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Natural Ventilation: Getting it Right with WindowMaster

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Tom Lymn, WindowMaster, discusses maximising on ventilation with natural systems that improve air quality, as a priority in our current and long term society.

In light of the Pandemic, the spotlight is on ventilation, with workers and building managers alike needing reassurance the air they breathe is clean and fresh.

Whatever the solution, it needs to benefit the environment too. Operating emissions from energy used on lighting, heating and cooling account for 28% of carbon emissions emitted by building and construction. As such, rethinking our approach to ventilation will play a crucial role on our journey to Net Zero 2050.

Switching from purely mechanical ventilation systems to smart hybrid or natural ventilation systems can increase air quality while lowering emissions, offering architects an effective, sustainable way of introducing fresh air into a building.

Square one

The first step towards achieving effective passive ventilation is understanding how it works and the design and operational processes behind it.

Whether manual or automatic, the type and location of window most appropriate for a setting depends on the building itself, its spaces, usage and occupants.

The physical layout of your building presents a different range of potential approaches: typically single-sided or cross ventilation for smaller buildings, with the addition of stack ventilation using stair cores, light wells and centralised atria across multiple zones for larger buildings.

Consulting ventilation specialists can help you optimise your building’s ability to accommodate and distribute as much natural airflow as appropriate, based on its size and layout.

Take control

Next, you’ll want to consider good control strategies to optimise performance and deliver levels of comfort, air quality and energy efficiency virtually unachievable with only manual operation.

There are three essential ventilation strategies to consider:

  • Night cooling: In summer, using cooler night time air to ventilate the building securely, reducing peak building temperatures the next day.
  • Purge ventilation: Timely opening of windows before occupants arrive to freshen up spaces without the risk of discomfort.
  • Preemptive ventilation: Reacting to changing room conditions and carefully beginning to ventilate spaces before room conditions begin to fail, taking weather conditions into consideration to keep rooms as near to ideal set points as possible.

Photography by Edward Sumner
Photography by Edward Sumner

Technically speaking

Even a great design supported by a well-thought-out strategy can fall flat without supporting technology. This last piece of the puzzle will ensure the quiet, intuitive and cost-effective delivery of your natural ventilation.

The best approach is aspiring to achieve the ideal balance between ventilation supply and demand, opening periodically in smaller increments to adjust and hit the right balance of air quality, comfort and energy, for as much time as possible.

Well-proven, cost-effective smart options are available which significantly improve functionality and performance. Using the right technology allows for quiet, and precise, background automation, reacting seamlessly to set criteria with minimal disruption, without impeding energy use of other building systems.

Birkerød Gymnasium
Birkerød Gymnasium

Case study: Engineering comfort

Completed in spring 2021, the Manchester Engineering Campus Development (MECD) aspires to provide world-class sustainable research and learning facilities. Situated on the outskirts of Manchester City Centre, intelligent Natural ventilation is used across four buildings, to ensure great air quality while reducing energy consumption compared with other ventilation approaches.

Many teaching spaces and large open plan areas are split into zones, and banks of windows are carefully controlled using the BMS in conjunction with special communication technology to offer quiet, accurate control of the windows. This technology allows the BMS not only to power windows, but to talk to them and gain feedback. This makes the automation aligned to occupant and energy needs, and complementary to the building’s aspirations.

It seems only fitting that one of the largest state-of-the-art education buildings in Western Europe should use this innovative approach to help deliver its BREEAM excellent rating, as well as great learning spaces for the future engineers that will continue to help find other solutions to address climate change.



Tom Lymn

Tom is Director of Sales at WindowMaster. An engineer by background, he has a passion for effective natural ventilation design and solutions.

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