-1990: METHOD OF TEST-
ING FOR ROOM AIR DIFFUSION [ASHRAE 1990]
ASHRAE Standard 113-1990 is the only currently available build-
ing standard for evaluating the air diffusion performance of an air dis-
tribution system. The current version of Standard 113, however, is
based on the assumption of a single uniformly mixed indoor environ-
ment, as provided by a conventional overhead air distribution system.
This assumption is not appropriate for evaluating the performance of
UFAD and TAC systems that deliver conditioned air directly into the
occupied zone of the building through supply outlets that are in close
proximity to and under the control of the building occupants. UFAD
and TAC systems, therefore, not only promote thermal stratification in
the space but also may actually encourage other nonuniformities
between workstations. Efforts are now underway to revise Standard
113 to include new methods of performance evaluation that are appli-
cable to air distribution systems that deliver air directly into the occu-
pied zone of the building, including UFAD, TAC, and displacement
ventilation systems.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
147
11.5 ASHRAE STANDARD 129-1997: MEASURING AIR
CHANGE EFFECTIVENESS [ASHRAE 1997]
ASHRAE Standard 129-1997 describes a test method for evaluat-
ing an air distribution system's ability to provide required levels of ven-
tilation air to the building occupants. The results of the tests may be
used to determine compliance with ASHRAE Standard 62. If this test
method demonstrates that enhanced ventilation effectiveness is pro-
vided at breathing level by a UFAD or TAC systems, then credit may
be taken by reducing the required outdoor air quantity accordingly.
11.6 TITLE-24: CEC SECOND GENERATION NONRESIDEN-
TIAL STANDARDS [CALIFORNIA ENERGY COMMISSION
2001]
The CEC Nonresidential Standards (Title-24) defers to applicable
ASHRAE standards in most cases. Title-24 does, however, address a
few areas that should be taken into consideration in the operation of
UFAD systems in California. Title-24 mandates off-hour controls for
central HVAC systems and stipulates that the largest sized zone that can
be controlled in isolation is 25,000 ft
2
(2,300 m
2
). In buildings with
large floor plates, this size limitation will require that the underfloor
plenum be divided into smaller zones using underfloor partitions or
other suitable means. Local fire codes may require that the plenum be
divided into considerably smaller zones.
Title-24 addresses simultaneous heating and cooling, particularly
in relation to variable-air-volume (VAV) system operation. When
changing over from cooling to heating in a zone, the supply volume
must first be reduced to 30% of peak before beginning the heating
cycle. This has implications for UFAD system designs that employ an
open plenum in which variable-speed fan-coil units in the perimeter
draw their primary air from the interior zone of the plenum. On a call
for heating in the winter or early morning, fan speeds in these perimeter
units will need to be reduced. In addition, it may be difficult to meet this
requirement if swirl diffusers are placed in the perimeter zone, since
they will not automatically reduce their cooling supply volume in heat-
ing mode.
The use of electric resistance heating is prohibited according to the
prescriptive method in Title-24 for determining a buildings allowable
energy performance. However, if the alternative computer simulation
method is used to predict a buildings energy performance for compar-
ison with the Title-24 target energy budget, it may be possible to trade
off the use of electric heat with energy savings in other UFAD system
CHAPTER 11STANDARDS, CODES, AND RATINGS
148
components (e.g., improved chiller efficiency or increased economizer
operation).
Title-24 requires thermostatic zone controls with adjustable set-
points. Since TAC systems may maintain temperature differences
between locally conditioned zones (workstations) and unconditioned
or centrally conditioned areas of the workplace (e.g., corridors), atten-
tion should be paid to placing zone controls in representative locations.
In general, Title-24 focuses on the effects of overall systems. As a
result, the integration between the local and central controls should be
carefully considered. The effects of individual thermal preferences on
overall air quality and comfort should also be taken into account.
Although the current version of Title 24 does not specifically
address underfloor air distribution, if enough supporting energy- and
cost-saving data can be obtained, UFAD systems could be added to the
subsequent revision (three-year cycle).
11.7 NFPA 90A: STANDARD FOR THE INSTALLATION OF AIR-
CONDITIONING AND VENTILATING SYSTEMS [NFPA
1999]
NFPA 90A is the most widely used and referenced code in relation
to the installation of HVAC systems. This code contains language writ-
ten several years ago before the widespread introduction of UFAD sys-
tems that, depending on ones interpretation, appears to prohibit or
restrict the application of underfloor air supply plenums. Selected
examples of key language that most frequently come up in the review
of an UFAD installation by code officials are described below.
In the section titled Location of Air Outlets (Section 2-3.6.3.1),
which applies equally to inlets, the code states air outlets shall be
located at least 3 in. (7.6 cm) above the floor. This appears to rule out
the use of floor diffusers; however, an exception is given as where pro-
visions have been made to prevent dirt and dust accumulations from
entering the system. Thus, any floor diffuser without a basket-type
device or other means of collecting dirt and debris located underneath
the access floor surface would not be acceptable. Where linear grille
diffusers, often located in perimeter zones, are specified, an alternative
means of collecting dust/dirt must be provided. In addition, outlets
located less than 7 ft (2.1 m) above the floor must be protected by a
grille or screen through which a -in. (1.3-cm) sphere cannot pass.
Both the collection device and -in. grille spacing requirements are
easily satisfied by most commercially available diffuser models,
thereby complying with the exception identified in NFPA 90A. To fully
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
149
satisfy the intent of the code language to ensure a clean air distribution
system, regular vacuuming of the dust/dirt collection devices should be
included in the maintenance schedule.
In terms of the combustibility of diffusers, Sections 2-3.6.2 and 2-
3.7.2 state that air outlets and inlets shall be constructed of non-com-
bustible material or a material that has a maximum flame spread index
of 25 and a maximum smoke developed index of 50. There has been
considerable debate about the acceptability of diffusers made from
polycarbonate materials, which appear to violate the intent of NFPA
90A. For nearly 20 years several established diffuser models have been
regularly used in UFAD system installations and yet are made from a
plastic material that satisfies the required flame spread index but cannot
comply with the smoke index of 50. One argument commonly put for-
ward in defense of plastic diffusers is that the smoke test protocol
(ASTM E 84, NFPA 255requiring that a large 25-ft [7.6-m] sample
of the material be burned) cannot reasonably be applied to polycarbon-
ate material. In any event, metal diffusers fully comply with NFPA
90A, and designers should proceed cautiously with the use of plastic
materials unless specific exception has been granted by the local build-
ing code authority.
The combustibility of material in the underfloor plenum is also gov-
erned by NFPA 90A in Section 2-3.10.6.
The space between the top of the finished floor and the underside
of a raised floor shall be permitted to be used to supply air to the
occupied area, or return or exhaust air from the occupied area,
provided that the following conditions are met:
1. All materials exposed to the airflow shall be noncombusti-
ble or limited combustible and shall have a maximum smoke
developed index of 50.
An exception is given, however, for materials ranging from electri-
cal wires, cables, and optical fiber cables to raised floor panels and fire
sprinkler piping. In addition to referencing the codes to which each
exempt material must comply, these materials must have a maximum
peak optical density of 0.5 or less, an average optical density of 0.15 or
less, and a maximum flame spread distance of 5 ft (1.5 m) or less when
tested in accordance with the specified test method. Refer to NFPA 90A
for additional conditions relevant to the underfloor plenum. In general,
placing wires and cables in an air supply plenum is not a problem as
long as they are contained in conduit or are rated to be noncombustible.
CHAPTER 11STANDARDS, CODES, AND RATINGS
150
11.8 UNIFORM BUILDING AND OTHER APPLICABLE CODES
Local fire codes sometimes place restrictions on the size of open
supply air plenums without any smoke breaks in the form of partitions
separating the plenum into smaller zones. These fire codes may limit
the total area (e.g., less than 3,000 ft
2
[280 m
2
]) and horizontal dimen-
sion in one direction (e.g., less than 30 ft [9 m]) of an unobstructed
underfloor air supply plenum.
A typical underfloor plenum contains a low level of combustible
materials; thus, in certain codes plenums under 18 in. (45 cm) in height
do not require sprinklers. The issue of whether sprinklers need to be
installed in a plenum is contentious for a number of reasons. First, as
electric cabling is typically the only source of fire risk, water is not the
best source of fire suppression. Also, if fire/smoke detectors are
required by code to be placed within the floor plenum, the question
arises as to the effectiveness of standard detection devices within such
a low-height cavity. Fundamentally, the codes governing underfloor
plenums should be no different than those for ceiling plenums.
11.9 LEED (LEADERSHIP IN ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL
DESIGN) RATING SYSTEM
The United Stated Green Building Council (USGBC) established
the LEED rating system with the intent of creating a method to rate the
environmental performance of a building. The system works by assign-
ing points to various design and construction process features.
Depending on the overall number of points a building earns, it can
achieve a Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum rating.
The LEED rating system consists of five major categories:
1. Sustainable sites
2. Water efficiency
3. Energy and atmosphere
4. Materials and resources
5. Indoor environmental quality
In each category, there are both prerequisites and credits. For a
building to achieve any level of certification, it must meet the require-
ments of all the prerequisites. Prerequisites earn no points. Each credit
then is assigned a point value or range of point values that can be earned
for the building.
UFAD systems have relevance in the Energy and Atmosphere as
well as Indoor Environmental Quality sections of LEED. In the Energy
and Atmosphere section, Credit 1 allows points for optimizing the
energy performance of a building.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
151
In the Indoor Environmental Quality section of LEED, UFAD sys-
tems can be relevant related to Credit 2Increase Ventilation Effec-
tiveness. As discussed earlier in this section, UFAD systems may have
a higher ventilation effectiveness than overhead systems. Credit 2
requires that the ventilation effectiveness of the installed system be
designed to achieve an E
v
above 0.9 as determined by ASHRAE Stan-
dard 129-1997 for measuring air change effectiveness. Compliance is
demonstrated through testing or by a narrative and calculations
describing how the high-performance system was designed.
153
Chapter 12
Design Methodology
This chapter provides a concise list of issues to be considered, and
decisions to be made, during the design process. For more detailed dis-
cussions and background information, the reader is referred to other
sections of this guide. The focus is on those areas in which the design
of UFAD systems differs from conventional air distribution system
design. For further reading and design guidance, see Spoormaker
[1990], Sodec and Craig [1991], Houghton [1995], McCarry [1995],
Shute [1995], Bauman and Arens [1996], Bauman et al. [1999a], Bau-
man et al. [2000a], and AEC [2000].
12.1 UFAD VS. CONVENTIONAL OVERHEAD
SYSTEM DESIGN
UFAD systems are similar to conventional overhead systems in
terms of the types of equipment used at the cooling and heating plants
and primary air-handling units (AHU). Key differences arise with
UFAD systems in their use of an underfloor air supply plenum, warmer
supply air temperatures into the room, delivery of air in the near vicinity
of occupants (with or without individual control) and the resulting
floor-to-ceiling air flow pattern, and the solutions used for perimeter
systems. In order to successfully employ a UFAD system, it is essential
that the implications of these differences be considered, starting at an
early stage in the design process.
12.2 BUILDING STRUCTURE CONSIDERATIONS
12.2.1 Building Plan
The modularity of all components of raised floor systems can be an
advantage in space planning, particularly over large open plan areas.
CHAPTER 12DESIGN METHODOLOGY
154
Consider the compatibility of anticipated building plan geometries
with the dimensions of the floor grid established by the raised floor sys-
tem.
Raised floor panel dimensions: 24 in. (610 mm) square
Underfloor plenum pedestal spacing: same as floor panels, e.g., 24 in.
(610 mm)
12.2.2 New Construction
In new construction, underfloor air distribution has the potential to
achieve a reduction in floor-to-floor heights compared to projects with
ceiling-based air distribution. This is accomplished by reducing the
overall height of service plenums and/or by changing from standard
steel beam construction to a concrete (flat slab) structural approach. A
single large overhead plenum to accommodate large supply ducts and
other building services can be replaced with a smaller ceiling plenum
for air return and piping for sprinklers combined with a lower-height
underfloor plenum for unducted air flow and other building services
[Kight 1992]. Floor-to-floor heights for overhead systems using steel
beam construction can also be reduced by using beam penetrations for
ducts and other building services. In this comparison, if steel beam con-
struction is used in both designs, floor-to-floor heights should be equal
or lower for UFAD buildings. Significantly reduced vertical height
requirements can be achieved using concrete flat slab construction,
which is usually more expensive than steel beam construction but is
preferred for underfloor systems due to thermal storage benefits. In the
example shown in Figure 12.1, the underfloor/flat slab configuration
allows 10 in. (0.25 m) to be saved in floor-to-floor height compared to
overhead/steel beam system design.
Even greater savings (up to 22 in. [0.56 m]) can be realized if the
ceiling plenum is completely eliminated, exposing the concrete ceil-
ings and providing an opportunity for creative internal design, enhanc-
ing daylighting and artificial lighting effects. However, if the
conventional suspended acoustic tile ceiling is eliminated, leaving an
exposed concrete ceiling or other configuration, careful consideration
must be made of the acoustic and/or lighting quality of the space.
Designers will also need to consider possible conflicts with local codes
(e.g., fire code). High side-wall return is the most common return air
configuration for this exposed ceiling design.
Table 12.1 presents a comparison of typical floor-to-floor dimen-
sions for a midsize (5-10 stories), high-tech class A office building
(assuming a 40-ft clear span between columns). Dimensions are shown
UNDER FLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
155

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UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
157
for a conventional overhead system with steel beam construction, and
two UFAD system configurations, one with steel beam and one with
flat slab construction.
Underfloor plenums accommodating both cable/electrical distribu-
tion and an UFAD system are often deeper than those employed solely
for cable management purposes. However, the additional height
required for acceptable airflow performance is not large, based on
recent research results [Bauman et al. 1999a]. Underfloor plenum
heights are usually determined by
largest HVAC components (e.g., fan coil units, terminal boxes,
ducts, dampers) located under the floor,
requirements for underfloor cabling, and
additional clear space for underfloor air flow (usually 3 in. [76 mm]
minimum).
12.2.3 Retrofit Applications
Due to the tremendous size of the existing building stock, retrofit
construction will play an important role in the future for the building
industry. Projects requiring the addition of an HVAC system often
encounter the problem of having limited space for accommodating
ducts and other components. Because of the comparable dimensions
discussed above, UFAD can be quite feasible in retrofit projects. The
most practical retrofit applications will involve (1) buildings with an
existing raised floor system (no UFAD), (2) projects where the existing
air distribution system (typically overhead) will be renovated, and (3)
high ceiling spaces, such as warehouses [Webster et al. 2002c]. The use
of raised floor systems in warehouse type buildings can also eliminate
problems associated with existing uneven slab surfaces. The biggest
challenge with the installation of a raised floor system in an existing
building is that stairs, elevators, bathrooms, and other core facilities
exist at the original floor level. While elevator stops can be reset, other
facilities will usually require steps, ramps, or some other transitional
element.
The installation of a raised floor system can be less disruptive than
that of ducting for overhead systems as the floor can be easily installed,
and removed, as an independent platform leaving relatively few struc-
tural scars. This issue is important in buildings where maintaining the
integrity of the existing building structure is important for heritage/cul-
tural/structural reasons [Guttmann 2000]. Furthermore, installation
CHAPTER 12DESIGN METHODOLOGY
158
can be a relatively dry process, once the concrete structural slab has
been adequately sealed, minimizing damage to other building ele-
ments.
12.3 DETERMINATION OF SPACE COOLING
AND HEATING LOADS
Cooling and heating loads for a building with a UFAD system are
calculated in much the same manner as for a conventional overhead
(OH) system. For more information, see Chapter 29 in the 2001
ASHRAE HandbookFundamentals and Pedersen et al. [1998]. How-
ever, the determination of design cooling air quantities must take into
account key differences between these systems.
12.3.1 Space Cooling Load Calculation
This section discusses the ways that conventional load calculation
methods used for OH systems may be changed to capture performance
characteristics of stratified spaces associated with UFAD systems.
Although not discussed below, cooling loads can also be affected by
heat transferred to the underfloor plenum air supply, either through the
slab from the adjacent return air plenum or through the floor panels
from the room. Chapter 4 and Section 12.7 address this issue in greater
detail.
12.3.1.1 Mixing Assumptions for UFAD and OH Cooling
Load Calculation. The following load calculation example demon-
strates what happens if the assumption of a fully mixed room is applied
to a UFAD system.
The standard room energy-balance equation for an OH system is as
follows:

where
Q = heat loads in a room, Btu/h,
CFM = airflow moving through a room, ft
3
/min, and
T = temperature difference between the room setpoint temperature
and the supply air temperature, F.
