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Natural Ventilation

This flash illustrates natural ventilation. The paragraph below describes natural ventilation.


Natural ventilation is the process of supplying and removing air through an indoor space by natural means, meaning without the use of a fan or other mechanical system. It uses outdoor air flow caused by pressure differences between the building and its surrounding to provide ventilation and space cooling.

Benefits of Natural Ventilation

The use of natural ventilation is definitely an advantage with the raising concerns regarding the cost and environmental impact of energy use. Not only does natural ventilation provide ventilation (outdoor air) to ensure safe healthy and comfortable conditions for building occupants without the use of fans, it also provides free cooling without the use of mechanical systems.

When carefully designed, natural ventilation can reduce building construction costs and operation costs and reduce the energy consumption for air-conditioning and circulating fans. An additional bonus is that no longer will any noisy fan be of your concern.

Types of Natural Ventilation and their Design Considerations.

There are basically two types of natural ventilation that can be employed in a building: wind driven ventilation and stack ventilation. Both of which are caused by naturally occurring pressure differences. However, the pressure differences that cause wind driven ventilation uses the natural forces of the wind where as stack ventilation is caused by pressures generated by buoyancy as a result in the differences in temperature and humidity. Hence, there are different strategies in the optimization of the two types of natural ventilation.

Wind Driven Ventilation

As naturally occurring wind blows across a building, the wind hits the windward wall causing a direct positive pressure. The wind moves around the building and leaves the leeward wall with a negative pressure, also known as a sucking effect. If there are any openings on the windward and leeward walls of the building, fresh air will rush in the windward wall opening and exit the leeward wall opening to balance and relieve the pressures on the windward and leeward walls.

To capture the wind and bring ventilation to the building, the building shape becomes a

To capture the wind and bring ventilation to the building, the building shape becomes a crucial factor. The building shape can create wind pressures that can effectively drive the air flow through the openings of the building.

There are of course many other factors that play into place. Recommendations from design guidelines from various building regulations also suggest the following:

Building orientation and location. (Choosing a location with a lot of wind, building should be oriented so that the windward wall is perpendicular to the summer wind. This is when you want to maximize the ventilation);

Building form and dimensions. (Naturally ventilated buildings should not be too deep because it will be more difficult to distribute fresh air to all portions of the building);

Window typologies and operations;

Types, shape and size of openings;

Construction methods and detailing;

External elements

Urban planning consideration

Stack Ventilation

Buoyancy ventilation can be induced by temperature (known as stack ventilation) or by humidity (known as cool tower). Most commonly used is the stack driven ventilation.

For stack ventilation to work properly there must be a temperature difference. As the warm air (usually given off by the occupants and their computers), which is less dense, in the building rises, the cooler air is sucked from the openings below. This is shown in the picture below.

Design considerations for stack ventilation  inlets should supply air low in the room. Outlets

Design considerations for stack ventilation

inlets should supply air low in the room. Outlets should be located across the room and at high level.

the vertical distance between the inlet and exhaust openings should take advantage of the stack effect.

Use skylights or ridge vents.

The function as fire exits of enclosed staircases should not be compromised if stack ventilation is incorporated into the design.

With stack ventilation, it does not rely on the wind. On hot summer days with no wind, the naturally occurring stack effect can take place with relatively stable air flow. Moreover, because it does not rely on the pressure and direction of the wind, there is a greater control on locating the air intake.

However, stack driven ventilation is limited to a lower magnitude than wind driven ventilation. It is also very dependent on the inside and outside temperature differences.

Design Strategies for Natural Ventilation

The design for natural ventilation should incorporate maximizing both the wind and stack driven ventilation design concepts as mentioned above.

