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How to Design Efficient, Comfortable Buildings for Cold Climates

How To Design Efficient, Comfortable Buildings for Cold Climates

From ASHRAE Journal Newsletter, November 9, 2021

A cold climate is “anywhere you feel cold,” according to the second edition of Cold-Climate Buildings Design Guide. But feeling cold is different for everyone.

The recently updated design guide addresses thermal comfort and other common challenges designers face with cold-climate buildings, such as water freezing issues and providing energy-efficient design while still maintaining a high standard of indoor air quality (IAQ). The guide expands the industry's knowledge of cold-climate buildings with new information on residential buildings, operation and maintenance, seasonal and off-grid facilities and oil and gas facilities in cold climates.

“Energy efficiency and green-building design are different for buildings in cold climates,” said Erich Binder, Life Member ASHRAE, who helped update the design guide. “Many locations in the world have major temperature swings with extreme cold in winter and extreme heat in summer.” For example, the ambient temperature in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, can range from 40°C (104°F) in the summer and -40°C (-40°F) in the winter.

In cold climates, HVAC systems have to be more robust and require back up alternatives should they fail, and remote climates have challenges with longevity of equipment and proper service and maintenance by qualified technicians.

“Designing in remote climates has many challenges including few resources and properly trained personnel,” he said.  

From lessons learned to industry best practices to case studies, the design guide helps engineers design buildings that have the best building envelope to reduce energy consumption and provide a healthy and safe building environment in cold climates. It also addresses major issues that have high-cost impact to loss of revenue, business interruption, health and safety issues and issues that sometimes occur when buildings are engineered and constructed by design teams with limited knowledge of the risks and consequences of cold-climate applications.

“Simple is often better when designing in cold and/or remote climates,” said Binder.