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Steven T. Taylor

“Sweep” Parking Garage

Exhaust Systems

It is common to see enclosed and underground parking garage exhaust systems

consisting of extensive duct distribution systems with multiple exhaust inlets often
ducted to near the floor. The California Mechanical Code (CMC),1 for instance,
includes this requirement:*
Exhaust Inlet Distribution. To ensure proper exhaust of con- FIGURE 1 CFD analysis of exhaust grille; velocity vectors. (Courtesy of Price
taminated air and fumes from parking garages, exhaust systems Industries.)
utilizing multiple exhaust inlets shall be designed so that exhaust
400 fpm
inlets are distributed in such a manner that no portion of the park-
ing garage is more than 50 ft (15 240 mm) from an exhaust inlet. 300
Such exhaust inlets shall be installed so that the highest elevation
of the exhaust inlet is no greater than 12 in. (305 mm) below the
lowest ceiling level. 100
Exception: Garage exhaust systems designed without distributed
exhaust inlets may have their exhaust inlets designed based on
the principles of engineering and mechanics and shall provide the
minimum required exhaust rate in Table 4-4.
The goal of this requirement is clear, but the extensive means that automobile exhaust emissions, which will
exhaust distribution system required is not necessary to almost always be more than 2 ft (0.6 m) from exhaust
meet this goal. It misses two key ventilation fundamen- inlets, will not be captured by ducted exhaust inlets.
tal concepts: Hence, the location of the inlets has essentially no
1. “You cannot suck out a match.” This is one of my impact on the source strength of the emissions into the
favorite expressions because it makes this fundamental space.
principle clear even to non-engineers. The idea is that 2. Pollutants are diluted by supply air, not exhaust
exhaust inlets cannot capture pollutants unless they air. It is the makeup air induced into the garage by the
are generated right next to the exhaust inlet. Figure exhaust air that is diluting auto emissions.† So it is the
1 (previously published in my February 2014 column makeup air distribution we need to pay attention to, not
“Restroom Exhaust Systems”) shows a computational the exhaust distribution. In fact, the distributed exhaust
fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation of a typical exhaust inlets as mandated by the CMC can actually reduce
grille. Note the velocity vectors are only high right near ventilation efficiency and increase average pollutant
the grille; more than 2 ft (0.6 m) or so away from the concentrations depending on the location of the makeup
grille face, the velocity vectors are close to zero. This air inlets relative to the exhaust inlets.

* This section was required in the 2010 CMC, forcing the use of the exception if alternative exhaust system layouts were to be used. The
exception was interpreted by many code officials to mean that computational fluid dynamics had to be performed, such as that discussed
in this article, to show alternative designs performed similarly. The 2013 version of the CMC includes this section as an alternative, so
CFD is no longer required to justify alternative designs.
† From the perspective of garage air quality, ventilation systems could directly supply outdoor air instead of inducing makeup air with ex-
haust systems. However, the garage would then be positively pressurized, possibly pushing pollutants into adjacent occupiable spaces.
Most codes, therefore, do not allow garages to be ventilated with supply air systems.



FIGURE 2 Multiple inlet garage exhaust system. FIGURE 3 Sweep garage exhaust system.

Exhaust Fan Exhaust Fan

Garage Garage
Entry Entry

CO 0.00 4.55 9.09 13.64 18.18 22.73 27.27 31.82 36.36 40.91 45.45 50.00 ppm CO 0.00 4.55 9.09 13.64 18.18 22.73 27.27 31.82 36.36 40.91 45.45 50.00 ppm