The validity of this equation relies on two assumptionsthat the
room is at steady state and that the room is fully mixed. The assumption
Q 1.1
Btu
h cfm F
---------------------------


CFM T =
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
159
that a room is fully mixed is not valid for UFAD systems, and, as such,
this simple room energy balance equation cannot be applied here.
Consider this example of a room in cooling mode, which sheds
some light on the common question asked of UFAD systems, Do
UFAD systems need more air than OH systems? In fact, current
research indicates that airflow rates are very comparable to overhead
systems [Webster et al. 2002a].
12.3.1.2 How UFAD Stratification Affects Loads. Under-
standing how air becomes stratified in spaces employing UFAD is key
to developing a correct cooling load calculation model. As discussed in
Chapter 2, the floor-to-ceiling air flow pattern driven by rising thermal
plumes in UFAD systems produces a vertical temperature gradient in
the space. Unless air supply quantities are exceedingly high, a stratifi-
cation height is established in the room that divides the room into an
upper zone and one or two lower zones (depending on diffuser throw
height). In general, the fact that once room air has risen above this strat-
ification height it will not reenter the lower zones represents a funda-
mental difference from the fully mixed room assumed in OH system
CHAPTER 12DESIGN METHODOLOGY
160
load calculations. This principle allows convective heat gains from
sources above the stratification height in the room to be exhausted
directly at ceiling level and therefore to not be included in the air-side
load. In practice, to optimize thermal comfort, ventilation, and energy
performance, a good design goal is to maintain the stratification height
near the top of the occupied zone (4-6 ft [1.2-1.8 m]) above respiration
level, depending on whether the primary occupancy is sitting or stand-
ing.
The fact that the air in the top portion of a room above the stratifi-
cation height is warmer than the air in the bottom portion is used to the
advantage of UFAD systems in that it is primarily only the air temper-
atures in the lower portion of the room that determine the conditions
that affect the comfort of the occupant (see further discussion of ther-
mal comfort in Chapter 3). In the following discussion, this lower por-
tion of the room will be called the occupied zone. Air above the
occupied zone can be allowed to warm up beyond what would other-
wise be comfortable temperatures. The zone above the occupied zone
will be called the unoccupied zone.
12.3.1.3 Assigning Heat Gains to Occupied and Unoc-
cupied Zones. Heat loads are physically located in either the occu-
pied or unoccupied zone. For example, a ceiling pendant-mounted light
fixture is located in the unoccupied zone. A computer sitting on a desk
is located in the occupied zone. Figure 12.2 is a schematic diagram
showing some typical loads in an office.
The heat from a load is not necessarily allocated only to the occu-
pied or unoccupied zone where the load physically resides. Heat
sources must be analyzed based on their convective and radiant com-
ponents, a subject addressed by Hosni et al. [1999]. Both the location
and the convective/radiant split characterizing a specific type of heat
load determine where the heat from a load needs to be assigned. Lou-
dermilk [1999] has described a space heat gain analysis using this
approach based on empirical estimates. Unfortunately, no research-
based guidance exists to guide the assignment of loads to the occupied
and unoccupied zones. This is particularly true for heat sources located
near the stratification height (e.g., most desktop computers and equip-
ment). Using the same examples as above, the convective portion of the
light fixture can logically be assigned to the unoccupied zone, but a
good deal of the radiant portion of that energy needs to be assigned to
the occupied zone. In the case of the computer, some amount of both
the convective and radiant portions of the load can likely be assumed
to be in the unoccupied as well as the occupied zones. Table 12.2 doc-
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
161

Table 12.2: Radiant/Convective Splits for
Typical Office Heat Sources
Heat Source
Radiant
Portion
Convective
Portion
[%] [%]
Transmitted solar, no inside shade 100 0
Window solar, with inside shade 63 37
Absorbed (by fenestration) solar 63 37
Fluorescent lights, suspended, unvented 67 33
Fluorescent lights, recessed, vented to return air 59 41
Fluorescent lights, recessed, vented to return air and
supply air
19 81
Incandescent lights 80 20
People, moderate office work 38 62
Conduction, exterior walls 63 37
Conduction, exterior roof 84 16
Infiltration and ventilation 0 100
Machinery and appliances 20 to 80 80 to 20
Figure 12.2 Typical loads in an office showing convective and radiant
split.
CHAPTER 12DESIGN METHODOLOGY
162
uments the radiant and convective splits of some typical office heat
loads [ASHRAE 2001a, chapter 29].
The designer needs to use his or her judgment based on an under-
standing of the physical properties of the loads and room to assign these
properly. As discussed in Section 12.3.1.1, being overly conservative
and assigning too much load to the occupied zone has the disadvantage
of requiring more air than is needed in a zone. This results in more
equipment and higher minimum air flow quantities for VAV systems
than would otherwise be needed.
12.3.1.4 Simplified Two-Zone UFAD Load Calculation
Model. Instead of modeling a single mixed zone as with OH load cal-
culations, the simplified UFAD model uses the assumption of two dis-
tinct mixed zones, one below the stratification height and a second one
above the stratification height, as illustrated in Figure 12.3.
In the two-step procedure below, Q
occupied
and Q
unoccupied
are cal-
culated based on guidance from Section 12.3.1.3. Other terms are
defined as illustrated in Figure 12.3. In step 1, the supply air quantity
(CFM) is calculated based on the heat load and temperature difference
across the lower occupied zone only. Note that if the temperature
near the top of this lower zone is higher than the average setpoint tem-
perature (T
set
) due to stratification, this higher temperature can be sub-
Figure 12.3 Definition of two zones for simplified UFAD load calcu-
lation model.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
163
stituted for T
set
, resulting in a lower supply air quantity. In step 2, the
return air temperature (T
return
) is calculated based on the heat load in
the upper unoccupied zone, the supply air quantity from step 1, and
the temperature near the top of the lower zone (T
set
or other), as used
in step 1.
12.3.1.5 Load Calculation Software Programs. This two-
zone UFAD method is not supported by any of the commercially avail-
able load calculation programs, nor is it a part of any standard
ASHRAE load calculation method. One possible way to approximate
assigning some room loads to the unoccupied zone is to artificially
assign a high proportion of the light heat directly to the return air not
physically correct, but thermodynamically similar to the real situation.
Some of the load calculation programs allow users to assign loads in
this way. It should be noted that modifying load calculation program
inputs in this way represents a departure from the guidance provided by
the software publishers and the designer needs to be fully aware of any
impacts this may have on the final load calculation values.
12.3.1.6 Thermal Bypass in Perimeter Zones. In perimeter
zones, there is the potential for significant levels of thermal bypass
associated with the windows under high solar load conditions. The
warm interior surface temperatures (due to either highly absorptive
glazing or intercepted solar radiation if blinds are present) will form a
strong vertical plume if undisturbed by nearby diffuser air flow. By
locating the return grille directly above the window, this window ther-
mal plume supports a bypassing of convective energy directly into the
overhead return air plenum, thereby reducing the air-side load [Webster
et al. 2002b].
CHAPTER 12DESIGN METHODOLOGY
164
12.3.2 Space Heating Load Calculation
In most applications, heating is primarily needed only near the
building envelope where heat loss to the outdoors can cool spaces and
may cause discomfort. Heating may also be needed in some top floor
interior zones and during periods of low occupancy (e.g., nights and
weekends).
In operation, delivering warm air from rapidly mixing diffusers
near floor level is very effective at providing heat to the conditioned
space. Due to buoyancy effects, the characteristic thermal stratification
obtained in cooling operation is replaced with a well-mixed, uniform
temperature distribution. The calculation of heating loads can therefore
use the same methods as for conventional overhead air distribution sys-
tems.
Effective heating systems isolate the source of warm air from the
thermal lag effect of the concrete slab (which is usually slightly cooler
than room temperature). This can be done, for example, by ducting
from an underfloor fan coil unit or by using baseboard radiation or con-
vection units. Quick response on heating can be very important during
morning start-up, particularly if a nighttime setback strategy is used.
12.4 DETERMINE VENTILATION AIR REQUIREMENTS
Minimum outside air requirements should be determined according
to applicable codes and standards (e.g., ASHRAE Standard 62-2001).
Some improvement in ventilation effectiveness is expected by
delivering the fresh supply air near the occupant at floor or desktop
level, allowing an overall floor-to-ceiling air flow pattern to more effi-
ciently remove contaminants from the occupied zone of the space. An
optimized strategy is to control supply outlets to allow mixing of supply
air with room air up to the stratification height, typically no higher than
head height (4-6 ft [1.2-1.8 m] depending on primary space occu-
pancy). Above this height, stratified and more polluted air is allowed to
occur. The air that the occupant breathes will have a lower percentage
of pollutants compared to conventional uniformly mixed systems.
If an enhanced ventilation effectiveness (E
v
) can be shown to exist
in comparison to well-mixed overhead systems (see ASHRAE Stan-
dard 129-1997) the current version of Standard 62 allows some reduc-
tion in ventilation air quantities. The magnitude of this improved
ventilation effectiveness will be largest during times of outside-air
economizer use. The fact that the number of hours of economizer oper-
ation is typically greater for UFAD systems also contributes to overall
increased ventilation effectiveness (see Chapter 11 for further discus-
sion).
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
165
12.5 TEMPERATURE CONTROL AND ZONING
Please refer to Chapter 6, Controls, Operation, and Maintenance,
for a more detailed discussion of control issues. There are several
approaches to address zones with significantly different thermal loads,
including:
plenum partitioning with ducted VAV devices supplying air to each
zone;
plenum partitioning with fan-powered terminal devices supplying
air to each zone;
thermostatically controlled VAV diffusers, which may be used in
both partitioned and open plenums;
local fan-driven supply outlets, which may be used in both parti-
tioned and open plenums;
open plenums with mixing boxes and ducted outlets.
Partitioning and any other obstructions in the underfloor plenum
should be kept to the minimum necessary to optimize system perfor-
mance and efficiency, as this helps to maintain the plenum for its
intended purpose to serve as a highly flexible and accessible service
plenum.
Although not a requirement, some designers recommend limiting
the size of underfloor zones (partitioned or otherwise) that are served
by a single ducted primary air inlet from the air handler (see below).
This ensures the systems ability to avoid unacceptable variations in
supply air temperature (due to heat gain from or loss to the concrete slab
and raised floor structure).
In some system designs, using multiple medium- or small-sized
(floor-by-floor) AHUs can minimize or totally eliminate ductwork and
improve zone control when AHU capacities correspond to the specific
requirements of each plenum zone.
12.5.1 Interior Zones
Interior zones (typically defined as areas located farther than 15 ft
(5 m) from exterior walls) are usually exposed to relatively constant and
lower (compared to perimeter zones) thermal loads (almost always
cooling in typical office buildings). In many completed projects, these
zones have been adequately served by a constant volume (or constant
pressure in a pressurized system) control strategy. The need for
dynamic control of these (typically) large zones can be reduced due to
the ability of occupants to make small local adjustments to individual
diffusers. This configuration with a minimum amount of underfloor
CHAPTER 12DESIGN METHODOLOGY
166
partitioning helps to maintain flexibility in the relocation of other ser-
vices (e.g., cabling).
However, with modern energy-efficient office equipment and high
diversity rates of personnel, it is recognized that interior loads can still
fluctuate significantly; control strategies and system designs need to be
well thought out to accommodate these conditions. For example, using
a VAV strategy can result in the same benefits as for an overhead sys-
tem. The interaction between interior and perimeter systems also needs
careful consideration. If plenum air is used to supply cooling for perim-
eter zones, reset of supply air temperature (SAT) to a higher tempera-
ture for the core zones (e.g., at part load) may compromise the
perimeter systems ability to satisfy a simultaneous peak cooling load
condition. In this case, a VAV strategy may be advisable to allow the
coolest supply temperature possible to be available in the perimeter
zone.
12.5.2 Perimeter Zones
The largest loads typically occur near the skin of the building. Since
these areas are influenced by climatic variations, rapid fluctuations in
heating and cooling demands can occur, with peak loads often occur-
ring only for several hours per day and relatively few days of the year.
Code-regulated energy-efficient envelope design is always the first
stage of defense against excessive perimeter loads.
The purposes of the perimeter system are to (1) neutralize the skin
load, thereby isolating the perimeter from the interior system; (2) pro-
vide heating, required in almost all buildings; and (3) provide auto-
matic control to allow quick response to rapid load changes. Due to the
thermal inertia of the slab, UFAD systems serving interior zones (com-
monly open plenums with passive diffusers) tend to be very stable in
operation. As a result, perimeter zone considerations often lead to
hybrid system designs in which active, fan-powered supply units are
used to increase the rate at which the system can respond to changes in
load. Many perimeter zone solutions have been successfully applied in
practice (see Chapter 9 for further discussion). Some manufacturers
offer equipment and recommended configurations for perimeter sys-
tems.
12.5.3 Other Special Areas
Other special zones having large and rapid changes in cooling load
requirements, such as conference rooms or lecture halls, should incor-
porate fan-powered or other VAV air supply solutions. This can require
underfloor partitioning for these areas. Automatic controls to these
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
167
zones should be capable of meeting both peak demand and significant
turndown during periods of little or no occupancy (see Chapter 9 for
further discussion). Manual control of these zones has also been used
in some installations.
12.6 AIR DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM CONFIGURATION
12.6.1 Plenum Configuration
The installation of a raised floor system and the many advantages
that it produces in terms of improved cable management, flexibility,
and life-cycle cost savings will, in many cases, be the main driver in jus-
tifying the use of underfloor air distribution. Once an underfloor air
supply plenum is included in the design, there are three basic
approaches to configuring it: (1) pressurized plenum with a central air
handler delivering air through the plenum and into the space through
passive grilles/diffusers; (2) zero-pressure, or neutral, plenum with air
delivered into the conditioned space through local fan-powered (active)
supply outlets in combination with the central air handler; and (3) in
some cases, ducted air supply through the plenum to terminal devices
and supply outlets. In practice, although not a requirement, the final
designs often end up as hybrid solutions including some combination
of the above components. For example, a common pressurized plenum
design uses passive diffusers in the interior zone, active fan-driven dif-
fusers in the perimeter or special zones with rapid load changes, and
some amount of distribution ductwork in the underfloor plenum.
The largest dimension of ductwork and other non-movable system
components that can reasonably fit between underfloor pedestals is 22
in. (560 mm). For components such as fan coils and terminals whose
relocation or removal (for maintenance considerations) is foreseen, this
maximum dimension should be limited to 19 in. (480 mm). The
removal of any component larger than 19 in. between pedestals requires
the removal of one or more rows of pedestal heads. The removal of one
pedestal head requires that all four of the floor tiles it supports be
removed.
In recent years there have been many different system configura-
tions employed by UFAD system designers these should be carefully
reviewed and considered during the initial design concept develop-
ment. The most up-to-date information on lessons learned, both suc-
cessful and unsuccessful, will generally be available from design
engineers, facility managers, or occupants in buildings with recently
installed UFAD systems [e.g., McCarry 1995; Shute 1995; Daly 2002].
In the discussion below, we will focus on the two plenum-based supply
CHAPTER 12DESIGN METHODOLOGY
168
configurations, as guidelines for fully ducted systems are well estab-
lished. For additional details, see Chapter 4.
12.6.1.1 Pressurized Plenums. Supply air that has been fil-
tered and conditioned to the required temperature and humidity, includ-
ing at least the minimum required volume of outside air, is delivered
from the air-handling unit (AHU) through a minimal amount of duct-
work to the underfloor plenum. The central AHU is controlled to main-
tain a small, but positive, pressure in the underfloor plenum relative to
the conditioned space. Typical plenum pressures fall in the range of
0.05-0.1 in. H
2
O (12.5-25 Pa). The number of plenum inlet locations
is determined by the size of control zones, access points available in the
building, amount of distribution ductwork used under the floor, and
other design issues. Within the underfloor plenum, it is always desir-
able to the extent possible to have the supply air flow un-ducted to the
supply outlets.
Research has shown that pressurized plenums can maintain a rela-
tively constant plenum pressure across a single control zone [Bauman
et al. 1999a]. This allows any passive diffuser of the same size and con-
trol setting (typical damper opening) located in the zone to deliver the
same amount of air to the space. In contrast, field experience suggests
that maintaining uniform temperature distribution in a zone is a more
significant design challenge. Especially for diffusers located far from
the plenum inlet, a substantial variation in supply air temperature can
occur as a result of heat transfer through the raised floor and the slab
(see Section 12.7).
