While I’ve seen a number of new ideas, my own research and analysis makes me believe the best solution for the next generation of HVAC is the developing Low Air Volume (LAV) system concept. This system delivers 100% outside air to provide both ventilation and conditioning. And rather than providing general building conditioning, the LAV system at all times channels these resources directly to the building’s current occupants.

The LAV system operates similarly to traditional variable air volume (VAV) systems except the primary air volume is very low. A LAV system can be configured to provide only the needed ventilation air which is then conditioned and volumetrically controlled at each zone to satisfy both the thermal and ventilation requirements of the occupant(s). In an LAV system, the zone size is much smaller than traditional HVAC system zones.

A LAV zone would be a single workstation or office. Since traditional HVAC system diffusers work to mix air more generally within large spaces, new types of air distribution approaches are employed to provide more locally focused air delivery and mixing. Such localized air distribution and mixing concepts permit occupants at adjacent workstations to request and experience somewhat different thermal comfort levels leading to much improved occupant comfort. In the LAV system concept, buildings are not started and shut down each day. Instead each unoccupied zone remains in a “standby” condition awaiting the start of the next occupancy.