For instance Figure 2 and Figure 3 show CFD predictions ASHRAE Standard 62.1-20132) is 0.75 cfm/ft2 (3.7 L/s·m2)
of carbon monoxide (CO) concentration from a simple for a total exhaust rate of 105,000 cfm (52,000 L/s).
garage with a center drive aisle with a continuous queue The air speed through single garage entry would have
of automobiles. The garage entry on the left side is the been ~2,000 fpm (10 m/s), which would be very notice-
source of makeup air. Figure 2 shows CO concentration able to people walking through and generate a higher
assuming multiple ducted exhaust inlets per the CMC, than desirable pressure drop. High velocity makeup
while Figure 3 shows an unducted design with a single air also results in more stagnant areas caused by eddies
exhaust inlet on the side opposite the entry. The exhaust (discussed in the next example). Our experience has
air draws makeup air from the entry across the garage been that the Standard 62.1-2013 garage exhaust rate
in a sweeping fashion; hence the name “sweep” exhaust is extremely conservative; with fan speed controlled by
system. carbon monoxide (CO) concentration, as required by
The figures show that the sweep design has lower over- ASHRAE Standard 90.1-20133 and California’s 2013 Title
all CO concentrations with maximum concentration 24 Energy Standards4 for most garages, we find exhaust
(~25 ppm) only at the very right side. The reason is that rates seldom exceed half of the design rate and even
the exhaust inlets on the left side of Figure 2 are extract- then only for short periods in the evening rush hour
ing air that has a low concentration of pollutants, wast- (due to cold engine starts).
ing this air and leaving less makeup air to dilute pol- As hybrid, electric, and other low-emission vehicles
lutants generated on the right side of the garage. So the become more popular, the current Standard 62.1 garage
sweep design in Figure 3 can provide better ventilation exhaust rate will become even more conservative. But
than a fully ducted exhaust system, and it clearly will be even half the 2,000 fpm (10 m/s) design air speed at
less expensive. the entry seemed too high. So we decided we needed to
convert some of the exhaust points into additional sup-
Example 1: One-Level Garage ply air points. This increased first costs because the 0.75
Many commercial and residential complexes have a cfm/ft2 (3.7 L/s·m2) exhaust rate still had to be main-
one-level underground garage below. Here is an exam- tained; the air that was previously exhausted at points
ple of how we implemented a sweep garage exhaust now used for supply had to shift to other exhaust points.
design on a 140,000 ft2 (13,000 m2) garage. • The fact that we needed more supply air points
The garage entries will always be a source of makeup worked out well because two of our exhaust points, EA1
outdoor air. So our first approach is to locate exhaust and EA2 in Figure 4, could not be made to work due to
points (tagged EA1, EA2, etc.) on the opposite side of architectural constraints. EA1 would have discharged air
the garage so they can draw makeup air from the entry into the ramp running down into the garage entry, caus-
down the drive aisles to the exhaust inlet, as shown in ing exhaust air to recirculate. Converting it to a supply
Figure 4. This is the least expensive design. However, we air point solved that problem. EA2 was located near the
encountered some problems: Steven T. Taylor, P.E., is a principal of Taylor Engineering in Alameda, Calif. He is a mem-
• The exhaust rate prescribed by the CMC (based on ber of SSPC 90.1 and chair of TC 4.3, Ventilation Requirements and Infiltration.



FIGURE 4 One-level garage—initial concept. FIGURE 5 One-level garage—final concept.

main entry to the campus, and we could not find an ex- • Five transfer fans, each 24,000 cfm (12,000 L/s)
haust design that met code (e.g., 10 ft [3 m] above grade drawing air from the upper level and discharging to the
and from building openings) and that was also archi- lower level (shown as yellow squares in Figure 6).
tecturally acceptable. Converting this exhaust point to The split in exhaust rate between the upper and lower
a supply point solved that problem due to less stringent level was determined by experimenting with the CFD
code limitations on air intakes. model.
It also improved ventilation on the left drive aisle All fans are propeller fans with low-noise blades. Even
between EA2 and EA3, circled in green in Figure 4, where with the special blades, the fans are not very quiet at
a stagnant‡ spot would occur with the original concept. full speed (35 sones), but they never get to full speed
The final design concept is shown in Figure 5. when controlled off CO concentration (as noted earlier)
and garages are not acoustically sensitive spaces. Where
Example 2: Two-Level Garage noise is a concern, e.g., if the area where the fans dis-
My second example is a 510,000 ft2 (47,000 m2) two- charge is acoustically sensitive, mixed flow fans can be
level garage. The sweep design with two-level garages used; they are much quieter and somewhat more effi-
can be made to work using transfer fans that can elimi- cient, but also much more expensive.
nate stagnant spots on both levels without using any A CFD analysis was performed to justify the design
ductwork. The garage is shown in Figure 6. The exhaust using the CMC code exception shown earlier. Both the
fans are all located on one corner of the garage in a loca- proposed sweep design shown in Figure 6 and a fully
tion that is not architecturally sensitive. There are two ducted system compliant with the CMC were modeled.
entries on the upper level through which all makeup air The results, shown in Figure 7 for both upper and lower
is drawn. levels, indicate that both designs work acceptably—they
The design consists of the following: both result in predicted CO concentrations well below
• Four exhaust fans totaling 110,000 cfm (55,000 L/s) the 50 ppm CMC limit—but the sweep design results in
on upper level (shown as red squares in Figure 6); fewer stagnant areas caused by eddies with CO concen-
• Ten exhaust fans totaling 275,000 cfm (140,000 L/s) trations above 30 ppm.
exhaust on lower level (shown as red squares in Figure 6); Advantages of the sweep design over a fully ducted
and CMC design include:
‡ We used to call these “dead” spots but this did not go over well • Much lower mechanical costs, about $1.2 million
with clients concerned about CO poisoning. savings in this case, from $3.75/ft2 ($40.36/m2) down