There is some evidence from completed projects that uncontrolled
air leakage from the pressurized plenum can impair system perfor-
mance. Proper attention must be given to the sealing of junctions
between plenum partitions, structural slab, access floor panels, and
exterior or interior permanent walls during the construction phase of
the project. It is particularly important to minimize leakage to the out-
side of the building, as this directly affects the energy performance of
the system. Due to the relatively low pressure (0.05-0.1 in. H
2
O
[12.5-25 Pa]) used in pressurized plenums, proponents of pressurized
plenums claim that leakage into adjacent zones is minimal, and much
of the leakage (between raised floor panels) will be into the same
conditioned zone of the building [Sodec and Craig 1991]. In any case,
carpet tiles (preferably overlapping the floor seams) with rubberized
backing should be employed to ensure acceptable floor leakage rates.
This is a design issue that is still in need of further investigation (see
Chapter 4).
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
169
12.6.1.2 Zero-Pressure Plenums. Primary supply air from
the central air handler is delivered to the underfloor plenum in much the
same manner as with pressurized plenums. In this case, since the ple-
num is maintained at very nearly the same pressure as the conditioned
space, local fan-powered supply outlets are required to supply the air
into the occupied zone of the space.
A major advantage of zero-pressure plenums is that they pose no
risk of uncontrolled air leakage to the conditioned space, adjacent
zones, or outside. In addition, the removal of floor panels for service or
maintenance activities does not disrupt overall supply-air flow.
Local fan-powered outlets under thermostatic or individual control
allow supply air conditions to be controlled over a wide range as nec-
essary. This controllability can be used to handle zones with signifi-
cantly different thermal loads without underfloor partitioning. The use
of partitioning for zone control can also be applied in a similar way as
for pressurized plenums.
The advantages of no leakage and improved local control of air flow
must be traded off against several factors. Fan-powered supply outlets
have a cost premium compared to passive diffusers used in pressurized
plenum designs. In terms of energy use, although central fan energy
consumption will be reduced compared to that for a pressurized ple-
num, this savings will be offset by the energy consumed by the large
number of small local fans that are typically less efficient than larger
fans. However, if a pressurized plenum leaks at a high rate, this can also
lead to excessive fan energy use. Another consideration with local fan-
driven units is the potential for increased noise levels, but this can usu-
ally be handled with proper fan design. As a general rule, underfloor
systems have been found to be quieter than conventional overhead sys-
tems.
Since the supply air in the underfloor plenum is in direct contact
with the concrete structural slab, the same thermal storage strategies as
with pressurized systems can be used. Similarly, the frequency of
ducted primary air inlets to the plenum must take into consideration the
heat exchange between the supply air and the underfloor plenum struc-
tural mass.
By relying on both a primary air handler and local fan-powered out-
lets to draw air from the plenum into the space, zero-pressure config-
urations can more reliably maintain some amount of cooling effect,
even if the air handler is shut down for repair or servicing. In particular,
this feature may allow after-hours cooling to be provided at isolated
locations at a substantial savings, since the central plant does not need
CHAPTER 12DESIGN METHODOLOGY
170
to operate. In this case the active diffusers will continue to provide local
air motion and cooling due to the thermal inertia of the concrete slab.
The greater ability of zero-pressure systems using active diffusers
to provide localized cooling [Tsuzuki et al. 1999] suggests their suit-
ability in projects involving high and diversified heat loads. In fact, this
is why fan-driven solutions are frequently applied in perimeter zones
and special zones with rapidly changing loads.
12.6.2 Duct Requirements
Within the underfloor plenum, the designer must first define the
temperature control zones (Section 12.5) and whether or not this zon-
ing will require the installation of underfloor partitioning. Additional
partitioning in the plenum may also be required to comply with local
energy and/or fire codes. The amount of ductwork to be installed in the
underfloor plenum is then determined by considering the following
issues.
Ensure that an adequate and relatively uniform amount of supply air
is delivered to all parts of the floor plate. Perimeter and special
zones will have higher airflow requirements. Research has shown
that plenum pressures and airflow are quite uniform in pressurized
plenums as shallow as 8-in. (200-mm) over a distance of up to 80 ft
(24 m) [Bauman et al. 1999a].
Provide an acceptable degree of thermal decay (temperature varia-
tion) as the supply air passes through the open plenum (see Section
12.7 for more details).
Deliver supply air to terminals supplying (partitioned) control
zones.
Isolate heated air (typically from fan coil units) from the cooler slab
and other surfaces in the plenum, and allow fan-driven supply air to
quickly respond to changes in load (perimeter diffusers are usually
ducted from these terminals). In all cases it is recommended to min-
imize ductwork and partitioning in order to reduce costs and con-
flicts with other trades and to maintain an open and highly flexible
underfloor service plenum.
If multiple vertical shafts are used in the building, horizontal duct-
work in the plenum can be reduced or eliminated.
Coordinate with wiring, conduit, and piping distribution needs in the
plenum.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
171
The design and layout of main ducts from the central plant to ple-
num inlet locations is similar to that of conventional overhead systems
except that access must be provided for the ducts to reach the under-
floor plenum. The amount of main ductwork can be reduced in designs
using medium to small-sized air handlers (floor-by-floor units) that are
located closer to the point of use. However, ductwork for ventilation air
is still required and must be sized accordingly in climates where the use
of an outside-air economizer will be an important operating strategy.
At plenum inlets, it is recommended to limit discharge velocities to
about 1,500 fpm (7.6 m/s) for acoustical purposes. Although not an
issue of the same magnitude as it is in computer room applications with
much larger air delivery rates, to avoid reentry of room air through dif-
fusers it is recommended to place floor diffusers at least about 6 ft (2
m) away from major plenum inlet locations.
The largest distribution ducts in the underfloor plenum can be stan-
dard rectangular or round ducts, but they must have a maximum width
of 22 in. (560 mm) to fit between raised floor pedestals and a maximum
height of at least 2 in. (50 mm) less than the finished floor height to
account for the thickness of the floor panels. Wider ducts can be accom-
modated, but this adds complexity and cost to the raised floor installa-
tion, requiring special bridging to span across the ductwork.
In recent years, air highways have been introduced, which are
fabricated rectangular ducts that use the underside of the floor panel as
the top, concrete slab as the bottom, and sealed sheet metal partitioning
for the sides. Air highways are often designed to be two floor panels in
width (4 ft [1.2 m]).
The advantages of using air highways instead of single or multiple
standard ducts running between floor pedestals in the plenum include
lower costs due to less sheet metal and lower labor rates for floor install-
ers; lower pressure drop because they provide larger effective duct area;
and reduced coordination and conflicts.
In practice, built projects are finding that actual cost savings are
questionable due to the lack of familiarity of construction by floor con-
tractors and the general contractor. Other issues that need to be con-
sidered are the code equivalence to a duct when it comes to crossing
corridors. Construction coordination can be impacted because the
ducts are not complete until floor tiles installed. The air highways are
also susceptible to damage by other trades. Finally, although the goal
is a leak-free installation, the air highways have only limited pressure
capability, and overpressurized air-highways can lead to substantial air
leakage.
CHAPTER 12DESIGN METHODOLOGY
172
Underfloor ducts serving specific zones should be sized to accom-
modate peak cooling loads. The capacity of the central chiller plant, air
handlers and main duct risers can generally be reduced by accounting
for time variations and load diversity (up to 30%).
The amount of recirculation ductwork can be reduced by taking
some of the return air at ceiling level directly back into the underfloor
plenum without returning it to the air handler. For example, return air
can be brought down induction shafts formed with furring spaces along
structural columns [e.g., see Shute 1995]. This alternative configura-
tion of bypass control can only be used as long as proper dehumidifi-
cation is maintained back at the air handler and complete blending of
return and supply air is achieved within the underfloor plenum. An
additional consideration is that directly returned air of this kind will not
be filtered back at the AHU.
In both zero-pressure and pressurized plenums, the delivery of air
through fan-powered outlets is even more reliable than that through
passive diffusers in pressurized plenums. Active diffusers are less sus-
ceptible to pressure variations (such as when access floor panels are
removed) and other flow restrictions.
If desktop- or partition-based diffusers are specified, small-sized
ductwork (e.g., flex duct, passageways integrated into the furniture,
etc.) will be required to bring supply air up from the underfloor plenum
(or down from an overhead system) to serve these outlets.
12.7 DETERMINE ZONE SUPPLY AIR TEMPERATURE
AND AIR FLOW REQUIREMENTS
Because the air is supplied directly into the occupied zone and close
to occupants, supply air temperatures must be warmer than that used for
Figure 12.4 A typical air highway detail.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
173
conventional overhead system design. For cooling applications, supply
air temperatures entering the plenum should be maintained in the range
of 61-65F (16-18C) with 63-65F (17-18C) as a good target for sup-
ply air temperatures at the diffusers to avoid overcooling nearby occu-
pants. By comparison, overhead systems typically deliver 55F (13C)
air at ceiling level. This supply temperature can be reset even higher
under partial-load conditions. In temperate climates, where high
humidity is not a problem, these warmer supply air temperatures
increase the potential for economizer use and allow higher cooling coil
temperatures to be set, if desired. See Section 12.10 for further discus-
sion of humidity control.
Mixed air temperature after the cooling coil, or plenum inlet tem-
perature, must be determined by taking into account temperature
increase as the air flows through the underfloor plenum. Under most
conditions, heat will be transferred to the plenum air from the slab (heat
conducted from the return air plenum of the floor below) and from the
raised floor panels (heat conducted from the room). Current estimates
for typical air flow rates in an underfloor plenum with a slab that is 5F
(3C) warmer than the plenum inlet air temperature call for a 2F (1C)
increase for every 33 ft (10 m) of distance traveled through the plenum.
Some manufacturers also provide guidance for thermal decay rates
[York 1999]. This supply air temperature increase (sometimes referred
to as thermal decay) has important implications for the maximum
distance that a diffuser should be located from the nearest plenum inlet.
For example, if the design objective is to limit thermal decay to 3F
(2C), then the farthest diffuser should be located a maximum of about
50 ft (15 m) from the closest supply point into the plenum. It is also pos-
sible under suitable weather conditions to reduce thermal decay by
employing a nighttime precooling strategy of thermal mass in the
underfloor plenum (see Section 12.11).
Other considerations in selecting a minimum plenum air tempera-
ture include avoiding excessively cool floor surfaces and preventing
condensation on cool surfaces in the plenum. Current recommenda-
tions are to control plenum air temperature to be no colder than in the
range of 61-65F (16-18C).
Cooling air quantities for UFAD systems should be carefully deter-
mined. Higher supply air temperatures would suggest that higher sup-
ply air volumes are required, but the higher return temperatures created
by stratification reduce the required increase in volume. As previously
described in Section 12.3.1, properly controlled stratification in the
space allows cooling air quantities for UFAD systems to be very similar
to those required under the same conditions using overhead air distri-
CHAPTER 12DESIGN METHODOLOGY
174
bution. Daly [2002] discusses this issue and notes that in many com-
pleted UFAD projects, measured return air temperatures are not as high
as anticipated. This evidence suggests that over-airing is a common
problem, leading to reduced stratification and higher fan energy use. If
a designer conservatively assigns too large a fraction of the heat sources
to the lower occupied zone, excessive air quantities will be supplied
to the space. In a constant-air-volume (CAV) zone, as many interior
zones are designed for simplicity, high air supply volumes will lead to
overcooling.
In pressurized plenums, another factor affecting air supply quanti-
ties is the additional cooling effect provided by air leakage through the
raised floor combined with the heat transferred from the room through
the raised floor panels to the underfloor plenum. Recent testing has
measured air leakage rates for one type of floor panel with offset carpet
tiles (covering the gaps between panels) in the range of 0.1-0.2 cfm/ft
2
(0.5-1.0 L/(s
.
m
2
)). Accounting for the additional heat loss through the
floor, this amount can be a substantial fraction (approaching 50%) of
the total required cooling in the zone. Unless this is considered, even
more overcooling may develop. Zero-pressure plenum designs are not
impacted by air leakage, although heat transfer through the floor will
still be an issue.
12.8 SELECT AND LOCATE DIFFUSERS
Floor diffusers are most commonly used and offer the widest selec-
tion of products to the designer. Due to growing interest in UFAD sys-
tems in the U.S., several new designs have been introduced in the last
five years and this trend is expected to continue. Floor diffusers can be
passive or active, depending on the plenum configuration and mode of
operation (see below). TAC supply outlets that provide a wider range
of control by the occupant are typically fan-driven (active) and may be
located in the floor, furniture, partitions, or ceiling. Please see Chapter
5, UFAD Equipment, for a more detailed discussion of diffuser
options.
Passive diffusers are defined as air supply outlets that rely on a pres-
surized underfloor plenum to deliver air from the plenum through the
diffuser into the conditioned space of the building. Active diffusers are
defined as air supply outlets that rely on a local fan to deliver air from
the plenum through the diffuser into the conditioned space of the build-
ing. Passive diffusers can generally be converted to active diffusers by
simply attaching a fan-powered outlet box to the underside of the dif-
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
175
fuser or grille. Most manufacturers provide both passive and active dif-
fusers.
Three types of floor diffusers currently in use are:
1. Swirl diffuser: This is the most commonly installed type of dif-
fuser in UFAD systems; more models are commercially available
than for any other design. The swirling air flow pattern of air dis-
charged from this round floor diffuser provides rapid mixing of
supply air with the room air in the occupied zone. Occupants may
have limited control of the amount of air being delivered by rotat-
ing the face of the diffuser or by opening the diffuser and adjust-
ing a volume control damper. Designs are also available with
integral automatic volume control.
2. Variable-area diffuser: This diffuser is designed for variable-air-
volume operation. It uses an automatic internal damper to main-
tain close to a constant discharge velocity as air flow is reduced.
Air is supplied through a slotted square floor grille in a jet-type
air flow pattern. Occupants can adjust the direction of the supply
jets by changing the orientation of the grille. Supply volume may
be controlled by a thermostat on a zone basis or, if available, as
adjusted by an individual user.
3. Linear floor grille: Linear grilles have been used for many years
in underfloor applications where occupant control is not an issue.
Air is supplied in a jet-type planar sheet, making them well
matched for ducted applications in perimeter zones adjacent to
exterior windows. Although linear grilles often have multi-blade
dampers, they are not designed for frequent adjustment by indi-
viduals and are therefore not typically used in densely occupied
interior office space.
In addition to the three types of floor diffusers described above for
passive diffusers, several other types of active diffusers are available.
See Chapter 3 for data on effective cooling rates for three of the fol-
lowing fan-driven diffusers:
1. Floor supply module: Multiple discharge grilles (jet-type) are
mounted in a single raised floor panel. Fixed vanes in the grilles
are inclined at 40 so that air flow direction can be adjusted by
rotating the grilles. Integral fan speed control allows the air sup-
ply volume to be controlled.
2. Desktop air supply pedestals: Two supply pedestals located near
the back of the desk surface allow adjustment of air flow direction
and flow rate. Air is supplied from a mixing box that is typically
hung in the back or corner of the knee space of the desk and con-
nected by flexible duct to the two desktop supply nozzles. The
CHAPTER 12DESIGN METHODOLOGY
176
mixing box uses a small variable-speed fan to pull air from the
underfloor plenum and deliver a free-jet-type air flow from the
nozzles.
3. Underdesk diffuser: One or more fully adjustable (for air flow
direction) grilles, similar to a car's dashboard, are mounted just
below and even with the front edge of the desk surface (other
positions are possible). A fan unit located either adjacent to the
desk or in the underfloor plenum delivers air through flexible duct
to the grilles.
4. Partition-based diffuser: Grilles are mounted in the partitions
immediately adjacent to the desk. Air is delivered through pas-
sageways that are integrated into the partition design to controlla-
ble supply grilles that may be located just above desk level or just
below the top of the partition.
It is recommended that you contact the diffuser manufacturers
directly to obtain the most up-to-date product information on the afore-
mentioned TAC diffusers.
The flexibility of mounting supply diffusers in movable raised floor
panels is a major advantage for UFAD systems. The inherent ability to
easily move diffusers to more closely match the distribution of loads in
the space makes the placement of diffusers a much easier task. In open
plan offices, it is highly desirable to install one local task diffuser in
each workstation, thereby providing the potential for individual control
by each occupant. After initial placement of the diffusers during the
final stages of construction, final adjustments can take place after the
location of furniture and loads, as well as the preferences of individual
occupants, are more accurately determined.
12.9 DETERMINE RETURN AIR CONFIGURATION
For optimal cooling operation of a UFAD system, it is important to
locate return grilles at ceiling level or, at a minimum, above the occu-
pied zone (1.8 m [6 ft]). Air is typically returned through grilles located
in a suspended ceiling or through high side-wall grilles if no ceiling ple-
num is present. This supports an overall floor-to-ceiling air flow pattern
that takes advantage of the natural buoyancy produced by heat sources
in the office and more efficiently removes heat loads and contaminants
from the space.