General design considerations include:

Increase air supply intake by ensuring no outside obstruction (such as vegetation or site objects) nor inside obstruction (such as furniture and interior partition) obstruct inlet openings;

Rooms should have inlet and outlet openings located in opposing pressure zones. This can include openings on the windward and leeward walls or on the windward wall and


All occupied spaces should have an inlet and outlet opening in which at least a minimum of one opening should be an operable window to control flow;

Inlets should supply air at a location low in the room. Outlets should be located across the room and at a higher level;

The long facade of the building and the majority of the openings should be should be directed so that the windward wall is perpendicular to the summer wind;

Use skylights or ridge vents. They are very desirable for night time thermal comfort in houses to vent heated/warm air that rises, and allow heat to be radiated into the cold. It is also can be a good outlet for wind driven ventilation;

At least 3m allowance for the floor to ceiling.

window areas should not be excessive and be protected by exterior shading devices;

Design for high thermal capacity and exposed ceilings for night cooling.

Reduce the possibility of wall warming by the sun through use of light-coloured building exteriors, trees/shrubs to provide shading and evaporative cooling, grass and other groundcover to keep ground temperatures low, and ponds and fountains to enhance evaporative cooling; and

Internal loading should be kept low.

Many of the considerations taken above is to either increase the air flow or lower the heat gain so that the natural ventilation can effective cool the spaces in the building.

Mechanical cooling and ventilation systems will be used to supplement the natural ventilation. By lowering the heat gains, the less air flow will be required to remove the heat, thus there will be less a need of a mechanical cooling system.

Designing a Ventilation System

In order to build a more reliable and also cost and energy efficient ventilation system, one must identify the constraints of the building and utilize various design strategies such as those mentioned above and integrate it into the building design.

The constraints may include, but is not limited, to the following:

Building type;

Local environment;

Climate; and

Building regulations/guidelines.

Building type usually refers to the occupancy, possible building orientation and shape as well as possible size and location of openings. Local environment can refer to the prevailing wind direction, local air quality and surrounding structures. Climate refers to the local temperature and humidity. And finally building regulations/guidelines refer to local regulations, standards (such as ASHRAE) or guidelines. Design codes often specify certain ventilation rates. Ventilation rates encompass the maximum allowance concentration of contaminants, heat generation, and air change rates. Knowing these rates, one can determine the sizes of fans, openings, and air ducts. Below are Table 1 and Table 2 that illustrate the recommended air change rates and outdoor air requirements respectively.

Table 1 Recommended Air Change Rates


Air change rates per hour


4- 6

Dinning hall, restaurants

10 - 15


6 - 10

Libraries, museums and galleries

3 - 4


Boiler rooms


(Source: Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers Guide B)

Table 2 Outdoor air requirements for ventilation from ASHRAE Standard 62-2004, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality

Type of Building and Room

Combined Outdoor Air Rate (L/s/person)

Offices space, libraries


Restaurant dining rooms


Classroom (ages 5-8)


Classroom (ages 9 plus)




Past Examples in Hong Kong

Some buildings that have employed natural ventilation in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Techinical College (Tsing Yi), Hong Kong As seen in the pictures below, the gymnasium and the courtyard integrates both daylighting and natural ventilation. The occupants enjoy the natural lighting and ventilation and the electricity load is reduced.

and ventilation and the electricity load is reduced. (Source: This web page has hyperlinks which may
and ventilation and the electricity load is reduced. (Source: This web page has hyperlinks which may

Hong Kong Integer Pavillion, Admiralty, Hong Kong The pavilion consists of reception area, an exhibition area and an apartment model. These areas adjacent to the external walls can allow natural ventilation when the weather outside permits. The external walls can be adjusted so that natural ventilation can be used.

can be adjusted so that natural ventilation can be used. (Source: This web page has hyperlinks

(Source:This web page has hyperlinks which may transfer you to third-party website. case/hk/vet/stra_nat_vent.htm)

Veterinary Laboratory at Tai Lung, Sheung Shui, Hong Kong Along the exterior wall of the laboratory, operable windows VAV air conditionding systems are integrated to maximize energy efficiency.

(Source: This web page has hyperlinks which may transfer you to third-party website . http://www3

Workshops in EMSD Headquarters Building

vent . h tm )  Workshops in EMSD Headquarters Building In the workshop and storage

In the workshop and storage area, natural ventilation, mechanical ventilation and local spot cooler are provided for effective ventilation system.