Factors to Consider When Designing Air Conditioning Systems

Commercial air conditioning systems are a complex set of heating and cooling units, interconnected with an array of ducts and vents that require careful planning and design to be at their most efficient.

If your company is looking to install a new commercial air conditioning – or HVAC system, there are a huge number of potential designs to choose between, plus several different factors to consider in the design process.

HVAC engineers must consider the space available in a property, health and safety requirements, potential cooling loads, energy efficiency, costs, and more. With so much to contemplate, let’s explore the major factors to consider when designing commercial air conditioning systems.

What Are the Most Important Factors to Consider in Air Conditioning System Design?

While it’s possible to simply install an off-the-shelf air conditioning system into a commercial property and hope for the best, this approach to HVAC – heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems – will never produce the most energy-efficient and cost-effective results.

Bespoke, tailor-made air conditioning systems offer the opportunity for major factors to be considered in the Air Conditioning design process, allowing a commercial HVAC system to be fully optimised for the space, layout and operations of a company.

During the air conditioning design process, HVAC engineers look at a wide range of different factors, but the most important to consider are:

  • The type of air conditioning system
  • The size of the system and the available space
  • Ducts and ventilation
  • Cooling loads
  • Energy efficiency
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Health and safety requirements

Different commercial properties and businesses all have different requirements that need to be met by an air conditioning system, and no single HVAC system is ever going to be the same once it’s designed to be fully optimised. Different systems include a variety of components, but as standard, a basic HVAC system incorporates boilers, air-con units, energy sources and vents into the design.

Let’s take a look at these primary factors in more detail to better understand the design considerations that need to be taken into account.

Different Types of Air Conditioning Systems

One of the initial factors that need to be considered in the design process is the type of air conditioning system that’s going to be installed. HVAC systems are all designed for the same purpose – to regulate the temperature of a building – but they’re not all designed in the same way.

There are several popular types of air conditioning systems, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Different systems use different energy sources, while some offer more compact designs over others. The most common systems are:

  • Split systems
  • Hybrid systems
  • Packaged systems

Split Systems

Split systems are the most popular type of air conditioning system that can be installed on a commercial property. The term ‘split’ refers to the fact that a split system has two primary components to its design. These are a heating unit and a cooling unit, which can be operated independently or in conjunction with one another via a thermostat control.

Split systems usually consist of a boiler that provides heat and a traditional air conditioning unit that provides the cooling element.  On top of this, traditional split systems are designed with a network of ducts and vents in order to allow heat or cold air to be effectively circulated through the building. Ductless split systems can be installed without the need for added ducts.

Split systems have the advantage of being cost effective, easily adaptable and, when optimised, energy-efficient.

Hybrid Systems

Hybrid systems are similar to split systems, with the major difference being that there are two sources of heat to choose between. A hybrid system has a traditional boiler as well as a heat pump, which gives you much more control over the level of heating within a commercial property.

The heat pump doubles up as a heat extractor, adding the cooling element to the HVAC system. Hybrid systems are energy efficient and, as temperatures can be set from a central thermostat, you’ll have the ability to control the property’s heating to a greater extent, lowering energy bills and improving the building’s environmental rating.

Like split systems, hybrid systems can be designed with a network of ducts and vents to evenly and effectively distribute heat throughout a commercial property.

Packaged Systems

Packaged systems are another popular choice of air conditioning system for businesses, as they are cost effective, relatively easy to adapt, and very compact.

Packaged systems are essentially an all-in-one air conditioning system. Rather than having a separate unit for heating and cooling, a packaged system has one unit that provides both elements of temperature control.

It’s an easy system that can fit into even the smallest of spaces if necessary, but it does mean that if something goes wrong, the whole system goes down quickly.

The Size of the System and the Available Space

Different systems take up varying amounts of space. As mentioned, a packaged system is the most compact. While this is great for an office block, it won’t be the best option for a multi-tiered football stadium.

Larger commercial spaces require more complex systems, so split or hybrid systems are often the best choice. Designers need to factor in the space available for the units and their location. For example, is there a basement where heating systems can be installed or will the air conditioning units disrupt the existing office plan if they are installed inside rather than outside?

Ducts and Ventilation

Air conditioning units and heaters can’t work in isolation, at least not if a system’s designed to regulate the temperature of large commercial properties. HVAC designers need to factor in a series of ducts and vents that allow the entire building to be temperature controlled in a cost-effective manner.

Again, engineers need to factor in the layout of a building, the extent of the system, and the available space as part of the initial design process. Vents and ducts are needed to circulate air, remove moisture and dust, and create a healthy indoor environment for employees.

Cooling Loads

Cooling loads are an incredibly important calculation that designers need to make while constructing and optimising an air conditioning system. Cooling loads are a measure of how much heat an air conditioning system can remove from a building within a given space of time.

For large buildings, buildings that retain more heat and buildings that need to be kept cooler than standard, an air conditioning system needs to be able to cope with a high cooling load. If it can’t, then the building will be inefficient and it’s going to be hot all of the time.

Energy Efficiency

HVAC designers need to factor energy efficiency into their plans as a major consideration. An energy-efficient system allows the building to retain heat in the winter while remaining cool in the summer.

This lowers the energy usage of an air conditioning system, which in turn lowers the commercial property’s monthly energy bill. Where possible, a building also needs to be adequately insulated to provide optimal conditions for an HVAC system to function in.

Energy efficiency also helps the environment, ensuring that your company can promote itself as a greener, more sustainable operation.


For any commercial business, cost is always a huge factor, particularly when such a large project is being undertaken.

HVAC designers endeavour to ensure that their plans are as cost-effective as possible, while also balancing the need to save money in the short term with the chance to invest for future savings (through improved energy efficiency, for example).

Ultimately, cost-effectiveness isn’t about simply cutting costs and ordering the cheapest possible air conditioning unit, it’s about creating a bespoke and efficient system that saves money over several decades.

Health and Safety Requirements

Finally, air conditioning systems being installed on a commercial or industrial scale have to meet stringent health and safety requirements.

Designers need to factor in restraints such as building regulations, as well as directives from the Health and Safety Executive.

Large projects may even need planning permission, but this depends on the building in question and the local council’s requirements. A professional air conditioning system designer will ensure that all health and safety requirements, as well as other legal constraints, are met before installation begins.

Contact Sovereign PSL to Arrange a Free Site Survey

The team of expert HVAC engineers at Sovereign Planned Services has over 35 years of experience designing, building and maintaining air conditioning systems for commercial properties. Our highly qualified team provides a bespoke service that’s tailored to your specific business requirements.

Our team provides an initial site survey, free of charge. From there, we design a tailor-made air conditioning system using computer-generated design programmes such as CAD, before installing the system on the property. Once installed, Sovereign Planned Services provides a 24/7 repair and maintenance service, 365 days a year.

Contact Sovereign PSL to arrange your free site survey.

Author: Gareth Whalley
Sharing my vast knowledge in the Air Conditioning and Mechanical services field especially in HVAC installation, service and maintenance across a broad range of sectors, including Healthcare, Education, Transport, Banking, Retail and Commercial developments.