A certain portion of return air is mixed with primary air from the
AHU to achieve desired air temperatures and humidity and enable
reduced energy costs. In many climates, to achieve proper humidity
control, conventional cooling coil temperatures must be used (produc-
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
177
ing a coil leaving temperature of 55F [13C]). In this situation, a return
air bypass control strategy can be employed in which a portion of the
return air is bypassed around the cooling coil and then mixed with the
air leaving the coil to produce the desired warmer supply air tempera-
ture entering the plenum (61-65F [16-18C]).
In some cases, a percentage of return air can be recirculated directly
back into the underfloor plenum via return shafts near the ceiling or
from the ceiling plenum. As mentioned earlier, this configuration does
not allow filtering of return air back at the AHU. Room air flowing back
into the plenum through open floor grilles can also serve as makeup air
for zero pressure plenum designs when local fan-powered outlets
require more air than that being supplied from the central AHU.
If recirculation takes place directly in the underfloor plenum, the
supply and return air streams must be well mixed within the underfloor
plenum before delivery to the conditioned space. This can usually be
achieved by distributing the primary air at regularly spaced intervals
throughout the plenum and/or employing fan-powered local supply
units to aid mixing of primary supply air with the return air.
12.10 SELECT AND SIZE PRIMARY HVAC EQUIPMENT
Due to the reduction in supply ductwork and to the low operational
static pressures in pressurized underfloor air supply plenums (typical
pressures are around 0.05-0.1 in. H
2
O [12.5-25 Pa]), central fan energy
use and installed horsepower can potentially be reduced relative to tra-
ditional ducted overhead air distribution systems (see Webster et al.
[2000] for a more complete discussion of this issue). Similarly, in zero-
pressure plenums, fan-assisted supply outlets further reduce central fan
sizing. As discussed in Section 12.7, cooling air quantities, and there-
fore air-handler capacities, for UFAD systems should be carefully
determined and may be equal to or less than those required under the
same conditions using overhead systems.
Humidity control is a key consideration in the selection of air-han-
dling units (AHU) and the mechanical cooling plant. In all climates
requiring dehumidification of the outside air, a cooling coil leaving
temperature in the range of 50-55F (10-13C) will typically be used.
To produce the higher plenum inlet temperatures (61-65F [16-18C])
required for UFAD systems, a non-standard AHU configuration, such
as face and bypass, must be specified. With this approach, the incoming
outside air and a portion of the return air are dehumidified (minimum
amount needed for humidity control). The remaining return air is
bypassed around the coil, if done at the air handler, and mixed with the
CHAPTER 12DESIGN METHODOLOGY
178
cool primary air to produce supply air of the proper temperature and
humidity before being delivered directly into the underfloor plenum. In
this configuration, a range of coil temperatures can be utilized, includ-
ing low-temperature air systems with or without ice storage. The only
adjustment would be the required amount of bypassed return air to mix
and produce the desired plenum inlet temperature. This and other
equipment selection challenges are discussed by Int-Hout [2001].
It is recommended that in designs with both UFAD and overhead air
distribution systems, separate AHU and mechanical cooling systems
be selected with each type of system. If the same chiller and AHU are
used, this can lead to system inefficiencies for the UFAD system. For
example, during mild weather, a single cooling plant would need to be
operated to serve the colder supply air requirements of the overhead
system, even though the UFAD system (using a warmer supply air tem-
perature) would need no cooling. For further discussion of this subject,
see AEC [2001].
Consideration must also be given to the need for a heating coil at the
AHU. Such a coil may be needed for morning warm-up or to produce
the required higher supply air temperatures during cold weather at min-
imum outdoor air.
12.11 THERMAL STORAGE OPPORTUNITIES
In all but the earliest fully ducted UFAD installations there is some
amount of supply air flowing through the underfloor plenum in direct
contact with the concrete floor slab. Control strategies should carefully
consider thermal storage in the slab and other components (e.g., floor
panels). UFAD systems are very stable in operation with only gradual
(usually unnoticeable to occupants) changes in supply temperature
over time, unless the supply air is isolated from the mass.
Energy and operating cost savings can be achieved using a thermal
storage strategy in the concrete slab. In temperate climates, cool night-
time air can be brought into the underfloor plenum where it effectively
cools the slab overnight. During the following day's cooling operation,
higher supply air temperatures can be used to meet the cooling demand,
thereby reducing refrigeration loads for at least part of the day. This 24-
hour thermal storage strategy benefits from lower off-peak utility rates
and extends the hours of economizer operation. For this strategy to be
successful, the following issues must be addressed:
Heating night setback must be used.
Since a precooled slab will be at its coolest temperature in the
morning, the design, capacity, and response rate of the heating sys-
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
179
tem, if needed, will be particularly important under morning start-
up conditions. Ultimately, the most important consideration is to
optimize the control of the slab precooling system such that morn-
ing warm-up is minimized while still taking maximum advantage of
the potential mechanical cooling reduction during the following
day.
Enthalpy-based economizer control must be used to maintain
proper humidity levels of the incoming nighttime air and to protect
against condensation in the plenum.
Lower limit control switches for both slab and space temperatures
must be activated to prevent overcooling.
Preliminary estimates indicate that a precooled slab is most effective
at reducing daytime cooling loads during morning hours only.
If the slab is not pre-cooled at night, then supply outlet temperatures
will likely increase with distance from the primary air inlet to the ple-
num due to the effects of stored heat in the slab (particularly from warm
return air from the next floor down flowing along the underside of the
slab).
Thermal storage performance of underfloor air supply plenums is
the subject of ongoing research. Please refer to Chapter 4, Underfloor
Air Supply Plenums, for further discussion.
181
Chapter 13
UFAD Project
Examples
One of the best ways to educate the engineering and design com-
munity on how to apply UFAD technology is to review the work of oth-
ers as described in case studies and other reports on completed
installations. This section presents a list of references, web sites, and
other sources describing examples of UFAD and TAC system designs.
Inclusion of a particular project, designer, or product in the following
list does not constitute an endorsement but rather is intended to dem-
onstrate the range of possible solutions that have been applied in prac-
tice.
ArchitectureWeek. 2000. Building for Harmony with nature. Archi-
tectureWeek, June 14, http://www.architectureweek.com/2000/
0614/building_1-1.html.
Arnold, D. 1990. Raised floor air distributiona case study. ASHRAE
Transactions, Vol. 96, Pt. 2.
Barker, C.T., G. Anthony, R. Waters, A. McGregor, and M. Harrold. 1987.
Lloyd's of London. Air Conditioning: Impact on the Built Environ-
ment. New York: Nichols Publishing Company.
Bauman, F., K. Powell, R. Bannon, A. Lee, and T. Webster. 2000. Under-
floor air technology web site: http://www.cbe.berkeley.edu/under-
floorair. Center for the Built Environment, University of California,
Berkeley, December.
Beck, P. 1993. Intelligent design passes IQ test. Consulting-Specifying
Engineer, January.
Cornell University. 1999. Case study: 901 Cherry Gap Headquarters.
http://dea.human.cornell.edu/Ecotecture/Case%20Studies/Gap/
CHAPTER 13UFAD PROJECT EXAMPLES
182
gap_home.htm. Ecotecture site, Department of Design and Envi-
ronmental Analysis, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
Daly, A. 2002. Underfloor air distribution: Lessons learned. ASHRAE
Journal, Vol. 44, No. 5, May, pp. 21-24.
Energy Design Resources. 2000. Underfloor air distribution offers
energy efficiency and much more! eNews for Designers, Issue 18,
October 27, http://www.energydesignresources.com.
Guttmann, S. 2000. Raising the bar, with raised floors. Consulting-
Specifying Engineer, October.
HGA. 2002. ADC World Headquarters & Technology Campus. Ham-
mel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc., Minneapolis, MN.
Kight, D. 1992. Epson flexes its technological muscles. Facilities
Design and Management, February.
Loftness, V., P. Mathew, G. Gardner, C. Mondor, T. Paul, R. Yates, and M.
Dellana. 1999. Sustainable development alternatives for specula-
tive office buildings: A case study of the Soffer Tech office build-
ing. Final report. Center for Building Performance and
Diagnostics, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.
Matsunawa, K., H. Iizuka, and S. Tanabe. 1995. Development and appli-
cation of an underfloor air conditioning system with improved out-
lets for a smart building in Tokyo. ASHRAE Transactions, Vol.
101, Pt. 2.
McCarry, B. 1998. Innovative underfloor system. ASHRAE Journal,
Vol. 40, No. 3, March, pp. 76-79.
McQuillen, D. 2001. 3 case studies for improved IAQ. Environmental
Design + Construction, posted 1/24/2001, http://www.edc-
mag.com.
Portland General Electric. 2002. Earth Advantage/Building Profile:
CNF Information Technology Center. http://www.earthadvan-
tage.com/commercial/projects.asp. Portland General Electric,
Commercial and Industrial Energy Efficiency Programs, Portland,
OR.
Shute, R.W. 1992. Integrated access floor HVAC. ASHRAE Transac-
tions, Vol. 98, Pt. 1.
Tuddenham, D. 1986. A floor-based approach. ASHRAE Journal (July).
Warson, A. 1990. The pin-striped office. Canadian Building, March.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
183
Webster, T., et al. 1999-2002. UFAD Project Profiles. http://
www.cbe.berkeley.edu/underfloorair/whereHasItBeenDone.htm.
Underfloor air technology web site, Center for the Built Environ-
ment, University of California, Berkeley.
Six project profiles and two case studies are provided for the fol-
lowing projects: (1) BC Hydro, Burnaby, British Columbia; (2)
California State Automobile Association (CSAA), Livermore, CA;
(3) First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO) Technology Center,
Omaha, NE; (4) Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD)
Customer Service Center (CSC), Sacramento, CA; (5) Teledesic
Broadband Center, Bellevue, WA; and (6) Telus, Vancouver, British
Columbia.
Webster, T., R. Bannon, and D. Lehrer. 2002. Teledesic Broadband Cen-
ter. Center for the Built Environment, University of California,
Berkeley, CA, April.
185
Chapter 14
Future Directions
Underfloor air distribution (UFAD) represents an approach to space
conditioning in buildings that has several advantages over traditional
ceiling-based air distribution systems. Depending on the design and
application, these systems have the potential to (1) improve indoor
environmental quality, worker satisfaction, and productivity by provid-
ing personal comfort control and improved ventilation efficiency, (2)
reduce energy use through a variety of system design and operating
strategies, and (3) reduce life-cycle building costs by improving flex-
ibility in providing and maintaining building services.
While it is true that UFAD systems are being designed, installed,
and operated right now, as an overall technology they are still relatively
new and unfamiliar to the building industry at large. In this design
guide, we have described UFAD systems in detail, and have presented
recommendations and design methods based on the most current and
best available data and information. Where available, we have also pro-
vided preliminary guidance for the design of task/ambient conditioning
(TAC) systems. Throughout the guide, we have also identified areas
where more work is needed. Additional research and development
within the industry could provide significantly more guidance by iden-
tifying and investigating from both a fundamental and practical per-
spective some of the key differences between UFAD and TAC systems
and overhead systems. These findings could then be incorporated into
updated design guides, design tools, workshops, and other forms of
technology transfer to help inform the design community about these
systems.
This section summarizes ongoing and future research, standards
development, and activities within the building industry addressing
UFAD and TAC technology needs.
CHAPTER 14FUTURE DIRECTIONS
186
14.1 RESEARCH
14.1.1 Room Air Stratification
One of the most critical pieces of missing information on UFAD
systems is the fundamental performance of stratified floor-to-ceiling
air flow and the implications for energy savings, thermal comfort, and
indoor air quality. Optimizing the control of stratification can reduce
the volume of supply air required to maintain comfort conditions in the
occupied zone with corresponding energy savings. Research is now
underway investigating the energy impacts of room air stratification
[CBE 2002].
14.1.2 Underfloor Air Supply Plenums
Research is needed to address the control and energy-related
aspects of delivering supply air through a plenum in contact with an
exposed concrete slab and floor panels. Thermal performance issues
include variations in supply air temperature with distance traveled in
the plenum and thermal storage strategies for achieving energy and
operating cost savings. Research is currently underway investigating
underfloor plenum thermal performance [CBE 2002].
14.1.3 Whole-Building Energy Simulation Model
A whole-building energy simulation program capable of accurately
modeling UFAD systems currently does not exist. This is one of the top
technology needs identified by system designers. Models for both of
the above two elements (room air stratification and underfloor plenum)
would need to be incorporated into such a system model that would
allow the comparison of the energy performance of UFAD systems
with that of conventional system design. The development of such a
model is the goal of a new research project scheduled for completion
in 2005 [CBE 2002].
14.1.4 Thermal Comfort
To allow the optimization of UFAD and TAC system performance,
effective comfort criteria need to be developed. Relevant thermal com-
fort research should address the impact of thermal stratification and the
provision of individual control on thermal acceptability and occupant
satisfaction.
14.1.5 Ventilation Performance
Laboratory and field measurements of ventilation performance are
needed to more accurately quantify the ventilation efficiency of UFAD
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
187
and TAC system configurations. These studies should investigate the
ventilation improvement of both stratified floor-to-ceiling airflow and
TAC diffusers that deliver fresh air in the near vicinity and under per-
sonal control of building occupants.
14.1.6 Field Studies
As more UFAD installations are completed in the coming years, it
will be important to conduct field studies to collect whole-building per-
formance data in the form of energy use, indoor environmental quality,
occupant satisfaction, comfort, health, and productivity, and first and
life-cycle (operating) costs to quantify the relative benefits of the tech-
nology. See Chapter 13 for a discussion of example projects based pri-
marily on field and case study efforts. Other ongoing field studies are
reported by CBE (2002).
14.1.7 Productivity Studies
Due to the recognized significance of potential productivity gains
from UFAD and TAC system performance, more research is needed to
improve our understanding of what impact the provision of individual
control and improved building environmental quality has on worker
productivity. Due to the difficulty in quantifying productivity in todays
largely knowledge-based work environment, innovative research
approaches must be devised to address this issue of critical economic
significance.
14.1.8 Cost Studies
In addition to analyzing cost data from completed projects, the
development of a comprehensive and robust cost model is needed to
allow comparisons between UFAD system designs with conventional
systems.
14.2 DESIGN TOOLS
As more research is completed to improve the fundamental under-
standing of several key design issues related to energy and comfort per-
formance of UFAD systems, new design tools can be developed. Such
tools are needed to address several important topics, including the fol-
lowing:
Energy simulation model: As described above, the development of a
whole-building energy simulation program is of critical importance
to designers.
CHAPTER 14FUTURE DIRECTIONS
188
Cooling load calculation: The determination of design cooling air
quantities must take into account key differences between a ther-
mally stratified space and a well-mixed space. Practitioners cite this
issue as one of the most important unanswered questions regarding
UFAD design.
Thermal decay in underfloor plenum: The prediction of variations
in supply air temperatures throughout the plenum is needed for
proper system design.
Thermal storage strategies: The optimization and control of the
exposed thermal mass (slab and floor panels) in the underfloor ple-
num may allow improved energy performance.
14.3 STANDARDS AND CODES
As discussed in Chapter 11, since UFAD and TAC systems are rel-
atively new to the building industry, some features and performance
characteristics of these systems may be interpreted to be in conflict
with applicable standards and codes. Efforts are now underway within
ASHRAE to revise some of these standards to make them more com-
patible with UFAD and TAC technology [e.g., ASHRAE 1990, 1992].
It is highly likely that other standards and code language (for example,
NFPA, 90A, UBC, etc.) may need revisions and/or new sections spe-
cifically addressing UFAD and TAC applications.
14.4 BUILDING INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENTS
As UFAD technology continues to grow, it can be expected that
more manufacturers, designers, and contractors will become involved.
Developments that are needed from these key players include addi-
tional UFAD products, new design methods, and improved construc-
tion and installation techniques. All of these developments should lead
to reduced system costs.
14.5 TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER
As more information becomes available, it is important that various
forms of technology transfer be used to help inform the industry at large
about UFAD systems. These include publications, training courses,
workshops, design guides and tools, and targeted training packages for
building operators and occupants. The objective is to help design
UFAD systems that are energy efficient, intelligently operated, and
effective in their performance.
