When did the room ventilation appear?


One of the first air ventilation systems (and, at the same time, conditioning) was installed at the ancient Persians houses. After a special mine was filled with iced water, the pleasant chillness was spread around the house.

In ancient Egypt it was discovered that the stone carvers working indoors have more respiratory problems than those working outdoors. This observation led to the conclusion that the improvement of air circulation can be done with adding more openings in the walls.

In ancient Rome the houses were cooled by water flowing near the walls along the aqueducts. The importance of clean air for human breathing was recognized by the ancient Rome architect Vitruvius Pollio. He said that towns should be located “without marshes in the neighborhood, for when the morning breezes blow toward the town at sunrise, if they bring with them mists from marshes and, mingled with the mist, the poisonous breath of the creatures of the marshes to be wafted into the bodies of the inhabitants, they will make the site unhealthy.”

A general understanding of the need for adequate ventilation of the premises can be assumed since the time when open fires for cooking and heating were moved indoors. Smoke from open fireplaces exited through cracks and holes in roofs; the use of chimneys was not common until the 11th or 12th century. Those early chimneys (if any existed) apparently did not function particularly well, as evidenced by the number of deaths due smoke poisoning in closed and crowded rooms. King Charles I of England has declared in year 1600 that the ceiling height must be above 3 m and windows must be higher than wider in order to improve the smoke removal.

During the Industrial Revolution, many doctors believed that heavily polluted outside air was responsible for myriad chronic illnesses. And as recently as at the end of the 19th century, “pernicious night air” was believed to be harmful to the ill people, particularly children, leading to the closing of windows in all the wards at night.

Thomas Tredgold, an English engineer, in 1824, published “Principles of Warming and Ventilating Public Buildings” (London), the 2nd edition was issued in the same year and 3rd edition in 1836. He was the first to publish the estimate of the minimum quantity of ventilating air needed. But, to tell the truth, his calculations were inaccurate.

In 1866, ventilation technologies had progressed to the point when the company B.F. Sturtevant Co. had equipped the first ventilator in the “heart” of the U.S., The Capitol.

In 1895, John Shaw Billings published “The Principles of Ventilation and Heating and Their Practical Application,” a comprehensive text providing standards and specifications for ventilating primarily large public buildings.

In 1902, American Willis Haviland Carrier created the first air conditioning system for one of the printing houses of New York. The invention controlled not only the temperature but also the humidity of the air.

1950s – the mechanical supply and extract air ventilation system becomes common in buildings. After the Second World War, there was a great demand for new housing and industrial buildings. In order to reduce building costs, ceiling heights were lowered and, subsequently, the need for well-functioning ventilation systems increased.

1960s: Mechanical air ventilation is installed in the apartment houses. Mechanical air extract systems were the most common forms of ventilation solutions in the apartment houses, in contrast to commercial premises, where this principle of ventilation was rarely used.

The oil embargo of 1974 caused major changes in the way buildings are constructed.  Prior to 1974, many buildings had enough air ventilation through the windows, doors, and even walls. The cost of fuel for air ventilation was low.  The oil crisis of 1974 changed all that.  Electricity, gas, and oil prices had increased.  Building engineers and designers “dressed up” the buildings in order to reduce thermal resistance and air leak. Unfortunately, there was a negative effect– indoor air quality (IAQ) problem was overlooked.  14 years later, in 1998, the “sick” building syndrome was recognized.  Buildings constructed between 1974 and 1988 were not adequately ventilated.  Workers in many of these buildings experienced headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, eye irritation and respiratory diseases.

At the end of 20th century, environmental and energy saving motives became more and more relevant. Already in the 90’s, the majority of all buildings had mechanical ventilation with recuperation installed.

Nowadays buildings of high energy class are being built, the standards and requirements are tightening. Buyers are seeking for economy – ventilation should provide comfort and low energy consumption. It may be said that nowadays we know about the necessity of ventilation and the desired comfort – temperature in the premises and humidity conditions. It became impossible to build a public building, individual houses or an apartment without ventilation equipment and recuperation.

Photo: Windcatchers, Ice Chamber and Tower of Silence, Yazd, Iran (https://www.flickr.com/photos/juliamaudlin/17153639055/in/photolist-8ubjhs-8yDj4T-ozm81X-asCUgN-f7osPW-5zniN3-pmSLg9-o25HKQ-rRmRe6-qs2wGw-s8NTgv-5d8wYT-8yGzmW-ecRjtu-ez3MbS-8yDvTB-5znjSw-8yDhYB)