Dynamic evaluation of airflow rates for a variable air volume system serving an open-plan office

Kwok Wai Mui, Daniel W.T. Chan, John Burnett

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


In a typical air-conditioned office, the thermal comfort and indoor air quality are sustained by delivering the amount of supply air with the correct proportion of outdoor air to the breathing zone. However, in a real office, it is not easy to measure these airflow rates supplied to space, especially when the space is served by a variable air volume (VAV) system. The most accurate method depends on what is being measured, the details of the building and types of ventilation system. The constant concentration tracer gas method as a means to determine ventilation system performance, however, this method becomes more complicated when the air, including the tracer gas is allowed to recirculate. An accurate measurement requires significant resource support in terms of instrumentation set up and also professional interpretation. This method deters regular monitoring of the performance of an airside systems by building managers, and hence the indoor environmental quality, in terms of thermal comfort and indoor air quality, may never be satisfactory. This paper proposes a space zone model for the calculation of all the airflow parameters based on tracer gas measurements, including flow rates of outdoor air, VAV supply, return space, return and exfiltration. Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are used as tracer gases. After using both SF6 and CO2, the corresponding results provide a reference to justify the acceptability of using CO2 as the tracer gas. The validity of using CO2 has the significance that metabolic carbon dioxide can be used as a means to evaluate real time airflow rates. This approach provides a practical protocol for building managers to evaluate the performance of airside systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-312
Number of pages2
JournalIndoor Air
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2003


  • Carbon dioxide
  • Computer-controlled carbon dioxide measuring system
  • Indoor air quality
  • Space zone model
  • Sulfur hexafluoride
  • Variable air volume system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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