FIGURE 6 Two-level garage exhaust design. (Courtesy of CPP, Inc.) FIGURE 7 CFD CO concentration sweep vs. CMC design. (Courtesy of CPP, Inc.)

Transfer 50.00
Transfer Fan Entry 46.43
Entry Transfer Fan 42.86
Fan 39.29
Transfer 35.71
Fan UL 32.14
Transfer 25.00
Fan 21.43
LL 3.571
Sweep Design CMC Design ppm
Exhaust Fans

to $1.25/ft2 ($13.45 m2), one-third the cost. On other to-floor height. Exhaust discharge locations are difficult
projects, we have seen mechanical cost savings as high as to coordinate architecturally due to code minimum
$4/ft2 ($43.06/m2). separation distances (e.g., 10 ft [3 m] above grade and
• Lower floor-to-floor height due to the elimination from openings into the building) and architectural resis-
of ductwork. The cost savings of reduced floor-to-floor tance to exhaust stacks, louvers, etc., which can be very
height can exceed the mechanical savings. large for large underground garages.
• Generally, lower fan energy costs. The connected
power for the sweep design with propeller fans in this Conclusions
example was ~100 kW vs. 125 kW for a CMC ducted ex- Code requirements and standard practice in many
haust system with mixed flow fans, 25% lower despite areas include fully ducted garage exhaust systems with
the less efficient propeller fans and the added fan multiple intakes distributed around the garage. These
energy of the transfer fans. This is due to the much designs are unnecessary for minimum garage air qual-
lower pressure drop of unducted systems. The energy ity and can even result in reduced air quality while
savings, however, can degrade if there is a large vari- increasing first costs 300% or more and increasing
ance in emissions throughout the garage; the speed energy costs 25% or more compared to sweep garage
of all fans must be controlled based on the highest exhaust system designs. Sweep designs can be made
CO reading, which can cause overventilation in other to work for almost any garage architectural layout,
areas. A ducted system, if provided with multiple fans including multi-level garages with transfer fans used
serving discrete areas, may be able to be controlled at to prevent stagnant areas by moving air from one level
different speeds depending on local CO readings. But to the next. In most cases, the sweep system can be
our experience has been that, for office buildings at designed without modeling the system using computa-
least, fans usually run at minimum speed (20% or 0.15 tional fluid dynamics, as in Example 1, but CFD can be
cfm/ft2 [0.74 L/s·m2] per California’s Title 24 Energy a valuable design tool for more complex garage layouts,
Standards) almost all the time with fairly uniform such as Example 2.
increases in CO concentrations during evening rush
hour. References
• Improved architectural appearance due to the 1. California Code of Regulations, Title 24, Part 4 California Me-
chanical Code, California Building Standards Commission.
elimination of ductwork. 2. ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2013, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air
• Fewer exhaust discharge locations. For most sweep Quality.
designs, garage exhaust fans can be located in one or two 3. ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2013, Energy Standard for Buildings Except
Low-Rise Residential Buildings.
locations. Ducted systems usually require many more 4. 2013 Building Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and
discharge locations to limit duct sizes to minimize floor- Nonresidential Buildings, Title 24, Part 6 CEC-400-2012-004-CMF.