Tag Archives: Minimum Ventilation Requirements


Ventilation is utilized for many different purposes, the most common being control of humidity and condensation. Other well-known uses include exhaust hoods in restaurants, heat removal in industrial plants, fresh air in buildings, odor removal, and chemical and fume hood exhausts. In commercial buildings, ventilation air is used for replacement of stale, vitiated air, odor control, and smoke removal. Ventilation air contributes greatly to the comfort of the building’s occupants. It is considered  to be of such importance that many building codes contain specific requirements for minimum quantities of fresh, or outside, air that must be supplied to occupied areas.
Ventilation is also the prime method for reducing employee exposure to excessive airborne contaminants that result from industrial operations. Ventilation is used to dilute contaminants to safe levels or to capture them at their point of origin before they pollute the employees’ working environment. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) standards set the legal limits for employee exposures to many types of toxic substances.

Methods of Ventilation

Ventilation is generally accomplished by two methods: natural and mechanical. In either case, ventilation air must be air taken from the outdoors. It is brought into the building through screened and louvered or other types of openings, with or without ductwork. In many mechanical ventilation systems, the outside air is brought in through ductwork to an appropriate air-moving device, such as a centrifugal fan. With a network of ductwork, the supply air is distributed to areas where it is needed. Also, mechanical ventilation systems are usually designed to exhaust air from the building with exhaust fans or gravity-type ventilators in the roof or a combination-type system.
Many mechanical ventilation systems are installed for fire protection in buildings to remove smoke, heat, and fire. The design must be capable of satisfying the provisions of the National Fire Protection Association ‘‘Standard for Installation of Air-Conditioning systems,’’ NFPA 90-A. The standard also covers installation provisions of air intakes and outlets.
Natural ventilation in buildings is caused by the temperature difference between the air in the building and the outside air and by openings in the outside walls or by a combination of both. With natural ventilation, there should be some means for removing the ventilation air from the building, such as roof-mounted gravity vents or exhaust fans.

Minimum Ventilation Requirements

There are many codes and rules governing minimum standards of ventilation. All gravity or natural-ventilation requirements involving window areas in a room as a given percentage of the floor area or volume are at best approximations. The amount of air movement or replacement by gravity depends on prevailing winds, temperature difference between interior and exterior, height of structure, window-crack area, etc. For controlled ventilation, a mechanical method of air change is recommended.

Where people are working, the amount of ventilation air required will vary from one air change per hour where no heat or offensive odors are generated to about 60 air changes per hour.
At best, a ventilation system is a dilution process, by which the rate of odor or heat removal is equal to that generated in the premises. Occupied areas below grade or in windowless structures require mechanical ventilation to give occupants a feeling of outdoor freshness. Without outside air, a stale or musty odor may result. The amount of fresh air to be brought in depends on the number of persons occupying the premises, type of activity volume of the premises, and amount of heat, moisture, and odor generation. ASHRAE Standard 62 gives the recommended minimum amount of ventilation air required for various activities and ranges from 5 to 50 cfm per person.
The amount of air to be handled, obtained from the estimate of the per person method, should be checked against the volume of the premises and the number of  air changes per hour given in Eq. (13.23).

When the number of changes per hour is too low (below one air change per hour), the ventilation system will take too long to create a noticeable effect when first put into operation. Five changes per hour are generally considered a practical minimum. Air changes above 60 per hour usually will create some discomfort because of air velocities that are too high.
Toilet ventilation and locker-room ventilation are usually covered by local codes—50 ft3 /min per water closet and urinal is the usual minimum for toilets and six changes per hour minimum for both toilets and locker rooms.