HVAC Systems for Convention Centers, Arenas, and Auditoriums

Convention Center HVAC Requirements

hvac equipment convention centersConvention Centers and indoor arenas demand a level of sanitation and reliability that only the highest quality HVAC equipment and ventilation systems can provide.

Proper design can provide a safe space for employees and guests as well as the environmental separation necessary to keep people comfortable and operating costs low.

Large venues that include both indoor and outdoor spaces of varying environments require different HVAC equipment to achieve the desired objective. According to ASHRAE these types of HVAC applications fall under, “Places of Assembly” (ASHRAE pdf source).

Although guests and patrons are typically limited to areas designed to accommodate them, there is a substantial amount of work being performed throughout a convention center to accommodate the guest spaces.

A typical convention center, arena or auditorium may include:

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HVAC Design for Auditoriums


Auditoriums and convention centers specifically require specialized HVAC and ventilation systems. The business of keeping a large number of guests comfortable in an ever changing environment requires distinctive designs and equipment that is flexible enough to change with each convention, exhibition or function.

Adapting quickly and simply to keep up with each situation is paramount. There are many types of commercial and industrial fans, HVLS fans, makeup air, air curtains, etc. that should be considered for applications at large venues. However, air cooling, heating, and diffusing are major factors.

HVAC and ventilation equipment can be implemented to adhere to standards specific to each venue.

Speak with a specialist to find out what size and type is necessary for your application.

Make up Air Units for Convention Centers

Large facilities such as convention centers and auditoriums will require make-up air units. Air turnover or air exchanges are required to maintain a clean and safe space for everyone within the space. Make-up air units are used to introduce fresh replacement air to a space to “make-up” for the air that is exhausted from that space.

Additionally, makeup air is used to temper the air within these larger spaces. With options ranging from direct fired gas, indirect fired gas, electric, hot water or steam for heating to DX and chilled water for cooling. Whatever the environment there is a solution to temper it.

Make-up air units (MUA) in convention centers are often designed to introduce 100% outdoor air, 100% recirculated air and a combination of outside and recirculated air. This style of equipment is beneficial due to its flexibility.

Industry trade shows and odor generating events, such as car shows or restaurant equipment shows will require more air turnovers than a typical consumer or healthcare trade show.

The ventilation rates and air exchanges required can be calculated for the specific event and programmed to operate from a building pressure sensor to coordinate the performance with the exhaust fans.

Recirculating make up air units (Click to learn more about make-up air units) in auditoriums and theaters can provide significant cost savings due to the energy saved minimizing the amount of outdoor air being introduced. Occupied spaces will always require fresh air to be introduced to meet codes but at a significantly lower rate than other venues.

The air turnover rate to meet the ventilation code is less than the air turnover rate required to properly heat and/or cool the space. For this reason a makeup air unit with a recirculation feature can be provided to accommodate the demand. By introducing a small amount of fresh outside air while recirculating a larger portion of interior air you can temper a space for a fraction of 100% outdoor air systems.

Additionally, the recirculated air can be filtered and treated using UltraViolet (UV-c) Light or Cold Plasma Ionization to eliminate viruses (Click to learn more about UV-c lights) and airborne contaminants.

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We’ll be happy to help explain which model and make is best for your application.

Exhaust Fans for Auditoriums

Auditoriums and performance theaters have unique challenges in order to ventilate. These challenges require industrial and commercial grade exhaust fans for auditoriums (Click here to learn more about industrial exhaust fans). There are several different environments within the same open space and each area has its own unique ventilation requirements.

For example, the stage may be warmer due to lighting and other equipment. Therefore, it demands a higher cooling load than backstage or for the audience. A higher exhaust rate using commercial grade exhaust fans at the stage level, especially around the lights, is common.

Depending on the specific auditorium or convention center, most building codes require emergency exhaust fans and/or smoke evacuation fans for safety precautions in case of fire. Emissions from fork trucks and other vehicles require ventilation from industrial exhaust fans inside convention centers when setting up or breaking down events.

