A Guide on HVAC System Configurations for Commercial Buildings
A Guide on HVAC System Configurations for Commercial Buildings

A Guide on HVAC System Configurations for Commercial Buildings


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HVAC configuration is one of the most vital design choices for commercial buildings since it represents a more significant portion in the long term. For HVAC loads, it will commonly mean the highest energy expenses in commercial buildings. For HVAC techs, using a construction schedule software has made their way of work more progressive and productive.

Geographic location has also played a crucial role in this area– buildings far to the south and north of the world generally have higher heating expenses than those located in the tropical zone. Like in residential settings, a much broader range of heating and cooling options and configurations are attainable for commercial buildings. Each option has a unique set of gains and limitations.

For this blog, we’re about to discover the primary HVAC system configurations for commercial buildings. It’ll serve as a guide for HVAC techs and installers.

The Different HVAC Configurations Used in Commercial Systems


High-quality HVAC systems are vital, considering that it is mainly responsible for about 40% of the total energy being consumed in many commercial buildings. If replacements are necessary for commercial air conditioning systems, HVAC technicians must further understand the different commercial HVAC systems deployed in buildings. Three of the most generally used HVAC configurations and systems for commercial buildings are listed below.

1. Heat Pump System with Water Source (Cooling Tower and Boiler)

Commercial HVAC systems that are based upon water-source heat pumps are considered a superior option when it comes to energy efficiency and versatility. Heat pumps are usually based on the refrigeration cycle, the same way as air conditioners. However, they offer reversible operations when multiple heat pumps are used to serve specific areas in a commercial building. Additionally, one of the advantages is that it can switch between heating and cooling modes if necessary. Read below:

  • ·Since water circuits are shared, equal cooling and heating loads have balanced each other out.
  • All heat pumps in the building often share a water circuit. The pumps will either absorb or reject heat depending on the requirements and needs of every zone.
  • If the cooling load tends to get higher, a cooling tower will eliminate any extra heat. On the other hand, if the heating loads become heightened, a boiler is utilized to compensate for any differences.

Moreover, like in the two previous scenarios, it might be possible to turn the system even more capable by adding speed controls to every pump and fan used. This set of pumps can match and even surpass the efficiency level of a chiller. In many cases, it can provide space heating with less than 30% of any resistance heaters’ energy consumption. In fact, heat pumps are considered the most efficient heating and cooling systems available in the market today. And for project management solutions, construction scheduling software comes first in the global market.

2. VAV System with Packaged Rooftop Units

RTUs or packaged rooftop units typically include a condenser for air conditioning and electric boilers for space heating. In climates where every unit should provide air conditioning with the lowest outdoor humidity, it can be possible to add an economizer. Adding an economizer can lessen the cooling loads on the condensers. In all operation modes, fans are being used to blow air into the duct system. It will then distribute the air in the separate indoor zones.

  • Every zone has a VAV box (variable-air-volume) with a damper that can open and close according to the heating and cooling needs.
  • Damper position is often controlled based upon the temperature set points of every specific zone. For instance, the damper fully opens whenever a particular zone obliges maximum heating and cooling output.

Nevertheless, traditional VAV systems might suffer from a drastic reduction when it comes to energy efficiency. It often happens when a subject is parting to load conditions and when all building zones are currently at a partial load while the dampers are half-closed. Additionally, the extra pressure is representing a wasted fan power. Yet, it can still be possible to achieve outstanding HVAC efficiency results by utilizing VFDs (variable frequency drives) and automation. 

You can read further about VFDs and its promising benefits and different HVAC applications in a separate blog. Click here.

A control system consistently evaluates the state of all VAV boxes. Preferably, at least one of the VAV boxes must be fully open. Otherwise, the fan power can possibly be wasted.

  • If none of the dampers is entirely open, fan speed should be lessened, and all dampers should be available regularly until one of them can reach the fully open position.
  • The fans are providing just the right level of airflow at this point only for HVAC loads.

In reality, VAV systems with packaged RTUs are practical in any facility with a much larger rooftop area proportional to the indoor floor space. This system is not suitable in multi-story buildings because rooftop areas have limitations, and long vertical distances are primarily involved. In these applications, water-source heat pumps or water-cooled chillers are commonly ideal to consider.

3. Chiller with Cooling Boiler and Tower

Some systems are using water as the primary medium to extract and deliver heat. Water circuits can pass through air-handling units (AHUs) that often provide the required airflow for every building area. Read further below.

  • In heating mode, the circulating water is passing through a boiler. Apparently, most of the boilers are often powered by electricity, oil, and gas.
  • In cooling modes, the chiller tends to extract heat directly from the cold water circuit. The circuit usually circulates through the entire building and tends to discard it into a secondary water loop while being connected to the cooling tower. The latter is then rejecting the heat outdoors.

In both cases, heat is usually exchanged between the indoor air and circulating water. If the boiler and chiller share a water circuit or a two-pipe system, the whole building should operate in either cooling or heating mode. However, when there is a separate water circuit for every operation mode, immediate cooling and heating can be provided to every different zone.

In the cases of VAV systems, it can be possible to accomplish significant savings with automation and control:

  • VFDs can be utilized for multiple system components, cooling tower fans, including air-handling units and water pumps.
  • Modern chillers have variable-speed compressors that can operate even under part-load conditions. Several models are being combined with speed control using staged operation to enhance efficiency further.
  • Economizers can also be used for water-cooled systems. However, economizers can only be applied to particular climate zones to provide air conditioning with lower humidity.
  • Chiller-based systems offer a much higher efficiency compare to VAV systems. These systems are also more practical to use for multi-story buildings. 

How Construction Management Software Improves HVAC jobs?


This advanced software can go a long way towards improving overall performance across the board, particularly when it is developed to cater to companies and professionals’ unique requirements and needs in the industry. It can also be further customized under common objectives. With tons of moving parts involved in HVAC system implementations and configurations, the software can make the work much easier and efficient.

Every HVAC system configuration and installation have certain objectives to be met. In many cases, HVAC installers and techs’ roles are very fundamental also as they used these advanced construction tools. Providing clarity regarding the given objectives is necessary to prevent costly disputes that can hinder the project’s development. With that being said, we are finally summarizing the many ways that this software application improves HVAC jobs.

  • Establishing strong communication channels – There are many crew members involved in the project. It is vital to have a consistent exchange of communication. This application allows the team to connect as the work is still in progress. Thus, making them more collaborative.
  • Improving crew management and resources – labor hours, crew’s performance, and outline of tasks are best monitored using this very advanced application. Even resources, files, and other data are best managed and kept using this application.
  • Project scope and objectives are clearly defined – one of the most important aspects of handling a project is to know the entire scope. Using this software, project managers can quickly outline the project’s scope, including the objectives and primary goal. Distributing tasks comes easier too.
  • Ease of accessibility –the software application is cloud-based, and it only means that users can openly access it anytime and anywhere.
  • Executing numerous operations. – Some various procedures and tasks are best achieved when there are effective monitoring and coordination from every member. The application allows the team to work more collaboratively and efficiently. Thus, there are tons of work that can be quickly accomplished within a week.
  • Efficient construction project scheduling and control – scheduling tasks, activities, and other important matters are easily achieved. And they are controlling the flow of the project when necessary is also attainable. There are so many advantages to expect when using project management software.

Key Takeaways


Building layout and HVAC configurations are two of the most important considerations for commercial buildings. In most cases, other viable energy efficiency enhancements should be considered just in case. These upgrades and improvements contributed to a much longer system’s service life and minimized maintenance expenses.

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