Page E1.1 . 25 July 2012   
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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How Cool is UFAD?

by Asif Syed

Underfloor Air Distribution (UFAD) is a method of air conditioning the space by supplying the air from the floor, using natural buoyancy forces to lift it to the ceiling, as opposed to the conventional systems, which supply air from the ceiling down to the occupants, working against the natural forces of buoyancy.

The advantages of the system include energy efficiency, thermal comfort, individual occupant control, flexibility for frequent office restructuring, better indoor air quality, and lower costs for churn fit-out.

UFAD technology uses an air plenum under the floor to supply air from floor air outlets. An air plenum is made between the floor and the structural slab. This requires a raised floor plenum of sufficient depth to transport the air from the supply source to the air outlets. The plenum space is easily accessible and provides the same level of access as a two-foot-by-two-foot (60-centimeter-by-60-centimeter) ceiling tile — without the necessity of climbing a ladder.

The space under the raised floor, primarily created for air flow, is also used for the distribution of other services, such as electrical power wiring, telephone and information technology cabling, security cabling, and fire alarms.

The use of a raised-floor plenum for other services makes the system flexible to modifications, due to ease of access. Given the dependence of business on computers, networks, VOIP, and so on, and the fast-paced changes in technology, the demand for flexibility in data cabling is ever increasing.

The environmental and energy benefits come from the operating temperatures, which are much higher (in cooling applications) than in conventional systems. The combination of environmental and energy benefits with flexibility is the main reason for the growing popularity of the systems. The technology is not new to buildings; from the 1950s on, it has been used in data centers or computer rooms. The driver then was flexible cable management and efficient cooling of high heat loads. Today the drivers are: energy conservation, the environment, and flexibility in managing other building services.

The LEED 2009 Reference Guide for Green Building Design and Construction cites UFAD as a way to achieve individual occupant controls. From the 1970s, buildings have been designed with this technology in Europe and Asia, and have worked satisfactorily.   >>>

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This article is excerpted from Advanced Building Technologies for Sustainability by Asif Syed, copyright © 2012, with permission of the publisher, Wiley.

ArchWeek Image

The Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park in in New York City uses an underfloor air distribution (UFAD) system. Image does not appear in book.
Image: Cook + Fox Architects Extra Large Image

ArchWeek Image

Partial section diagram of a typical floor of the Bank of America Tower. Image does not appear in book.
Image: Cook + Fox Architects Extra Large Image


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