Many auditoriums and convention centers have connected parking garages. Whether they are underground or enclosed above ground there is a need to remove the emissions from the space. Parking garages at convention centers use industrial exhaust fans and supply fans.

Outside air is introduced to the space through a series of untempered, ducted intake fans and distribution through a network of ducts. This fresh air is directed toward several exhaust fans creating a push – pull system of ventilation. This system evacuates the harmful emissions from the garage and keeps indoor air quality of the connected spaces clean and safe.

Find Out More about Industrial Exhaust Fans

Air Curtains in Convention Centers

Air curtains are a piece of equipment that are defined by their return on investment. Their main purpose is to reduce energy consumption. By protecting the building from influxes of outdoor air and keeping the tempered air indoors the demand on the HVAC systems is greatly reduced.

This results in the convention center’s ventilation equipment operating less, translating to reduced energy costs in structures where people assemble.

Air curtains in convention centers provide significant benefits when installed. These types of applications typically have many doors of varying size receiving very high levels of traffic. When setting up and breaking down a show several high bay doors are open. This allows significant amounts of outside air to enter the building. During show time smaller people entry doors are opened and rarely close.

Once the outside air has come inside the heating and/or cooling system is called upon to temper that air. An air curtain system can prevent that air from ever being introduced to the interior space.

Commercial duty air doors placed over main entry points, and industrial air curtains placed over the loading docks and equipment entry points can seal the building and prevent influxes of outside air.

Many auditoriums and convention centers have loading docks in order to bring in necessary equipment to set up for events. These high bay doors are required to stay open for long periods of time. By remaining open, the conditioned air escapes. This is where an air curtain creates an invisible seal to block air from coming in or out of the facility.

A huge benefit of air curtains (Learn more about air curtains) placed around high bay doors, like in exhibition centers, is to keep byproducts of trucks, garbage smells and flying pests out. This is beneficial in areas where the outside environment would be unpleasant for indoor guests, but a large main door in the facility is opened on a regular basis.

HVLS Fans for Convention Centers

High Volume Low Speed (HVLS) ceiling fans are another big energy saver for convention centers. Designed to move huge amounts of air in large spaces using very little energy, HVLS fans create high air turnover rates. These air turnovers assist the HVAC systems in delivering conditioned air more effectively than ductwork alone. Additionally, the air movement created by the big fans produce far less noise than HVAC equipment.

Often associated with cooling, the primary use of the HVLS fan is to destratify heat (Learn more about HVLS fans here). HVLS fans can also be used to destratify warm air that rises to the high ceilings in convention centers. Constantly circulating air at all levels throughout the space creates a balanced temperature from floor to ceiling.

In addition to creating a more comfortable space and reduced HVAC load HVLS fans typically allow for improved thermostat settings providing an even greater cost savings.

Convention Center Upgrade & Renovation

The scope of your HVAC project and the equipment required varies from one project to the next. You need to consider not only the equipment but the venue, and the structure itself.

As mentioned earlier, an auditorium venue will have several different environments within a single open space. Not only should the different climate conditions be considered, but also the sound threshold, the air distribution and the method of action.

A renovation project will require a different approach than a new build. In a renovation or retro-fit project the building is often still in use while renovations are taking place. This style of project will carry different considerations and timing than a new build. In most cases the new HVAC system will require final connections and proof of operation before decommissioning and removing the original system.

In any design, all HVAC systems must be planned in accordance to ASHRAE standards. It is recommended for new builds or large renovations that certified consultants, engineers and technicians be consulted.

Contact Us

R. Williamson & Associates has been in the ventilation business since 1931 and has a long history of providing ventilation equipment for convention centers, auditoriums and arenas.

Should you have any questions or comments regarding an application please do not hesitate to reach out to one of our trusted experts.

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