by Dominique Joseph
on December 12, 2016

Chilled Beams From the Layman’s Point of View

As I walked across the hall of our new office at 2.0 University Place to another office space being constructed, I noticed some interesting pipe and duct work arranged throughout the whole ceiling. I was confused because at first glance it looked like duct work connected to lights (see picture). Needless to say I was a bit confused as to what was going on above my head. Then I heard the contractors talking about the “chilled beams.” The name alone sparked my curiosity. Therefore, I took this as another opportunity to educate myself on the industry’s building systems.

chilled beam pic

Figure 1: A look at The duct work connected to the mixed air supply unit at Mark Ulrick’s shared office space in the 2.0 University Place building.

Chilled beam systems use water, which carries 2 times more energy than air, to circulate through the pipes and air supply unit to produce hot or cold air. This is better than your conventional air duct system because it disperses energy at a lower cost rate. Healthcare buildings, commercial office buildings and schools are more apt to use this because the heating and cooling is no longer linked to the delivery of air. Buildings save significant money on running fewer air circulation fans at lower speeds. In addition to the cost benefits of the chilled beam system, it runs efficiently with making virtually no noise. Also, because this system is not a split system and uses water, maintenance is inexpensive and easy to keep up with.

There are two types of chilled beams systems, active and passive. Active chilled beam systems require duct work and use the ventilation system to circulate outside air through the building. This is typically used when a building needs to fulfill a quality air requirement. In a passive chilled beam system, there is only pipes, no duct work and relies solely on the circulating water through the pipes to produce heating and cooling.

I must say, as a University of Virginia student-athlete with a history degree, I never thought I would have fun learning about building systems with my family’s engineering firm. More importantly, I take great pride in being involved with such a quality company that has an active part in shaping the future of Philadelphia through designing building systems. As Mark Ulrick moves into 2017 we are looking forward to developing new partnerships that will be beneficial for many years to come. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more MUEI blogs and updates.