189
Glossary
access floor
A platform structure typically consisting of 0.6 m 0.6 m (2 ft 2
ft) concrete-filled steel floor panels supported on pedestals 0.2 to 0.46
m (8 in. to 18 in.) above the concrete structural floor slab. Each panel
can be independently removed for easy access to the underfloor plenum
created below and can include openings for electrical outlets, grilles, or
any other floor accessory in its thickness. In most office installations,
carpet tiles are laid on top to provide a finished floor surface. Raised
floor systems provide maximum flexibility and significantly lower
costs associated with reconfiguring building services.
active diffuser
Any air supply outlet that relies on a local fan to deliver air from the
plenum through the diffuser into the conditioned space of the building.
air change effectiveness (ACE)
Air change effectiveness describes the ability of an air distribution
system to provide ventilation (outside) air at the breathing zone (where
occupants breathe). ACE is defined as the age of air that would occur
throughout the space if the air were perfectly mixed, divided by the
average age of air where occupants breathe.
air changes per hour (ACH)
A measure of the air exchange rate of a building, or space, that gives
the time unit in hours.
air exchange rate
A measure of the rate at which the volume of air contained within
a space is replaced by supply (outside, conditioned, or recirculated) air.
This is expressed in terms of air changes per hour (ACH) and found by
GLOSSARY
190
dividing the airflow rate (volume per hour) by the volume of the space
or building.
airflow
The movement of airtypically defined as that within a defined
volume such as a room, duct, or plenum.
air-handling unit (AHU)
The component of an HVAC system that is responsible for condi-
tioning and delivering air through the system. Within the AHU, a por-
tion of the return air from the conditioned space is recirculated and
mixed with incoming outside air for conditioning and delivery to the
space, and the remainder is exhausted to the outside. The AHU typi-
cally contains one or more supply and return fans for maintaining air
movement and heating/cooling coils and filters to condition the air. The
cooling coil and other equipment, as necessary, are used to control the
moisture content of the air.
air inlet (see also air outlet)
Inlets are apertures through which air is intentionally drawn from
a conditioned space. Grilles, diffusers, and louvered openings can all
serve as inlets. Examples are return inlets at ceiling level and floor dif-
fusers that become return inlets for specially designed perimeter heat-
ing solutions for open plenum designs.
air outlet (see also air inlet)
Outlets are apertures through which air is intentionally delivered
into a conditioned space. Grilles, diffusers, and louvered openings can
all serve as outlets. Examples are floor and ceiling diffusers.
air supply volume
The volume of supply air flowing through a cross-sectional plane
of a duct per unit time. Found by multiplying air velocity by the cross-
sectional area of the duct, measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm) or
liters per second (L/s).
air velocity
The rate at which air travels in a given direction, measured as a dis-
tance per unit time. The units used vary according to the scale of the
phenomenon; in the HVAC field, air velocity is commonly expressed
as feet per minute (fpm) or meters per second (m/s).
ambient air
Air in the general surroundings of the space in question, whether an
external or internal space. Generally this refers to areas outside of work
locations for the building occupants.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
191
ASHRAE
American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning
Engineers, Inc.
cable management
Addresses the distribution, routing, and overall organization of
cable networks installed in underfloor plenums. Raised floors came
into widespread use as a means of containing and concealing the exten-
sive cabling of typical voice, power, and data systems and are now a
common feature in contemporary office buildings. In this respect, con-
cerns that the installation of a UFAD system will entail additional con-
struction costs can be mitigatedthe decision to install a raised floor
system is often made for communications purposes, regardless of the
type of HVAC system chosen.
ceiling-based systems
A ceiling-based air distribution system supplies air to, and removes
air from, a conditioned space at ceiling level. Both supply and return
grilles are located in the ceiling plane, above which there will be a ceil-
ing plenum of sufficient depth to accommodate the extensive supply
ductwork, as well as other building services. Relying on the principle
of mixing-type air distribution, ceiling-based supply and return sys-
tems are designed to condition the entire volume of the space (floor to
ceiling), thereby providing a single uniform thermal and ventilation
environment. This control strategy provides no opportunity to satisfy
different thermal preferences among the building occupants.
ceiling plenum
The open space between the underside of a structural concrete slab
and a suspended ceiling, through which supply (ceiling-based system)
or return air (both ceiling- and floor-based systems) is delivered.
churn rate
This term (%/year) is used to describe the annual percentage of
workers and their associated work spaces in a building that are recon-
figured or undergo significant changes. A recent IFMA survey found
an average churn rate of 44% for U.S. office buildings. Although pri-
marily addressing the reorganization of staff members, any changes
within the personnel structure of a company typically involve the relo-
cation, upgrading, or expansion of equipment and/or office furniture
and even space planning. With conventional ceiling-based HVAC sys-
tems, changes in workspace configurations can be restricted by the
location of ceiling grilles; due to the higher cost associated with recon-
figuring overhead ducted systems, these changes are often not made,
GLOSSARY
192
resulting in potentially poorer performance by the system. The flexi-
bility of UFAD systems, in terms of quick replacement/relocation of
diffusers and easy access to the underfloor plenum, helps reduce a com-
pany's churn costs significantly. However, by being located on the
floor, UFAD diffusers will generally need to be reconfigured more fre-
quently in response to changes in the office layout than with overhead
systems; this increases the likelihood of improved system perfor-
mance.
clear zone
During the placement of floor diffusers, a clear zone is typically
defined as an imaginary cylinder of specified diameter around the cen-
ter point of the diffuser. Clear zones are generally 0.9-1.8 m (3-6 ft) in
diameter, depending on manufacturer's data, and represent an area
within which long-term occupancy is not recommended.
Although local thermal conditions may be acceptable for short-
term occupancy, and when under direct individual control by the occu-
pant, air velocities may be too high and temperatures too low (under
cooling conditions) within clear zones to satisfy the thermal comfort
preferences of a large majority of occupants (> 80%). Diffuser place-
ment should take this into consideration and maintain a distance of at
least half the diameter of the clear zone between occupants' seating and
their diffusers.
conditioned air
Air that has been treated, typically in an air-handling unit, by alter-
ing one or more of the following properties: temperature, humidity,
cleanliness (filtering), or mixture of outside and recirculated air.
conditioned space
A space within a building served by an HVAC system supplying
conditioned air in order to achieve acceptable thermal comfort and
indoor air quality conditions.
constant air volume, variable temperature (CAV-VT)
A control strategy of an air supply system in which varying heating
and cooling loads are met by adjusting the temperature of the supply air,
keeping the airflow volume constant. Alternatively a variable-air-vol-
ume (VAV) system can be employed in which the airflow volume is var-
ied, while the temperature remains constant.
conventional systems
A typical, conventional air distribution system supplies air to, and
removes air from, a conditioned space at ceiling level. Both supply and
return grilles are located in the ceiling plane, above which there will be
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
193
a ceiling plenum of sufficient depth to accommodate the extensive sup-
ply ductwork, as well as other building services. Relying on the prin-
ciple of mixing-type air distribution, ceiling-based supply and return
systems are designed to condition the entire volume of the space (floor
to ceiling), thereby providing a single uniform thermal and ventilation
environment. This control strategy provides no opportunity to satisfy
different thermal preferences among the building occupants.
cooling load
In the context of HVAC systems, the cooling load of a space is the
amount of heat generated within that space (from any source) that the
HVAC system must remove. Sources of heat in an office space typically
include occupants, electrical equipment, artificial lighting, and solar
radiation through the building envelope.
core zone
Typically the area at the center of the floor plan containing the ser-
vices and circulation spaces, such as the elevator shaft, fire escape
stairs, and equipment room. The AHU is also often located in this zone.
damper
A device that varies the volume of air flowing through a contained
cross section (e.g., a duct, inlet, outlet, or plenum) by varying the cross-
sectional area through which the air is routed.
diffuser
An air supply outlet through which conditioned air is discharged
into a space.
A wide variety of diffusers can be located in the ceiling (ceiling-
based HVAC system), floor (underfloor air distribution system), or
integrated into the furniture (task/ambient conditioning system) and
configured to deliver air in various directions and patterns.
displacement ventilation (DV)
In displacement ventilation systems (used for cooling only), low-
velocity supply air at a temperature slightly below room temperature is
introduced into the occupied zone of a space at low leveldiffusers are
usually configured as large-area floor pedestals or low side-wall. By
extracting air from the space at ceiling level, an overall floor-to-ceiling
airflow pattern is produced. This upward movement of air in the room
takes advantage of the natural buoyancy of heat gain to the space. As
air is heated and rises into the region above the occupied zone, some of
it exits the space with only partial mixing with the room air. Space con-
taminants also migrate upward, producing higher concentrations in the
warm, stratified air near the ceiling. Displacement ventilation systems
GLOSSARY
194
aim to minimize mixing of supply air with room air, instead maintain-
ing conditions in the occupied zone as close as possible to that of the
conditioned supply air, leading to an improved air change effective-
ness.
draft
Movement of air causing undesirable local cooling of a body due to
one or more of the following factors: low air temperature, high velocity,
or inappropriate airflow direction.
dry-bulb temperature
The air temperature indicated by an ordinary thermometer.
duct
A duct is an encased conduit, usually constructed of sheet metal and
having a round, square, or rectangular cross section through which air
moves around an HVAC system. Other types of duct construction
include fibrous glass ducts (rigid fiberglass with aluminum facing) and
flexible ducts (used to connect diffusers, mixing boxes, and other ter-
minal units to the air distribution system).
ductwork
The network of ducts comprising an HVAC system, typically con-
necting the AHU to supply, return, intake, and exhaust grilles and
underfloor and ceiling plenums. Ductwork can be exposed or con-
cealed within floor or ceiling plenums, services zones, and plant rooms.
economizer (see outside air economizer)
energy use
A term referring to the energy used by a system or component in the
course of its operation. In the context of HVAC, this would include
energy used by components such as fans, refrigeration and heating
equipment, cooling towers, and pumps.
entrainment (see also secondary air motion)
Air discharged from an outlet creates a swirling, jet, or other air
motion that pulls (entrains) the surrounding air into its path where it
mixes with the supply air.
exfiltration (see also infiltration)
The uncontrolled, unintentional flow of inside air out of a building.
This can occur through cracks in any building component, around
openings that are not airtight, and during the everyday use of windows
and doors. Like natural ventilation, exfiltration is caused by differences
in air-pressure or density between inside and outside.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
195
exhaust air
The air extracted from a space and discharged to the outdoors. This
is distinct from air extracted from one space and sent to another or recir-
culated within the HVAC system.
exhaust opening, or inlet
Any opening, a grille for example, through which air is removed
from a space.
fan coil unit
A fan terminal unit with a heating (electric or hot water) and/or
cooling (chilled water) coil on the discharge of the unit.
fan-powered mixing box
A compartment containing an integral fan that mixes two air sup-
plies before being discharged. In underfloor applications, these boxes
may be configured as having one ducted inlet supplying room or return
air, for example, to be mixed with plenum air entering the box through
an unducted opening. A reheat coil can be added to the discharge of the
unit.
fan terminal unit
A compartment containing an integral fan that delivers a constant
or variable volume of air to the space. These units are often used in
perimeter and other special zones where large and rapid changes in
cooling and/or heating load requirements occur.
first costs
The initial costs involved in a building project, typically incurred
during the construction and installation stages.
floor-to-floor height
The vertical height between the finished-floor level of a space in a
multi-story building and that of the floor immediately above or below
it.
forced ventilation
A term used to describe the use of fans and intake and exhaust vents
to mechanically distribute ventilation and other conditioned air
throughout a building. Buildings operating forced ventilation systems
are generally pressurized to reduce infiltration. This term is often con-
trasted with natural ventilation.
grille
A perforated or louvered covering on any area that air passes
through. Grilles can be placed in the ceiling, floor, or wall and can be
fixed, or adjustable.
GLOSSARY
196
HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning) system
An HVAC system provides heating, ventilation, and air-condition-
ing to a building, either as a combined process or as individual opera-
tions.
individual control
Used to describe a system incorporating individual, or occupant,
control in which occupants are able to adjust the operating parameters
according to their personal preferences. In the context of HVAC, under-
floor systems can include grilles designed for easy occupant adjust-
ment of the direction and volume of supply air serving their workspace.
indoor air quality (IAQ)
This term generally refers to quantifiable properties of the respira-
ble air inside a building. Chemical, biological, and physical factors,
such as the air temperature, humidity, gaseous composition, and con-
centrations of pollutants, are considered indicators of the quality of air
to which occupants are exposed. Providing a sufficient rate of ventila-
tion to exhaust heat, moisture, and pollutants generated inside a build-
ing is a key component of meeting IAQ standards such as those in
ASHRAE Standard 62, which provides designers with guidelines for
achieving acceptable ventilation rates and indoor air quality.
infiltration (see also exfiltration)
The uncontrolled, unintentional flow of outdoor air into a building.
This can occur through cracks in any building component, around
openings that are not airtight, and during the everyday use of windows
and doors. Like natural ventilation, infiltration is caused by differences
in air pressure or density between inside and outside.
interior zone
Spaces located farther than 5 m (15 ft) from the faade, which can
be either high-occupancy (accommodating a number of work spaces)
or low-occupancy (circulation or general meeting areas, for example).
Except on the top floor of a building, spaces within this zone are gen-
erally not directly affected by loads generated by the building envelope,
such as solar heat gain or heat loss.
isothermal
Of constant temperature (e.g., an isothermal air jet has the same
temperature as the surrounding air).
life-cycle costs
A measure of the total costs involved in a building project, calcu-
lated by including initial costs (e.g., construction and installation) and
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
197
those estimated over the lifetime of the building (e.g., long-term oper-
ation and maintenance). Considerations of life-cycle costs are impor-
tant when making decisions at the initial design stage.
localized ventilation (see also underfloor air distribution
[UFAD] system)
Air distribution systems that supply air to a number of localized
areas within the occupied zone, typically at floor or desktop level, are
termed localized ventilation. Underfloor air distribution systems oper-
ate on the principles of localized ventilation.
lower zone
The volume of a conditioned space below the stratification height
produced by a DV or UFAD system.
mechanical ventilation
A term used to describe the use of fans and intake and exhaust vents
to mechanically distribute ventilation and other conditioned air
throughout a building. Buildings operating mechanical ventilation sys-
tems are generally pressurized to reduce infiltration. This term is often
contrasted with natural ventilation.
mixing systems (also known as mixing-type air distribution)
In mixing systems, conditioned air is delivered to the space at veloc-
ities much greater than those acceptable to occupants. Conventional
overhead air distribution is an example of a mixing system. Supply air
temperature may be above, below, or equal to the air temperature in the
occupied zone. The incoming high-velocity air mixes rapidly with the
room air by entrainment so that by the time it enters the occupied zone
its temperature and velocity are within an acceptable range. Mixing
systems are designed to maintain the entire volume of air in the space
(floor to ceiling) at a relatively uniform temperature, humidity, and air
quality condition.
natural ventilation
When air moves into and out of a building through intentional or
planned routes, without the assistance of mechanical equipment, this is
termed natural ventilation. Generally driven by pressure differences,
inlets and outlets include windows, doors, grilles, roof openings, and
other designed apertures. This is often contrasted with forced or
mechanical ventilation.
occupant control
Used to describe a system incorporating individual, or occupant,
control in which occupants are able to adjust the operating parameters
according to their personal preferences. In the context of HVAC, under-
GLOSSARY
198
floor systems can include grilles designed for easy occupant adjust-
ment of the direction and volume of supply air serving their workspace.
occupied zone
The volume of a conditioned space containing the occupants of the
space. Typically this is taken as extending from floor level up to a height
of 1.8 m (6 ft), and sometimes considered as set in 0.6 m (2 ft), on plan,
from external walls.
outside air
This term can denote either the air outside a building or air taken
into a building that has not previously been circulating through the
HVAC system.
outside air economizer
An HVAC control strategy that uses outside air under suitable cli-
matic conditions to reduce or eliminate the required mechanical cool-
ing. When the outside air temperature is less than the required supply
air temperature during cooling periods, the economizer allows a build-
ings mechanical ventilation system to use up to 100% outside air,
thereby reducing the energy required to cool the mixture of outside air
and warm recirculated air under normal operating conditions. This
method of cooling, often described as free cooling, is widely used in
temperate climates where outside air temperatures rarely go above 21-
24C (70-75F) during most days and periodically will be less than the
supply air temperatures (nighttime economizer cycles are frequently
employed, for example). As UFAD systems supply air at a higher tem-
perature than that for ceiling-based systems (typically 18C (65F) for
UFAD, 13C (55F) for ceiling HVAC), many North American tem-
perate climates will have a significantly larger number of daytime
hours during which the economizer can be used. Some method of vari-
able-volume relief must be provided to exhaust the extra outside air to
the outside. In addition, enthalpy-based economizer control is recom-
mended to maintain proper humidity levels (particularly during night-
time) and protect against condensation in the plenum. See Chapter 7 for
more discussion.
overhead systems
A typical, overhead air distribution system supplies air to, and
removes air from, a conditioned space at ceiling level. Both supply and
return grilles are located in the ceiling plane, above which there will be
a ceiling plenum of sufficient depth to accommodate the extensive sup-
ply ductwork, as well as other building services. Relying on the prin-
ciple of mixing-type air distribution, ceiling-based supply and return
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
199
systems are designed to condition the entire volume of the space (floor
to ceiling), thereby providing a single uniform thermal and ventilation
environment. This control strategy provides no opportunity to satisfy
different thermal preferences among the building occupants.
passive diffuser
Any air supply outlet that relies on a pressurized underfloor plenum
to deliver air from the plenum through the diffuser into the conditioned
space of the building. Passive diffusers have no local fans associated
with them, although they can be converted to an active diffuser by
attaching a fan-powered outlet box to the underside of the diffuser.
perimeter zone
This is the zone immediately adjacent to, and within 5 m (15 ft) of,
the external faade, which is affected by weather and outside condi-
tions. Perimeter spaces require special consideration in terms of their
heating and cooling loads, which are significantly different from and
change much more frequently than those of internal/core zone areas.
