The importance of good indoor air quality and consequently high-quality air distribution systems in buildings has never been more topical than today. However, the function of an air distribution system is so much more than just providing and distributing sufficient fresh air in a building. Its main aim is to always satisfy occupants by controlling indoor air quality, temperature, and humidity, considering acoustic comfort, a variable occupancy in the building, and changing outdoor conditions. In addition, this has to be accomplished while minimizing energy use. Energy-efficient air distribution systems are a prerequisite to not just meet but go
beyond the current minimum energy performance requirements for buildings. This is a crucial step to achieving a climate-neutral Europe by 2050 and realizing the European green deal.
Clearly, designing and operating high-performing air distribution systems is very challenging and complex. Especially when these systems also have to be designed within a limited budget and time as is the case in practice. User-friendly tools are needed that support the design engineer in his or her decision-making to achieve optimal performing air distribution systems. However, no tool exists today to select the most optimal system in a specific building based on a coherent set of indicators for design optimization (i.e. indoor air quality (IAQ), acoustic and thermal comfort, and life cycle costs). Instead, design decisions are based on rules
of thumb and the experience of the design engineer in charge, leading to suboptimal performing systems.
The overarching aim is to develop a holistic, flexible, and user-friendly design tool for optimal air distribution systems in nonresidential buildings. Starting from a building's floor plan, the tool must be able to automatically calculate the optimal air distribution system's configuration (i.e., ductwork layout and sizing), while minimizing the life cycle costs (i.e., energy, material, installation, and maintenance costs). In addition, performance parameters will be taken into account that are more difficult to translate into a
cost, but which are nevertheless crucial to the optimal performance of the system, such as acoustics, indoor air quality, and comfort. The tool must be applicable to both new construction projects and retrofitting projects. In this first project, we aim for a proof of concept optimizing retrofit strategies and parallel distribution systems. In parallel, software integration and complementarity with existing design tools / practice will be further explored in collaboration with industry.