Engineering on an international scale: HVAC

Working on projects clear across the globe may introduce more obstacles to overcome than mere distance and language barriers—each locale comes with its own codes, climate conditions, and unique characteristics. Heating and cooling must be carefully considered.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer July 30, 2015


Mark Haboian, Senior Program Manager and Chemical Process Engineer, Optimation Technology Inc., Rochester, N.Y.

Brian E. Hagglund, PE, Assistant Manager—Middle East, Aon Fire Protection Engineering Corp., Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Bill Kosik, PE, CEM, LEED AP, BEMP, Distinguished Technologist, Data Center Facilities Consulting, Hewlett-Packard Co., Chicago

Erin McConahey, PE, LEED AP, FASHRAE, Principal, Arup, Los Angeles

CSE: What unique HVAC requirements do international structures have that you wouldn’t encounter on U.S. structures?

McConahey: HVAC systems are fairly standard. Depending on the availability of parts and local service, in overseas jobs there can be a drive toward simpler equipment with less electronic internal monitoring or control. Additionally, in some locations dust and lack of water are very serious issues to take into account when selecting heat-rejection equipment.

CSE: What changes in fans, variable frequency drives, and other related equipment have you experienced?

McConahey: The same technologies as in the U.S. are generally available overseas for our client types having large-size projects in relatively well-connected urban centers.

CSE: What indoor air quality challenges have you recently overcome? Describe the project, and how you solved the problem.

McConahey: In the context of overseas work, it is more a question of benchmarking locally made filtration media with ASHRAE standards to judge the appropriateness of a stated product.

CSE: Have you recently specified more alternative HVAC systems? This may include displacement ventilation, underfloor air distribution, variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems, chilled beams, etc.

McConahey: Displacement ventilation, underfloor air distribution, and chilled beams all started in Europe and came to the U.S. We recommend them to clients where appropriate. We do need to be aware that many locations overseas are subject to severe climates (much more so than in Los Angeles where I live), so we have to be very careful to specify equipment to meet the needs in the local climate based on available materials in the local market.

CSE: Describe a challenging air-handling system you recently specified.

McConahey: Probably the most difficult one recently involved a desiccant wheel, four levels of filtration, humidification, and a bypass function for use as a make-up air unit for a smoke control system.