This is due to the influence of factors such as solar gain and heat gain/
loss through the building envelope.
plenum (see also service plenum)
Any defined space, typically above a suspended ceiling or beneath
a raised floor, through which supply air and/or voice, power, and data
cabling and other building services can be distributed.
plenum height
The vertical distance between the top surface of a structural floor
slab and the top surface of the raised floor system above it, which con-
tains, and defines, the underfloor plenum. Accounting for the typical
thickness of raised floor panels, the clear space within the underfloor
plenum will be 33 mm (1.3 in.) less than the plenum height.
plenum inlet
Any location in an underfloor plenum where conditioned air that
has been ducted from the air handler is discharged into the plenum.
plenum partition
A partition, typically formed from vertically oriented sheet metal,
erected within the plenum in order to divide up the plan of a conditioned
space and create separate zones within the underfloor area.
pressurized plenum
In this system configuration, the underfloor plenum is under a pos-
itive static pressure produced by the central AHU that drives the air
GLOSSARY
200
along the plenum and up through the diffusers. Typical pressures are
quite low (12.5-25 Pa [0.05-0.1 in. H2O]).
psychrometric
Relating to psychrometry, the study of atmospheric conditions
particularly the level of moisture in air. In terms of HVAC systems, psy-
chrometric charts are useful for illustrating the relationship between
properties such as wet- and dry-bulb temperatures and absolute and rel-
ative humidities when determining the desired supply air conditions.
raised floor
A platform structure typically consisting of 0.6 m 0.6 m (2 ft 2
ft) concrete-filled steel floor panels supported on pedestals 0.2 to 0.46
m (8 in. to 18 in.) above the concrete structural floor slab. Each panel
can be independently removed for easy access to the underfloor plenum
created below and can include openings for electrical outlets, grilles, or
any other floor accessory in its thickness. In most office installations,
carpet tiles are laid on top to provide a finished floor surface. Raised
floor systems provide maximum flexibility and significantly lower
costs associated with reconfiguring building services.
recirculated air
Return air that is diverted from the exhaust route, mixed with
incoming outside air (in some systems, recirculated air bypasses the
cooling coil and is mixed with the cool air leaving the coil to produce
the warmer supply air temperatures used in UFAD designs), passed
through the AHU for conditioning, and delivered to the conditioned
spaceessentially a means of recycling the air circulating through an
HVAC system for energy-saving purposes.
return air
The air extracted from a conditioned space (typically at ceiling
level) and returned to the air-handling unit (AHU), where a portion is
recirculated and the remainder is exhausted to the outside.
secondary air motion (see also entrainment)
Air discharged from an outlet creates a swirling, jet, or other air
motion that pulls (entrains) the surrounding air into its path where it
mixes with the supply air.
sensor
A device that can detect and measure a variable, for example, air
temperature, velocity, humidity, or light levels.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
201
service plenum
Any defined space, typically above a suspended ceiling or beneath
a raised floor, through which supply air and/or voice, power, and data
cabling and other building services can be distributed.
stagnant zone
A volume of a space in which there is low air velocity and the poten-
tial for increased stratification and poorer air quality.
static pressure (see also total pressure; velocity pressure)
Pressure is the force exerted per unit area by a gas or liquid. In air
distribution systems, static pressure is equal to the total pressure minus
velocity pressure and represents the pressure exerted by the air at rest.
Air distribution pressures are typically measured in inches of water (in.
H
2
O) or pascals (Pa).
stratification (see also thermal stratification)
The creation of a series of horizontal layers of air with different
characteristics (e.g., temperature, pollutant concentration) within a
conditioned space. UFAD systems, and other displacement ventilation-
based systems, rely on the upward convection of air driven by thermal
plumes to remove heat loads and contaminants from a space. This
results in both thermal and pollutant stratification in which a layer of
warmer, more polluted air forms above the occupied zone where it will
not affect the occupants.
stratification height (see also displacement ventilation)
In a displacement ventilation (DV) system, a horizontal interface,
known as the stratification height, is established at the height in the
room where the airflow rate in the thermal plumes equals the total sup-
ply air volume entering the room at or near the floor level. The strati-
fication height divides the room into two zones (upper and lower)
having distinct airflow conditions. The lower zone below the stratifi-
cation height has no recirculation and is close to displacement flow.
The upper zone above the stratification height is characterized by recir-
culating flow producing a fairly well-mixed region. In a properly
designed displacement ventilation system, the stratification height is
maintained near the top of the occupied zone (1.8 m [6 ft]). In UFAD
systems, a stratification height similar to that found in DV systems is
formed, but the airflow conditions in the lower zone are changed due
to the greater mixing provided by the turbulent floor diffusers.
supply air
The air entering a space through an outlet, diffuser, or grille, having
been delivered from the air-handling unit (AHU).
GLOSSARY
202
supply duct
Any duct through which supply air is delivered to the conditioned
space from the AHU, local fan, or other air movement device.
task/ambient conditioning (TAC) system
Any space conditioning system that allows occupants to individu-
ally control the thermal environment in the localized zone of their work
space while still maintaining acceptable environmental conditions in
the buildings ambient spaces (circulation and open-use spaces, for
example). This is typically achieved by enabling occupants to adjust
the volume and direction of the air supply serving their workspace,
according to their personal preferences. TAC systems, therefore, gen-
erally include a large number of supply diffusers throughout a building,
many located in close proximity to the occupants. Although not a
requirement, most TAC systems are integrated with the use of under-
floor air distribution.
thermal comfort
That condition of mind that expresses satisfaction with the thermal
environment. Thermal comfort is influenced by both subjective and
objective factors. Heat transfer between the human body and the envi-
ronment, and hence acceptance of the thermal environment, is influ-
enced by a combination of environmental factors (air temperature,
radiant temperature, air velocity, humidity) and personal factors (cloth-
ing and activity level). There is also evidence that people who know
they have control over their local thermal environment are more toler-
ant of temperature variations, making it easier to satisfy their comfort
preferences.
thermal plume
The upward movement of warm air due to buoyancy forces above
a heat source (e.g., person, computer, lights) in a room. The air volume
in a rising thermal plume increases with height as the plume entrains
ambient air.
thermal stratification (see also stratification)
The creation of a series of horizontal layers of air having increasing
temperature with height within a conditioned space. UFAD systems,
and other displacement ventilation-based systems, rely on the upward
convection of air driven by thermal plumes to remove heat loads and
contaminants from a space. This results in both thermal and pollutant
stratification in which a layer of warmer, more polluted air forms above
the occupied zone where it will not affect the occupants.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
203
thermostat
An automatic control device that is responsive to temperature and
used to control temperature in a conditioned space or zone. In the con-
text of UFAD systems, thermostats located in an office space (typically
installed on walls) register changes in ambient air temperature. These
devices communicate information to the HVAC control unit, which
adjusts the temperature, or airflow volume, of the supply air to maintain
the temperature measured at the thermostat within a pre-programmed
comfort range around a setpoint temperature.
thermostatic control
A means of automatically controlling the operation of an HVAC
system component, collection of components, or complete system in
response to information about air temperatures as registered by one or
more thermostats located within the conditioned space.
total pressure (see also static pressure; velocity pressure)
Pressure is the force exerted per unit area by a gas or liquid. In air
distribution systems, total pressure is equal to the sum of static pressure
and velocity pressure. Air distribution pressures are typically measured
in inches of water (in. H
2
O) or pascals (Pa).
underfloor air distribution (UFAD) system
An underfloor air distribution (UFAD) system uses an underfloor
plenum (open space between the structural concrete slab and the under-
side of a raised floor system) to deliver conditioned air, from the AHU,
directly into the occupied zone of the building. Air can be delivered
through a variety of supply outlets typically located at floor level or
integrated as part of the office furniture and partitions. Return grilles
are located at ceiling level or at least above the occupied zone. Under
cooling conditions, underfloor systems produce an overall floor-to-
ceiling airflow pattern, similar in principle to displacement ventilation.
This upward convection of warm air is used to efficiently remove heat
loads and contaminants from the space. In contrast to true displacement
ventilation systems, UFAD systems deliver supply air at higher vol-
umes and higher velocities, enabling higher heat loads to be met.
Although the supply air is delivered in close proximity to occupants,
the risk of draft discomfort is minimized, as supply air temperatures are
higher than those for conventional ceiling-based systems, and occu-
pants have some amount of control (typically volume and sometimes
direction and temperature) over their local air supply conditions.
GLOSSARY
204
underfloor plenum
The open space between a structural concrete slab and the under-
side of a raised access floor system. Commonly used as the access route
for telecommunications cabling, in underfloor systems the supply air is
also delivered through this space.
upper zone
The volume of a conditioned space above the stratification height
produced by a DV or UFAD system.
variable air volume (VAV)
A control strategy of an air supply system in which varying heating
and cooling loads are met by adjusting the airflow volume, keeping the
temperature of the air constant. Alternatively, a constant air volume,
variable temperature (CAV-VT) system can be employed in which the
temperature of the airflow is varied, while the volume is kept constant.
VAV box
A variable-air-volume control box. Typically, a VAV box is ducted
on its inlet and uses dampers to control the volume of air discharged
from the unit.
velocity pressure (see also static pressure; total pressure)
Pressure is the force exerted per unit area by a gas or liquid. In air
distribution systems, velocity pressure is the pressure due to the veloc-
ity and density of the moving air. Air distribution pressures are typi-
cally measured in inches of water (in. H
2
O) or pascals (Pa).
ventilation
The process of intentionally supplying outside air to a building
achieved by either natural or mechanical (forced) means.
ventilation effectiveness
Ventilation effectiveness describes the systems ability to remove
pollutants generated by internal sources in a space, zone, or building.
In comparison, air change effectiveness describes the ability of an air
distribution system to ventilate a space, zone, or building.
zero-pressure plenum
In this system configuration, the underfloor plenum is maintained
at very nearly the same static pressure as that of the conditioned space.
Supply air is delivered to the plenum by the central AHU, and small
fan-powered air outlets are used to discharge air from the plenum into
the conditioned space. Some systems may create a slight negative pres-
sure in the plenum to draw recirculated air (typically directly from the
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
205
room through open floor grilles, or down from the ceiling through
shafts) into the plenum where it is mixed with the supply air from the
AHU.
zone
Also known as a control zone for an HVAC system, a zone is
defined as a space or group of spaces in a building having similar heat-
ing and cooling requirements throughout its occupied area so that com-
fort conditions may be controlled by a single thermostat.
zoning (see also interior zone; perimeter zone)
The practice of dividing a building into smaller zones for control of
the HVAC system. For example, buildings may be zoned into individ-
ual floors, rooms, or spaces with distinct loads, such as perimeter and
interior zones.
207
References and
Annotated Bibliography
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Current design issues and analysis options. From: Cooling Fron-
tiers: The Advanced Edge of Cooling Research and Applications in
the Built Environment. College of Architecture and Environmental
Design, Arizona State University.
AEC. 2000. Design Brief: Underfloor air distribution and access floors.
Energy Design Resources web site, http://www.energydesignre-
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This design brief is an introduction to underfloor air and access
floor systems and addresses the following topics: displacement
ventilation and hybrid underfloor systems, energy savings and
indoor air quality improvement, access floor system design and
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underfloor air and access floor systems.
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Akimoto, T., T. Nobe, S.Tanabe, and K. Kimura. 1996. Experimental
study on indoor thermal environment and air quality of the floor-
supply displacement ventilation system. Proceedings, Indoor Air
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Architectural Institute of Japan. 1993. Proceedings, Symposium on Floor-
Based Air Supply HVAC Systems, Tokyo, October 1 (in Japanese).
Useful for its brief outline of a wide range of subjects contained
within nine presentations on floor-based systems, covering general
energy conservation, indoor conditions, design and operation fun-
damentals, and specific examples of different installations.
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Architecture Week. 2000. Building for Harmony with nature. Archi-
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localized ventilation systems in a new controlled environment
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Arens, E.A., and F.S. Bauman. 1994. Improving the performance of task
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Arens, E., M. Fountain, T. Xu, K. Miura, H. Zhang, and F. Bauman. 1995.
A study of occupant cooling by two types of personally controlled
air movement. Proceedings, Pan Pacific Symposium on Building
and Urban Environmental Conditioning in Asia, Nagoya Univer-
sity, Nagoya, Japan, March 16-18.
This paper presents controlled environment chamber experi-
ments, using human subjects, on the effectiveness of air movement
cooling. Primarily relevant to residences, the findings are useful in
addressing the design of TAC systems. The desirable air velocities
chosen by participants were evaluated with reference to existing
comfort standards and used to propose a comfort zone for person-
ally controlled air movement.
Argon Corporation. 2002. Product information. Argon Corporation,
Naples, FL, http://www.argonair.com.
Arnold, D. 1990. Raised floor air distribution A case study. ASHRAE
Transactions, Vol. 96, Pt. 2.
Early case study on a building from design stage through to con-
struction highlights problem areas such as the construction and
sealing of underfloor plenums. Other issues include how to conceal
extract ducts in a building without ceiling voids, coordination of the
floor services installation and finishes, and optimum supply air
temperatures.
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for room air diffusion. Atlanta: American Society of Heating,
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ASHRAE. 1993. Air-Conditioning Systems Design Manual. Atlanta:
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ASHRAE. 1996. ASHRAE Guideline 1-1996, The HVAC Commissioning
Process. Atlanta: American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and
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ASHRAE. 1997. ASHRAE Standard 129-1997, Measuring air change
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A comprehensive study of one of the earliest buildings to use an
underfloor plenum as a services zone. Discussion ranges from the
technical (e.g., thermal performance of the slab) to the conceptual
(e.g., the architecture of air conditioning).
Barnaby, C., E. Dean, F. Fuller, D. Nall, T. Shelley, and T. Wexler. 1980.
Utilizing the thermal mass of structural systems in buildings for
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energy conservation and peak power reduction. Shelley, Dean and
Fuller, Architects, Berkeley Solar Group, Berkeley, Calif.
A comprehensive report on structural systems and their energy-
and power-savings benefit within the context of two North Amer-
ican climates. The report covers three areas: (1) building sub-
systems related to structural cooling, (2) thermal performance of a
prototypical building comprising the optimum subsystems, (3) esti-
mated cost and life-cycle cost analysis for the prototype building.
Bauman, F.S., L. Johnston, H. Zhang, and E. Arens. 1991a. Performance
testing of a floor-based, occupant-controlled office ventilation sys-
tem. ASHRAE Transactions, Vol. 97, Pt. 1.
Presents the results of experiments in a controlled chamber con-
figured to resemble an office with modular partitions, investigating
the effects of supply volume, location, and direction, supply/return
temperature difference, heat load density, and workstation size and
layout. Using ASHRAE test methods current in 1991, overhead
supply systems scored a higher performance rating. This paper con-
cludes the comfort benefits of occupant control over the local envi-
ronment are not adequately addressed in existing performance and
comfort standards.
Bauman, F.S., K. Heinemeier, H. Zhang, A. Sharag-Eldin, E. Arens, W.
Fisk, D. Faulkner, D. Pih, P. McNeel, and D. Sullivan. 1991b.
Localized thermal distribution for office buildings, Final report
Phase I. Center for Environmental Design Research, University of
California, Berkeley, June, 81 pp.
Bauman, F.S., G. Brager, E. Arens, A. Baughman, H. Zhang, D. Faulkner,
W. Fisk, and D. Sullivan. 1992. Localized thermal distribution for
office buildings, Final reportPhase II. Center for Environmental
Design Research, University of California, Berkeley, December,
220 pp.
This report presents the results of research in five key areas: (1)
survey of industry perspective on task conditioning systems, (2)
laboratory experiments, (3) recommendations to improve localized
thermal distribution system performance, (4) whole building
energy simulations, and (5) building standards and codes.
