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Importance of Decentralized Air Handing System Design

By Michael Rosario, Construction Tech Review | Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Performance needs and sustainability targets drive the use of decentralized air handling system design in the construction industry.

FREMONT, CA: HVAC systems are responsible for regulating airflow, heat, ventilation, and air conditioning of a building. The heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems fuel occupant comfort in buildings too. It is no surprise that air handling takes up a major portion of the budget within a cleanroom design and development project, not to mention on-going running costs. Performance needs and sustainability targets can be at odds in the cleanroom world, but a decentralized air handling system design can make unlikely bedfellows. The time to integrate both performance and sustainability is at the design stage as that's when building owners have the most control. It is very difficult to attain an optimum solution retrospectively. Here is more to read.

Decentralized air handling needs no central air handling unit. Instead, it features the parts of an AHU, broken down into several parts of the plant. Fan filter units, temperature control units, and dehumidification modules. Once seen as the needed plant for compliance, the AHU is frequently replaced with this decentralized method. Benefits range from mitigated constructional cost and complexity to a rise in usable footprint, as a central plant room is not necessarily needed. All controlled air is blended in ducting before introduction into the cleanroom through ceiling-mounted HEPA FFUs.

Starting at the facility design level, if users break down parts into smaller compliance zones, it can reduce the level of plant-related and control energy costs. This entails looking at each part of the process and defining what specification is needed. It may be only one part of the process that needs that level of stringent tolerances. Localizing that control to a part of the process can mitigate the cleanroom's energy usage significantly. A scaled level of resilience and modularity is offered with a decentralized air handling method. If one FFU were to fail, the others could function at an increased rate to compensate. With a clean room, there is an increased possibility that not every part of a facility is always in operation at any given time. With air handling having a critical impact on cleanrooms' performance, it is essential to verify a proposed technical solution's accuracy before it is developed.

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