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HVAC: The Engine that Drives High Performance Buildings

August 21 small photo

By: Robert Martin, Associate Category Manager, Kimberly-Clark Professional Partnership Products  |   08.21.14

If you’re looking to reduce your building’s consumption of resources and energy toward the goal of creating a High Performance Building, be sure to consider your HVAC system. Even a small change here, like upgrading your HVAC air filtration system, can pay dividends today and in the future. 

High-Performance Buildings

So just what is a High Performance Building? The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) defines it as a building that integrates and optimizes, on a life-cycle basis, attributes including energy conservation, environment, safety, security, durability, accessibility, cost-benefit, sustainability, functionality, productivity and operational considerations. By significantly exceeding the minimum requirements of current codes and specifications, High Performance Buildings have the potential to use much less energy and even improve the health, comfort and productivity of their occupants.

Mechanical Systems

In a 2008 report to Congress, the NIBS High Performance Building Council (HPBC) noted that, "beyond new construction, major renovations and retrofit, opportunities exist to achieve higher performance in buildings by discouraging the practice of deferred maintenance and by vigorously encouraging practical service strategies for the building’s mechanical system." The Council cautioned that "prior decisions about operation and maintenance of systems based on energy costs at the time must be constantly re-evaluated with respect to current and expected energy costs." 

Considering that commercial buildings consume 19 percent of the nation’s energy, and that space heating, space cooling and ventilation account for 40 percent of that energy use, HVAC systems are indeed a wise target for improved energy performance. 

The Filter Factor

An HVAC system’s air filter – and specifically the filter media inside it – has an effect on the energy the HVAC system consumes. That energy consumption is based on the airflow resistance of the filter media: The more resistance there is, the more energy is needed to push air through the filter. 

When evaluating filters with various types of filter media, it is therefore typically wise to select a filter containing mechano-electret media because this type of media typically delivers lower airflow resistance as a filter of the same construction, but using mechanical-only media. 

Keep in mind that delaying filter change-outs also causes the HVAC system to run more days at peak airflow resistance and energy usage. It doesn’t take long for peak energy usage costs to offset any savings available by reducing change-out frequency. 

IAQ Advantages

The electrostatic effects created in a mechano-electret filter media are also useful in increasing the capture efficiency for the submicron airborne particles that can cause health problems, allowing High Performance Buildings to improve the health, comfort and productivity of its occupants as well as save energy. 

Additional Resources

Additional information and resources on High Performance Buildings can be obtained from the following organizations:

  • National Institute of Building Sciences/High Performance Building Council – works, through industry consensus, to establish metrics for high-performance buildings and seeks to harmonize industry standards to achieve high-performance buildings and encourage their production throughout the U.S.
  • Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings – promotes, coordinates and stimulates green building across the entire Federal government, which includes more than 400,000 owns or leased buildings containing more than3 billion square feet of space.
  • ASHRAE – provides a High-Performance Building Design Professional (HBDP) certification, which certifies a well-rounded understanding and knowledge of how HVAC&R design is integrated into high-performing buildings to achieve the overall goal of producing a sustainable HVAC&R design.
  • American High-Performance Building Coalition – composed of leading organizations representing a range of products and materials relevant to the building and construction industry and supports the development of green building standards through consensus-based processes derived from data and performance-driven criteria.



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