Bauman, F.S., and M. McClintock. 1993. A study of occupant comfort
and workstation performance in PG&Es advanced office systems
testbed. Center for Environmental Design Research, University of
California, Berkeley, May, 135 pp.
Bauman, F.S., H. Zhang, E. Arens, and C. Benton. 1993. Localized com-
fort control with a desktop task conditioning system: Laboratory
and field measurements. ASHRAE Transactions, Vol. 99, Pt. 2.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
211
This paper presents the results of both laboratory and field mea-
surements investigating the thermal performance of desktop task
conditioning systems. Interesting for its consideration of the ther-
mal conditions resulting from a range of nozzle sizes.
Bauman, F., E. Arens, M. Fountain, C. Huizenga, K. Miura, T. Xu, T.
Akimoto, H. Zhang, D. Faulkner, W. Fisk, and T. Borgers. 1994.
Localized thermal distribution for office buildings, Final report
Phase III. Center for Environmental Design Research, University
of California, Berkeley, July, 115 pp.
This report presents the results of research completed during
phase III of the localized thermal distribution (LTD) project, cov-
ering three task areas: (1) whole-building energy simulations, (2)
field studies, and (3) LTD engineering applications guide outline.
Includes comprehensive field studies on two buildings, located in
Phoenix, Arizona, and San Ramon, California.
Bauman, F.S., E.A. Arens, S. Tanabe, H. Zhang, and A. Baharlo. 1995.
Testing and optimizing the performance of a floor-based task con-
ditioning system. Energy and Buildings, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 173-
186.
A comprehensive report of controlled environmental chamber
experiments studying the thermal performance of a floor-based
TAC system. Discussion includes a summary of research to date,
use of the latest thermal manikin model, analysis involving the
effect of supply volume, grille direction and Archimedes number of
air supply jets, and concise design recommendations for improving
TAC system performance.
Bauman, F., ed. 1995. Proceedings: Workshop on task/ambient condition-
ing systems in commercial buildings, San Francisco, CA, 4-5 May
1995. Center for Environmental Design Research, University of
California, Berkeley, October.
A collection of literature from contributors to this workshop. A
broad range of industry interests are represented, from manufactur-
ers to commercial and academic research organizations.
Bauman, F., and T. Akimoto. 1996. Field study of a desktop task condi-
tioning system in PG&Es advanced office systems testbed. Cen-
ter for Environmental Design Research, University of California,
Berkeley.
Bauman, F.S. 1996. Task/ambient conditioning systems: Engineering
and application guidelines. Proceedings, 3rd International Con-
ference on Energy and Environment: Towards the Year 2000. Capri,
Italy.
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A concise, informative introduction to the concept of TAC sys-
tems in buildings. Provides a system description, and addresses
issues such as benefits, and how to achieve them, limitations (real
and perceived), and technology demands.
Bauman, F.S., and E.A. Arens. 1996. Task/ambient conditioning sys-
tems: Engineering and application guidelines. Center for Environ-
mental Design Research, University of California, Berkeley.
A comprehensive report on TAC, expanding on information in
the previous paper (see above reference), including detailed discus-
sions on issues such as system configurations, components and
mechanisms, room air distribution, relevant standards and codes,
energy use, design and construction guidelines, and system costs.
Bauman, F.S., T.G. Carter, A.V. Baughman, and E.A. Arens. 1998. Field
study of the impact of a desktop task/ambient conditioning system
in office buildings. ASHRAE Transactions, Vol. 104, Pt. 1, pp.
125-142.
This paper presents field measurements, including subjective
surveys and physical monitoring, carried out in three office build-
ings in San Francisco. The study is useful for its range of compar-
ative units of analyses. Measurements were taken in the buildings
before and after installation of the TAC systems and included a con-
trol group of workers without TAC units; follow-up tests performed
three months later were repeated under three different room tem-
perature conditions.
Bauman, F., P. Pecora, and T. Webster. 1999a. How low can you go? Air
flow performance of low-height underfloor plenums. Center for
the Built Environment, University of California, Berkeley, October.
This comprehensive report summarizes results from full-scale
testing of pressurized underfloor plenum configurations and their
influence on the uniform distribution of supply air to floor grilles.
Useful technical recommendations are cited, such as minimum,
plenum heights, the effect of obstructions or removing floor panels,
and plenum inlet conditions.
Bauman, F., K. Tsuzuki, H. Zhang, T. Stockwell, C. Huizenga, E. Arens,
and A. Smart. 1999b. Experimental comparison of three individ-
ual control devices: Thermal manikin tests. Final Report. Center
for Environmental Design Research, University of California, Ber-
keley.
Bauman, F. 1999. Giving occupants what they want: Guidelines for
implementing personal environmental control in your building.
Proceedings, World Workplace 99, Los Angeles, CA, 3-5 October
1999.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
213
Concise description of the principles of an underfloor TAC sys-
tem, potential benefits, guidelines on how to achieve them, and
ongoing work addressing current barriers (real and perceived) to
widespread use of the technology. Incorporates recent research
findings and outlines areas for future study.
Bauman, F., K. Powell, R. Bannon, A. Lee, and T. Webster. 2000a. Under-
floor air technology web site: http://www.cbe.berkeley.edu/under-
floorair. Center for the Built Environment, University of California,
Berkeley, December.
Bauman, F., V. Inkarojrit, and H. Zhang. 2000b. Laboratory test of the
Argon personal air-conditioning system (APACS). Center for
Environmental Design Research, University of California, Berke-
ley, April.
Bauman, F., and T. Webster. 2001. Outlook for underfloor air distribu-
tion. ASHRAE Journal, June, pp.18-25.
This paper first offers a system description, discusses the bene-
fits of underfloor technology, and then lists and discusses the tech-
nology needs or the current barriers to its widespread adoption.
Beck, P. 1993. Intelligent design passes IQ test. Consulting-Specifying
Engineer, January.
Case study of the West Bend Mutual Insurance Company Head-
quarters, Wisconsin, detailing the pressurized underfloor HVAC
system and environmentally responsive workstation control mod-
ules. Emphasizes the benefits of integrated system design and rela-
tionships between improved staff productivity and a more
comfortable work environment.
Brager, G.S., M.E. Fountain, C.C. Benton, E.A. Arens, and F.S. Bauman.
1993. A comparison of methods for assessing thermal sensation
and acceptability in the field. Proceedings, Thermal Comfort:
Past, Present and Future, ed. Nigel Oseland. British Research
Establishment, Watford, United Kingdom.
Brager, G.S., and R.J. de Dear. 1998. Thermal adaptation in the built
environment: A literature review. Energy and Buildings, Vol. 27,
pp. 83-96.
Brager, G.S., and R.J. de Dear. 2000. A standard for natural ventilation.
ASHRAE Journal, Vol. 42, No. 10, October, pp. 21-28.
Brill, M., and S. Margulis. 1984. Using office design to increase produc-
tivity. Buffalo, N.Y.: Buffalo Organization for Social and Techno-
logical Innovation.
Brown, M., and L. Scott. 2000. Underfloor air conditioning systems
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ence, May 2000.
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214
Focusing on description and analysis of commercial systems
employing turbulent mixed flow outlets and displacement, this
paper includes case studies for applications such as an airport ter-
minal, aquatic center, university auditorium, trading floors within
high-rise office buildings, and a casino.
Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International and
the ULI, the Urban Land Institute. 1999. What do office tenants
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This paper presents a survey of 1,829 office tenants in the U.S.
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This paper presents the results of experiments, carried out in a
test chamber, comparing the thermal performance of PEM and
underfloor systems. The relative performance of each system is
considered in three zonesabove, below, and around the desk area
concluding the PEM provides a more advantageous overall thermal
environment, improving as flow rate increases. The effect of heat
generated by the system motor is also addressed.
Chung, K.-S., H.-T. Han, C.-G. Cho, S.-H. Kong, and M.-K. Cho. 1999.
A study on the characteristics of indoor environment and comfort
in office building with underfloor air-conditioning (UFAC) sys-
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Physical measurements indicated noise levels from floor termi-
nal units served by a fan-powered air supply are overcome by typ-
ical background office noise, and recorded contaminant levels are
cited as much lower than those for a conventional ceiling supply
system as measured by another research team.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 1999. Guidelines for Creating High
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This study looks at green systems (including site, enclosure,
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around for quite some time now, but is the market embracing the
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the marketplace. Crockett discusses reasons why underfloor is still
not commonly used, some of its benefits, and available web
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Presents three strategies for capturing as many benefits of under-
floor air distribution as possible while keeping the initial cost to a
minimum: minimize the ductwork in the plenum, prevent plenum
leakage, and dont oversize airflows.
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thermal comfort and preference. ASHRAE Transactions, Vol. 104,
Pt. 1.
Under the hypothesis that contextual factors and past thermal
history modify building occupants thermal expectations and pref-
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examining thermal sensation, acceptability, and preference from
observations in 160 buildings. The results formed the basis of a pro-
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Presents the results of surveys of the occupants of three buildings
with underfloor systems allowing user-controls, in order to argue
the case for designers, owners, and managers considering a broader
range of user-responsive systems.
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pattern, and height. Experimental variables include intra-room
transport of tobacco smoke particles (produced mechanically), sup-
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Outlines required outdoor air content and supply airflow rate and
direction for optimum values of air exchange effectiveness and pol-
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
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lution removal efficiency in the breathing zone of heated manikins
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This research dissertation focuses on air movement at ambient
and cooler-than-ambient temperatures, examining the transition
between desirable cooling and uncomfortable draft, and proposing
a percent of satisfied people model as a function of air movement
in warm conditions. Experiments include the use of a thermal man-
ikin exposed to a range of air velocities from floor- and desk-
mounted air diffusers and human subjects exposed to the same con-
ditions but given control of the air supply velocity.
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Fountain, M., E. Arens, R. de Dear, F. Bauman, and K. Miura. 1994.
Locally controlled air movement preferred in warm isothermal
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A condensed version of the previous dissertation.
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Nagoya, Japan, July 21-26.
The proposed model for estimating room air temperature pro-
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Presents the results of field measurements and a survey ques-
tionnaire concerning the thermal environment in an office building
employing both floor- and ceiling-based systems. Significant dif-
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Includes a graphical analysis of thermal sensations over different
parts of the human body.
Fukao, H., M. Oguro, M. Ichihara, and S. Tanabe. 2002. Comparison
of underfloor versus overhead air distribution systems in an office
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the aim of determining the best value for open plan offices. Useful
and comprehensive for comparative means. In addition to studying
three different access floor systems, the analysis considers both
steel- and concrete-framed building structures.
Guttmann, S. 2000. Raising the bar, with raised floors. Consulting-
Specifying Engineer, October.
Hanzawa, H., and Y. Nagasawa. 1990. Thermal comfort with underfloor
air-conditioning systems. ASHRAE Transactions, Vol. 96, Pt. 2.
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
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Presents the results of experiments, carried out in a test chamber
with human occupants, measuring the subjective perception of sup-
ply air flow from a floor outlet. Conclusions of a low draft risk with
underfloor air systems are based on the draft charts of Fanger et al.
(1988).
Hanzawa, H., Y. Nagasawa, and T. Mortyama. 1993. Field measurements
of thermal comfort in occupied zones of buildings installed with
under-floor air-conditioning systems. Proceedings, Room Air
Convection and Ventilation Effectiveness. Atlanta: ASHRAE.
From field measurements of two office buildings with underfloor
air-conditioning systems, looking at room air temperatures, air
velocities, and responses to questionnaires on air movement and
drafts, this paper concludes that internal conditions are comfortable
according to standard thermal indexes.
Hanzawa, H., and M. Higuchi. 1996. Air flow distribution in a low-
height underfloor air distribution plenum of an air conditioning sys-
tem. AIJ Journal Technological Design, No. 3, pp. 200-205,
December.
This paper presents the results of experiments with scale models
of underfloor plenums, investigating the characteristics, observed
problems, and possible countermeasures of air flow within low-
height plenums. Experimental parameters included varying air sup-
ply inlet number and type, obstacles and guide vanes within the ple-
num. In conclusion, low-height pressurized plenums are found to
be feasible within an optimum range of floor area per outlet ratio.
Harris, L., and Associates. 1989. Office environment index 1989. Grand
Rapids, Mich.: Steelcase, Inc.
Hartman, T. 1993. New zone controls help achieve total environmental
quality. Heating/Piping/Air Conditioning, Nov. 1993.
Hasegawa, K., 1991. Installation example of the personal air condition-
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of Heating, Air-conditioning and Sanitary Engineers of Japan, Vol.
65, No.7.
Hawataik, H., K.-S. Chung, K.-J. Jang. 1999. Thermal and ventilation
characteristics in a room with underfloor air-conditioning system.
Proceedings, Indoor Air 99, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Outlines the results of testing in a conference room with under-
floor air-conditioning, including measurements of horizontal and
vertical room air temperature distributions and CO
2
concentrations
and infrared imaging of temperature distributions over a person
standing on a floor-based supply outlet.
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Hedge, A., A. Michael, and S. Parmelee. 1992. Reactions of facilities
managers and office workers to underfloor task air ventilation.
Journal of Architectural Planning and Research.
This paper presents results from field study surveys of user reac-
tion to underfloor systems as compared to overhead ventilation in
their previous workplaces, the first survey of this kind in the U.S.
Results are presented with consideration of human factors and
ergonomics and discussion as to why occupant control is often
voted a primary benefit, yet rarely exercised.
Heinemeier, K.E., G.E. Schiller, and C.C. Benton. 1990. Task condi-
tioning for the workplace: Issues and challenges. ASHRAE Trans-
actions, Vol. 96, Pt. 2.
Heinemeier, K.E., G. Brager, C. Benton, F. Bauman, and E. Arens. 1991.
Task/ambient conditioning systems in open-plan offices: Assess-
ment of a new technology. Center for Environmental Design
Research, University of California, Berkeley, September.
Early commentary on the level of knowledge regarding task/
ambient conditioning and identification of specific issues needing
further research at the start of the 90s. The detailed analysis of sys-
tem principles, strategies, and the effect of task/ambient systems on
comfort and energy use remains relevant to present-day applica-
tions.
HGA. 2002. ADC World Headquarters & Technology Campus. Ham-
mel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc., Minneapolis, Minn.
Hibiya Sogo Setsubi Corporation. 1993. Floor-based air supply HVAC
system design manual.
Hisaki, H., S. Kanno, Y. Kayahara, M. Mizuno, Y. Nakamura, M. Okubo,
and K. Ueda. 1991. Installation example of a radiant personal air
conditioning system for automated offices Kobe Harborland
area. SHASE Journal, Special Edition: Personal Air Condition-
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Early case study of the application of an underfloor system with
both floor- and partition-mounted diffusers.
Hockman, R. 2002. Personal communication. Tate Access Floors, Inc.,
Jessup, Md.
Hosni, M.H., B.W. Jones, and H. Xu. 1999. Experimental results for
heat gain and radiant/convective split from equipment in build-
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Houghton, D. 1995. Turning air conditioning on its head: Underfloor air
distribution offers flexibility, comfort, and efficiency. E Source
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
221
Tech Update TU-95-8, E Source, Inc., Boulder, Colo., August, 16
pp.
A good general summary of underfloor air distribution systems,
providing an objective overview of the technology. Both the bene-
fits and potential drawbacks, including advice on how to avoid
them, are presented. Sections include an outline of different system
types, economic appraisal, market trends, products and manufac-
turers, all well illustrated with graphics and photographs.
IFMA. 1997. Benchmark III. International Facility Management Asso-
ciation, Houston, Tex.
Imagawa, N., and T. Mima. 1991. Installation example of an all air sys-
tem: Fujita headquarters building. SHASE Journal, Special Edi-
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of Heating, Air-Conditioning, and Sanitary Engineers of Japan (in
Japanese).
Int-Hout, D. 1998. Air distribution for comfort and IAQ. HPAC Engi-
neering, March, pp. 59-70.
Int-Hout, D. 2001. Pressurized Plenum Access Floor Design Manual.
Carrier, November.
An overview of issues and design considerations, this manual
includes history, basic concepts, advantages of the system, design
considerations, design challenges, a summary of current research,
and the Carrier approach.
ISO. 1994. International Standard 7730. Moderate thermal environ-
ments Determination of the PMV and PPD indices and specifica-
tion of the conditions for thermal comfort. Geneva: International
Standards Organization.
Ito, H., and N. Nakahara. 1993. Simplified calculation model of room air
temperature profile in underfloor air-conditioning system. Pro-
ceedings, Room Air Convection and Ventilation Effectiveness.
Atlanta: ASHRAE.
