ATLANTA - Tall commercial office buildings present a series of design problems that differ from those that are found in other projects in the built environment. Only through the combined efforts of owners and design teams can these problems be addressed and resolved in the most effective manner, according to Donald E. Ross.

Ross is the author of HVAC Design Guide for Tall Commercial Buildings, published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). It provides guidance in understanding the HVAC design problems of tall commercial office buildings and in detailing alternative solutions.

"While the HVAC engineers are primarily concerned with meeting the mechanical needs, they also must understand how their efforts integrate with other design team members to provide an overall project that is attractive, cost effective, energy efficient, and flexible in meeting the needs of occupants," Ross stated. "The goal is to achieve a project that integrates the designs of the entire designing team - not just providing a successful air conditioning system."

Ross also addresses life safety systems needed for tall commercial buildings.

"The life safety system is a multidisciplinary effort that must be included in a project to ensure that the occupants can get safely out of the building in the event of a fire or other emergency," he said. While HVAC engineers are primarily concerned with the design of the smoke management system, he noted, they must understand how the entire life safety system functions and the concerns that other design professionals must address.

"The goal is to achieve an integrated total system to provide maximum protection within the requirements of the applicable building code," Ross said.

Ross has been involved with the design of tall commercial buildings throughout the United States and the world, including the Sears Tower in Chicago (the tallest building in the United States), the Bank of China in Hong Kong (the tallest building outside the United States at the time of its construction in 1992), and the MesseTurm in Frankfort (the tallest building in Europe when completed in the last decade).

The cost of the HVAC Design Guide for Tall Commercial Buildings is $59 ($49 ASHRAE members) plus shipping and handling.

To order, contact ASHRAE Customer Service at 800-527-4723 (United States and Canada) or 404-636-8400 (worldwide), fax 404-321-5478, by mail at 1791 Tullie Circle NE, Atlanta, GA 30329, or visit ASHRAE's online bookstore at

Publication date: 04/12/2004