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Ventilation Past Present and Future


If you have ever been in Barcelona and have had the opportunity to visit La Pedrera (Case Milà) built by Antoni Gaudi in the early 1900’s, one of the interesting facts is how Gaudi integrated natural ventilation into his design. Gaudi was a man ahead of his time but he understood that ventilation, even in the early 1900’s was an integral part of the health of the home and it’s residents.

Casa Mila Ventilation

Internal courtyards were integrated into the design of La Pedrera. Each courtyard allowed the residents to open windows inside their apartment for a source of fresh air and cross ventilation as each apartment had access to a courtyard as well as an outside (façade side) window.

If we go back even further we see ventilation coming into play in the 17th century when King Charles I of England decreed that all ceilings must be 10 feet high and windows must be higher than wide to increase ventilation. I guess we can attribute the first building code to Charles the 1st. As we skip though time we see ventilation become more prominent with windows, open courtyards, additional chimneys and so forth.

Then came the big innovation – the advent of what is known as mechanical ventilation. This includes bathroom exhaust fans, kitchen range hoods as well as air intake to assist with the ventilation and balancing of the home. These items became code and are now commonplace in almost all homes across the United States and beyond. They are also required as part of the national building code, which is a great thing.

Unfortunately there has been a recent trend where the importance of ventilation was put to the side a bit as the importance of energy efficient homes was brought to the forefront. It wasn’t that ventilation was forgotten, it was just not as important. The issue was that to build a “tight” home, you didn’t want any air leakage in or out. If you were removing air, you had to replace it and replacing the air caused you to have to condition that air – using more energy. Thankfully it was recognized that while having a tight home with minimum air leakages is great for your energy bill it is not great for your health. Now we are understanding that we need a balanced approach to make sure we have proper ventilation while still maintaining the energy efficiency of the home. This means taking control of the air coming in and out of the home using exhaust fans and air intake products.

As we look to what is next for ventilation, it is great to see that the importance is permeating into our workspaces as well as our residences. More and more offices and public building are realizing there is a responsibility to provide a healthy and safe space. Part of that is making sure the air that is being breathed in those spaces is the best it can be. There have been many studies done showing that a properly ventilated office can actually increase productivity and decrease the number of sick days taken by employees. The interesting thread through the history of ventilation is the simplicity of it – remove the stale indoor air and replace it with fresh air. The methods have changed over the years but the principles have stayed the same.

For more information about Air King’s line of ventilation solutions including exhaust fans, range hoods and fresh air intake, utilize the menu links at the top of this page. Also check out our other posts about ventilation and indoor air quality.

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