Using this simplified calculation model, a close correlation
between calculated and measured vertical temperature distribu-
tions indicated a level of accuracy suitable for use in HVAC design
applications and that variations in room dimensions have little
influence on room air temperature profiles.
Iwamoto, S. 1999. A study on numerical prediction method of indoor
environment including human body. Proceedings, International
Conference on Air Distribution in Rooms, ROOMVENT 99.
The author compares two numerical methods of calculating a
three-dimensional model of air flow and temperature around an
occupants body, based on a curvilinear coordinate system. The
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detailed predictions possible with such models are necessary when
evaluating personal (task-ambient) conditioning installations.
Jeong, K.-B., and J.-J. Kim.1999. Individual air distribution control sys-
tem on partition panel at personal task area. Proceedings, Indoor
Air 99, Edinburgh, Scotland.
This paper investigates the optimum location of outlets for occu-
pant comfort within a personal task area, concluding that location
is the most critical factor in improving supply air efficiency.
Johnson Controls. 2002. Product information. Johnson Controls, Mil-
waukee, WI, http://www.jci.com.
Kaczmarczyk, J., Q. Zeng, A. Melikov, and P.O. Fanger. 2002. Individ-
ual control and peoples preferences in an experiment with a per-
sonalized ventilation system. Proceedings, ROOMVENT 2002,
Copenhagen, Denmark, 8-11 September 2002.
Karvonen, A. 2001. The revolution is underfoot. Environmental Design
and Construction, January/February.
An overview of underfloor air systems, this article presents its
history, system mechanics, benefits, barriers, and resources for a
less specialized audience in the building industry.
Kight, D. 1992. Epson flexes its technological muscles. Facilities
Design and Management, February.
General case study on Epsons corporate headquarters building
in Torrance, California, in its time one of the largest applications of
an underfloor air distribution system in America. Includes a
description of the access floor and task air modules.
Kim, I.G., and H. Homma. 1992. Possibility for increasing ventilation
efficiency with upward ventilation. ASHRAE Technical Data Bul-
letin. Vol. 8, No. 2.
The results of experiments comparing upward and downward
ventilation systems, in an office-like test space with human occu-
pants, indicate changes in room CO
2
content are less affected by
upward then downward ventilation. This paper also concludes that
ventilation rates for removing occupant-produced contaminants in
the breathing zone can be low providing supply air temperatures are
less than room air temperatures.
Kim, I.G., and H. Homma. 1992 Distribution and ventilation efficiency
of CO
2
produced by occupants in upward and downward ventilated
rooms. ASHRAE Technical Data Bulletin, Vol. 8, No. 2.
This paper expands on the results of the previous experiments by
the authors (see reference above) to include a more detailed anal-
ysis of factors influencing efficient removal of CO
2
content from a
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
223
room, such as occupant-produced metabolic heat and CO
2
concen-
tration stratification.
Kim, Y., K. Lee, and H. Cho. 2001. Experimental study of flow char-
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ASHRAE Transactions, Vol. 107, Pt. 1.
In this study a new diffuser for the underfloor air-conditioning
system is developed and flow characteristics for isothermal condi-
tions are studied. The new diffuser consists of two sectionsan
internal section for generating swirl flow and an edge section for
vertical flow. The study concludes that the new diffuser has desir-
able characteristics.
Kohyama, M., M. Mizuno, Y. Nakamura, Y. Sekimoto, K. Akagi, Y. Kun-
imatsu, and K. Otaka. 1996. Field measurements of the indoor
environment of an office with a task-ambient air conditioning sys-
tem. Proceedings, 5th International Conference on Air Distribu-
tion in Rooms, ROOMVENT 96, Yokohama, Japan.
Evaluation of a computer center equipped with conventional
ceiling outlets in ambient areas and occupant-controlled floor out-
lets in task areas. Outlines differences in room air temperatures
between the two zones and the need to consider varying occupant
activity levels of workers when setting task area temperatures.
Konishi, H., H. Hanzawa, and M. Higuchi. 1996. Study on occupied
zone air conditioning system using seats. Proceedings, 5th Inter-
national Conference on Air Distribution in Rooms, ROOMVENT
1996, Yokohama, Japan.
A study of the characteristics of air flow velocities and temper-
ature distributions around the human body using typical audito-
rium/theater seats fed with supply air from below the seat. Of
interest for highlighting alternative applications of personal condi-
tioning underfloor air supply systems.
Krepchin, I. 2001. Underfloor air systems gain foothold in North Amer-
ica. E Source Report, ER-01-1. Boulder, Colo.: Financial Times
Energy, Inc., January.
Presents market information. Report includes sections with
headings on The Market Expands, Why Is the Market Grow-
ing? What Challenges Remain? as well as an appendix of man-
ufacturers and buildings using underfloor air.
Kroll, K. 2001. Customer driven real estate: Fisher Properties wants to
find better ways to serve tenants need for speed and flexibility.
One step is to let them leave on 30 days notice. Building Operating
Management, May.
REFERENCES AND ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY
224
Underfloor air distribution is cited as a way in which buildings
can be flexible to accommodate different tenants.
Kroner, W., J. Stark-Martin, and T. Willemain. 1992. Using advanced
office technology to increase productivity: The impact of environ-
mentally responsive workstations (ERWs) on productivity and
worker attitude. The Center for Architectural Research, Rensse-
laer, Troy, NY.
An in-depth case study on the ERWs with individualized con-
trols, installed in the new West Bend Mutual Insurance Headquar-
ters, Wisconsin. Useful as a reference for its range of subjective
assessment and measurement techniques and means of internal val-
idation.
Lee, H., and F. Bauman. Development of an air leakage test methodology
for underfloor plenums. To be submitted to ASHRAE Transac-
tions.
Levy, H. 2002. Individual control by individual VAV. Proceedings,
ROOMVENT 2002, Copenhagen, Denmark, 8-11 September 2002.
This paper presents a study on sensible cooling by varying air
velocity (VAV) through personal air outlets adjustable by occu-
pants. The paper concludes that the system tested and described in
the paper will air condition individual people instead of the build-
ing and will eliminate dissatisfaction with thermal conditions.
Lin, Y.-J., and P.F. Linden. 2002. Modeling an underfloor air distribu-
tion system. Proceedings, ROOMVENT 2002, Copenhagen, Den-
mark, 8-11 September 2002.
Livchak, A., and D. Nall. 2001. Displacement ventilation Application
for hot and humid climate. Proceedings, Clima 2000/Napoli 2001
World Congress, Naples, Italy, 15-18 September 2001.
Loftness, V., P. Mathew, G. Gardner, C. Mondor, T. Paul, R. Yates, and M.
Dellana. 1999. Sustainable development alternatives for specula-
tive office buildings: A case sudy of the Soffer Tech Office Build-
ing. Final report. Center for Building Performance and
Diagnostics, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa.
This 38-page report documents the analysis of sustainable
design alternatives for the Tech Office Building. Raised floor for
HVAC and networking is included along with 13 other sustainable
alternatives such as faade glazing and shading, roof insulation,
lighting, energy recovery, etc.
Loftness, V., R. Brahme, M. Mondazzi, E. Vineyard, and M. MacDonald.
2002. Energy savings potential of flexible and adaptive HVAC
distribution systems for office buildings Final report. Air Con-
ditioning and Refrigeration Technology Institute 21-CR Research
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
225
Project 605-30030, June. Full report available at http://www.arti-
21cr.org/research/completed/index.html.
This paper documents the performance of recent developments
in flexible and adaptive distribution systems in office buildings and
also documents the barriers and opportunities for both industry and
professional practice in the development of innovative, flexible,
and adaptive HVAC distribution systems.
Loomans, M.G.L.C., and P.G.S. Rutten. 1997. Task conditioning + dis-
placement ventilation, 1+1>2? Proceedings, Healthy Buildings/
IAQ 1997, Washington, D.C., Vol. 2.
Full-scale measurements and CFD simulations in an office con-
figuration with desk-based displacement ventilation lead to the
conclusion that micro/macro climate distinction, an underlying
principle of TAC systems, is less pronounced than desired and open
to improvement.
Loomans, M.G.L.C., F.J.R. van Mook, and P.G.S. Rutten. 1996. The
introduction of the desk displacement ventilation concept. Pro-
ceedings, 5th International Conference on Air Distribution in
Rooms, ROOMVENT 96, Yokohama, Japan.
Loudermilk, K. 1999. Underfloor air distribution solutions for open
office applications. ASHRAE Transactions, Vol. 105, Pt. 1.
This paper outlines design and operation criteria for underfloor
air distribution systems to optimize performance and minimize
costs. Includes a useful description of temperature distributions
and zone differentiation within a room and tables for sensible heat
gain analysis.
Mass, D. 1998. Underfloor air still an underused tool. Facilities Design
and Management, December.
Matsunawa, K., H. Iizuka, and S. Tanabe. 1995. Development and appli-
cation of an underfloor air conditioning system with improved out-
lets for a smart building in Tokyo. ASHRAE Transactions, Vol.
101, Pt. 2.
Maybaum, M. 1999. A breath of fresh air: The air side of HVAC systems
offers overlooked opportunities to reduce costs and improve IAQ.
Building Operating Management, January.
This paper discusses advances on the air side of HVAC design,
including low-temperature air distribution, demand-controlled
ventilation, filtration choices, sizing for real-world demand, and
underfloor air distribution.
McCarry, B.T. 1995. Underfloor air distribution systems: Benefits and
when to use the system in building design. ASHRAE Transactions,
Vol. 101, Pt. 2.
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This paper addresses the optimum context and application for
underfloor air distribution systems. Illustrated with reference to
three buildings in Vancouver, Canada, the discussion addresses
design, mechanical systems issues, potential benefits, and where
the use of an underfloor air system is, or is not, appropriate.
McCarry, B.T. 1998. Innovative underfloor system. ASHRAE Journal,
March.
Case study of a library building in Vancouver featuring a low-
pressure underfloor air distribution system. The financial and oper-
ational success of the system exemplifies the potential for under-
floor applications outside the genre of office buildings.
McQuillen, D. 2001. 3 case studies for improved IAQ. Environmental
Design + Construction, posted 1/24/2001, http://www.edc-
mag.com.
Melikov, A.K., R. Cermak, and M. Majer. 2002. Personalized ventila-
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UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
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This paper presents a case study of the development and opera-
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of air temperature and motion as two possibilities for reducing
occupant dissatisfaction with their office environments and dis-
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UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
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UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
233
has been published despite examples of use cited dating from the
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UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
235
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237
Index
A
access flooring 9
See also raised floor system
acoustic performance 97, 140
air change effectiveness 49, 147
air highway 66, 171
air leakage 6062, 113, 114, 168, 169, 174
air velocity 43, 4648, 143
air-handling unit 168, 177
VAV change-over 127
ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 113-1990 146
ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 55-1992 43, 44, 49, 143
ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62-2001 145
ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2001 146
ASHRAE Standard 129-1997 147
C
cable management 9, 13, 55, 85, 139, 149, 157
carpet tile 8587, 114
ceiling plenum 14, 154, 155
chiller 12, 178
churn 13, 141
cleaning 96, 111, 138
clear zone 31, 48
INDEX
238
climate 19, 105
code
fire 150
NFPA 90A 148
Uniform Building 150
commissioning 116, 130
condensation 18, 173
conference rooms 130
constant-air-volume (CAV) 70, 90
construction 110, 154
concrete flat slab 14, 154
retrofit 16, 115, 157
steel beam 14, 154
control
humidity 93, 105, 177
static pressure 90
variable-speed fan coil unit 126
control strategies 89, 94, 165, 178
convector 123
costs
first 133, 137
life-cycle 13, 133, 141
D
dehumidification 18
design phase 109, 138, 153
design tools 187
diffusers
active 3, 70, 77, 81, 130, 174
combustibility of 149
fan-powered 11, 45, 48, 7881, 174
floor 1, 5, 6, 48, 69, 71, 73, 81, 174, 175
furniture-based 3, 5, 6, 4547, 49, 77, 78, 81, 175
jet 4548, 78, 79
low side-wall 28, 30
passive 11, 70, 71, 174
swirl 35, 37, 38, 47, 71, 73, 81, 175
TAC 12, 45, 49, 69, 77, 79, 145, 174
variable-area 35, 73, 122, 175
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
239
displacement ventilation (DV) 12, 24, 25, 33, 145
draft 17, 44
E
economizer 12, 102, 105, 164
integrated 105
efficiency, cooling-system 106
electronically commutated motor (ECM) 100, 125
energy use 12, 99, 116, 146, 147, 169
air distribution 99
central fan 100, 102
fan 13, 100
perimeter fan 100
equivalent homogenous temperature 4548
F
fan coil unit
constant-speed 120
heating-only 122
variable-speed 125
fan pressure 99
fan terminal 81, 84, 130
fire safety 138
floor panel 53
heat transfer through 65, 174
floor-to-floor height 14, 17, 115, 140, 154
G
grille, linear floor 75, 121, 124, 127129, 175
H
health 142
heat gain
convective 160
radiant 160
heat load 30, 34, 36
See also heat gain
heat pump 122
INDEX
240
heater, baseboard 123
heating systems 164
HVAC design 5, 7
HVAC equipment, primary 177
I
individual control 3, 6, 31, 44, 48, 51, 95
indoor air quality 12, 30, 41, 50, 145
induction shaft 94, 172
L
LEED rating system 150
load
air-side 160
space cooling 158
space heating 158, 164
load calculation 158, 162164
M
mixing-type air distribution 5, 12, 23, 24, 33, 158
morning warm-up 107, 164, 179
N
noise 120, 122, 125, 132
O
occupancy sensor 78, 130
occupant control 78, 79, 143
occupant cooling 6, 44, 45, 144
evaporative 47
sensible 4548
occupied zone 160
office building 9, 19, 30, 97
operation
cooling 116
heating 82, 107
part-load 90
operation and maintenance 96, 167
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
241
operation and maintenance costs 141
outlets 6, 69, 148
fan-driven 11, 123
supply temperature 6
overhead air distribution 3, 12, 23, 24, 33, 41, 153, 158
P
personal control 44, 46, 48, 145
pollutants 29
productivity 14, 50, 142, 187
property value 142
R
raised concrete core 137
raised floor system 5, 85, 97, 153, 157, 167
costs 137
installation of 111
reconfiguring building services 97, 141
reheat 120, 122, 125, 126, 132
return air 6, 176
return air bypass 177
room air distribution 23, 31, 146
room air distribution model 3134
room airflow rate 28, 34, 3638, 159
S
space planning 115
standards
thermal comfort 43, 44, 143
Title-24 147
stratification 6, 15, 33, 36, 37, 49, 107, 146, 159, 186
controlling 37, 91, 92, 116
stratification height 26, 2834, 36, 159
structural slab 5, 6, 178
nighttime precooling of 66, 107, 178
supply air 31
supply air volume 13, 28, 92, 94, 162, 173
INDEX
242
systems
perimeter 119
special 119, 130
T
task/ambient conditioning (TAC) 2, 8, 10, 31, 41, 94
tax savings 142
temperature
return air 102, 163, 173
supply air 38, 39, 89, 93, 102, 172
temperature difference
head-foot 37
room-supply 4548
temperature gradient 30, 34, 92, 106
temperature near the floor 35
temperature profile 30, 33, 37
thermal bypass in perimeter zones 163
thermal comfort 6, 11, 41, 44, 48, 106, 143, 186
thermal plume 27, 34, 163
thermal storage 107, 178
thermostat height 93
thermostat setpoint 93, 162
throw height 31, 34, 37
Title-24 147
U
underfloor air distribution (UFAD) 2, 810, 31, 153
benefits 1114
underfloor plenum 2, 5, 16, 53, 167, 186
dirt entering 18, 96
ducting within 59, 66, 139, 170
height of 57, 157
obstructions within 59
pressurized 5, 56, 57, 89, 168
sealing of 113, 138
thermal decay in 59, 63, 65, 66, 173
thermal performance of 63, 178
zero-pressure 6, 56, 94, 123, 169
UNDERFLOOR AIR DISTRIBUTION DESIGN GUIDE
243
underfloor plenum dividers (partitions) 127, 132, 139, 165, 170
underfloor plenum inlets 59, 64, 171
V
variable volume and temperature (VVT) 127
variable-air-volume (VAV) 7, 13, 70, 73, 91, 94, 122
VAV box 129
ventilation 49, 145, 164, 186
ventilation effectiveness 12, 24, 50, 145, 147, 164
ventilation efficiency 12
W
whole-building energy simulation 16, 186
whole-building performance 16, 187
window blinds 132
Z
zones
interior 90, 165
perimeter 81, 82, 119, 163, 165, 166
special 119, 166
zoning 165