Convention Center HVAC Requirements

Convention 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 and the environmental separation necessary to keep people comfortable and operating costs low.

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

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

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A typical convention center, arena, or auditorium may include:

Essential Components in Convention Center and Auditorium HVAC Design

Proper heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) design is crucial for maintaining a comfortable and safe environment in convention centers and auditoriums.

One key component in these systems is the make-up air unit (MUA), vital in replacing exhausted air, controlling air quality, and tempering the space.

Types of Make-up Air Units

  1. 100% Outdoor Air Units: These MUAs introduce fresh air from outside to replace the air exhausted from the space. They are ideal for events that generate odors or require high air turnover rates, such as car shows or restaurant equipment exhibitions.
  2. 100% Recirculated Air Units: These units recirculate the air within the space, filtering and treating it before reintroducing it. They are energy-efficient and can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs, making them suitable for spaces with lower ventilation requirements, such as auditoriums and theaters.
  3. Combination Units: These versatile MUAs can introduce outdoor air and recirculated air in varying proportions. Depending on the event or occupancy level, they offer flexibility in meeting a space’s specific ventilation and tempering needs.

Tempering Options

Make-up air units have various heating and cooling options to ensure the introduced air is tempered to maintain a comfortable environment. These options include:

Designing MUAs for Convention Centers and Auditoriums

When designing make-up air units for convention centers and auditoriums, several factors must be considered:

  1. Ventilation Requirements: The ventilation rates and air exchanges required for space are determined by the applicable building codes, such as ASHRAE 62.1 or the International Mechanical Code (IMC). These requirements vary based on the type of event and the expected occupancy level.
  2. Air Turnover Rates: The air turnover rate needed for proper heating and cooling often exceeds the rate required for ventilation. In such cases, a combination MUA with recirculation capabilities can efficiently temper the space while introducing the necessary fresh air.
  3. Air Filtration and Treatment: Recirculated air can be filtered and treated using advanced technologies like UV-C light or cold plasma ionization to remove viruses, bacteria, and other airborne contaminants, ensuring a clean and healthy environment.
  4. Sizing and Design: Proper sizing and design of make-up air units are essential for efficient operation and optimal performance. Factors such as the space’s dimensions, expected occupancy, and climate must be considered to select the appropriate MUA capacity and configuration.
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Ductwork Design for Exhibition Center HVAC Systems

Proper ductwork design and installation are critical components of an effective HVAC system in exhibition centers. The unique challenges these large, open spaces pose require careful consideration to ensure optimal air distribution, temperature control, and energy efficiency.

Ductwork Design Considerations

When designing ductwork for exhibition centers, consider the following factors:

  1. Air Distribution: Design ductwork to provide even air distribution throughout the exhibition space, considering the layout of booths, displays, and high-traffic areas.
  2. Flexibility: Incorporate adjustable dampers and variable air volume (VAV) terminals for zoned temperature control and adaptability to changing exhibition layouts.
  3. Noise Control: Select duct materials and design ductwork to minimize noise transmission, ensuring a comfortable environment for exhibitors and attendees.
  4. Energy Efficiency: Optimize duct sizing and layout to minimize pressure drops and maximize energy efficiency, reducing operating costs and environmental impact.

Compliance with Industry Standards

Ductwork design and installation must comply with relevant industry standards, such as ASHRAE Standard 90.1 for energy efficiency and SMACNA (Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association) guidelines for duct construction and installation. Adherence to these standards ensures a high-quality, safe, and efficient HVAC system.

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We are the official distributors of the top manufacturers in the USA. As official reps, we’ll be happy to help find the best products for your application.

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Ceiling Fans for Auditoriums & Convention Centers

High-volume, low-speed (HVLS) ceiling fans are big fans that offer big savings for auditoriums and convention centers.

Designed to move huge amounts of air in large spaces using very little energy, these large ceiling 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 produces 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 even greater cost savings.

HVAC Design and Equipment Factors for Auditorium and Renovation Projects

The scope and equipment requirements for an HVAC project vary significantly depending on the venue, structure, and unique challenges of the space. Understanding these factors is crucial for a successful installation.

Auditorium HVAC Design Considerations

When designing an HVAC system for an auditorium, consider the following factors:
  1. Climate Conditions: Different zones within the auditorium may require specific temperature and humidity control.
  2. Sound Threshold: Select equipment and design ductwork to minimize noise levels and maintain a suitable acoustic environment.
  3. Air Distribution: Employ strategies such as displacement ventilation or underfloor air distribution for efficient air distribution.
  4. Method of Action: Choose between a constant volume or variable air volume (VAV) system based on usage patterns and energy efficiency goals.

Renovation and Retrofit Projects

Additional considerations for HVAC renovation or retrofit projects include:
  1. Occupied Spaces: Plan and coordinate to minimize disruption to occupants and maintain a safe working environment.
  2. Phased Implementation: Install and commission the new HVAC system in stages for a smooth transition.
  3. Integration with Existing Systems: Ensure the new HVAC system integrates seamlessly with existing mechanical, electrical, or control systems.

Compliance with ASHRAE Standards

All HVAC systems must be designed in accordance with ASHRAE standards for indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and system performance. Engage certified consultants, engineers, and technicians to ensure compliance and optimal system design.


The scope and equipment requirements for an HVAC project in an auditorium or renovation setting depend on various factors unique to the space and the project’s goals. Careful consideration of these factors and adherence to ASHRAE standards will result in an HVAC system that provides comfort, efficiency, and reliability.

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R. Williamson & Associates has been in the ventilation business since 1931 and has a long history of providing HVAC equipment for the auto factory industry as well as fans and blowers for paint booths.

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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