The Benefits of Fabric Ducting for School HVAC Systems
When designing, building, or retrofitting a school, the decisions made around an HVAC and ductwork system will play a large role in determining the success of the undertaking. In addition to the usual factors that apply to early every project (performance and cost, for example), school environments come with a unique set of challenges and performance requirements that must be accounted for.
Fabric ductwork is gaining traction in primary school applications because of its ability to uniquely serve the needs of those spaces. Let’s explore some of the unique factors at play when planning a ductwork system within a school, as well as how fabric compares to metal in each category.
With environments ranging from standard classroom settings to kitchens, laboratories, music rooms and auditoriums, aquatic environments, gymnasiums and more, airflow needs for schools can vary significantly from space to space. Fabric ductwork systems are designed and configured for each space – aligning performance benefits to nearly every space type (high velocity, low velocity, sound dampening in music rooms, sanitary solution for kitchen spaces, etc.), and can be a ‘one-stop shopping’ solution for air dispersion within schools.
Providing children with a healthy and safe environment in which to attend school is the number one consideration for anyone involved in education, and whether the application is a classroom, pool, auditorium or gymnasium – fabric offers significant benefits over metal ductwork. With children spending a great amount of time in school, the quality of the air they breathe is of particular importance. Fabric ductwork impacts air quality because the porous fabric used eliminates condensation. This prevents mold growth, corrosion, and reduces dust on the exterior of the ducts. Additionally, the future ability to launder greatly improves future sanitation as systems can be fully cleaned compared to metal ducts where only exterior surfaces are typically cleaned.
Anybody who has spent time in a school with heating or cooling issues will tell you how important a HVAC system is in school buildings. The challenge often arises because schools are diverse, have many rooms, and frequently have a wide array of different types of spaces. Due to the unique ways fabric ductwork can be configured, strategic design can target the precise airflow needs for each space within a school. Additionally, systems are easy to airflow balance ensuring proper performance as the system is balanced as a whole, not device by device like common metal duct and diffusers.
School and district budgets are far from unlimited, so cost is a heightened consideration. Fabric ductwork outperforms traditional metal installations in each of the three cost factors within schools’ budgets:
- Material costs: fabric tends to be less expensive from a materials standpoint historically, not even factoring in metal’s current supply chain volatility (more on that in a moment) or shipping to the jobsite.
- Installation costs: Fabric ductwork has fewer steps in its installation and faster installation times, both of which save money on people and lifting equipment.
- Ongoing costs: Fabric is more efficient air dispersion than metal from an energy usage standpoint, and system upkeep is also less over the long run. Sealants and paint on exposed metal duct fail over time where fabric offers up to 20-year factory warranty.
A less volatile supply chain
- Fabric has remained much more consistent in terms of both cost and procurement, which is essential when planning a new school building project or a retrofit.
- Frankly, the material cost of metal has been volatile and varied wildly recently.
School construction projects’ timelines are more unforgiving than most. Often, school districts, the students, and the student families are waiting for a project to get completed. These projects are often scheduled in a way that is meant to be least disruptive to the students’ education – retrofitting a school during the summer break, or getting a new school built before the start of a school year, for example. If these timelines aren’t met, things are thrown into chaos. Fabric ductwork has a much simpler and quicker install process than metal, which helps with overall project planning, execution, and on-time completion.