Understanding Building Mechanical Systems

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Course Overview

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Gain a deeper understanding of commercial-scale building HVAC&R concepts. This course will stress the core principles, and how mechanical systems are selected and installed in today's building projects. Participants with some understanding, but not expertise, in building mechanical systems will benefit the most.

After attending this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe how heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration systems work, and how to use HVAC&R principles to identify facility improvement opportunities
  • Apply HVAC&R codes and compare equipment options
  • Explain how building automation systems are critical to a successful operation
  • Plan for the requirements of testing, adjusting, and balancing
  • Evaluate whether total building commissioning would improve your projects
  • Work more effectively with equipment manufacturers, vendors, contractors, and designers

You will have ample opportunity to interact with the instructors, discuss your challenges, and benefit from their experience.  You will gain a broad perspective on building mechanical system design and construction practices.

Who Should Attend?

  • Project managers
  • Project engineers and architects
  • Construction managers and superintendents
  • Facilities managers and operations staff
  • Owners’ representatives
  • Owners, officers, managers, and principals of construction firms
  • Equipment suppliers, vendors, and related manufacturers' technical personnel

Created for non-mechanical engineers, this course focuses on how HVAC systems work, along with practical advice for design, installation, and operation – not detailed engineering designs. This course is especially suited to those who need to work with HVAC designers or contractors on new or renovation projects, or those who maintain HVAC systems.

Additional Information

This course has been approved for 15 LU/HSW AIA credits.

Course Outline

Day 1

Welcome and Announcements

Fundamentals of HVAC&R: An Introduction to Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration

  • What is HVAC&R?
  • Terms, definitions, and units
  • Thermal comfort and IAQ principles 
  • End-user system requirements and psychrometrics 

HVAC&R Equipment

  • Fundamentals and basic cycle components 
  • Condensers, compressors, and evaporators
  • Unitary system components, DX equipment, and chilled water
  • Refrigerant phaseouts, greenhouse gases, and global warming
  • Air delivery systems

Day 2

HVAC Codes, Design, and Systems

  • Codes, standards, and design issues
  • System selection 
  • Ductwork and HVAC piping systems
  • Pumping arrangements
  • Modularity and standby capacity

Environmental Control and Building Automation Systems

  • Characteristics of a quality building environment 
  • Fundamentals of control systems
  • Primary control technologies 
  • Control theory, sensors, controllers, and feedback
  • Building automation systems and state-of-the-art buildings

Testing, Adjusting, and Balancing (TAB)

  • What is TAB?
  • Timing and benefits
  • Balancing air and water systems
  • Typical equipment and procedures
  • How to spot a good balancing report

Total Building Commissioning

  • Process fundamentals, costs and benefits 
  • Participant responsibilities 
  • HVAC&R project strategies


Joy Altwies

Joy Altwies, PhD, PE, LEED AP+, is a Program Director for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of Engineering Professional Development (EPD). For over 16 years, Dr. Altwies has developed and taught continuing education courses emphasizing high-performance building design and construction, mechanical system design and operation, energy efficiency, and commissioning. She is also Program Director of the Master of Sustainable Systems Engineering (SSE) degree program and an instructor of two graduate courses in the program.

Prior to joining the University of Wisconsin, Joy worked as a consulting engineer focusing on energy efficiency and environmentally responsible building design and construction. She provided commissioning services for a variety of projects with a strong emphasis on green and sustainable building principles. She also provided LEED assistance and green design opportunity analysis for clients seeking these specialized services in the commercial building market. As a certified home energy rater for the national Energy Star Homes® program, her work also encompassed the residential building market.

Dr. Altwies is an active member of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), where she currently serves as Vice Chair and Research Chair for the Building Environmental Impacts and Sustainability technical committee (TC 2.8). She has also served on committees for the U.S. Green Building Council and is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance.

Joy earned a Doctorate in Environment and Resources through the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison. Her interdisciplinary research investigated the impact of building energy code policies on technology adoption in the commercial and residential building sectors. She also holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Mechanical Engineering.

Robin Graves

Robin Graves, PE LEED AP, is a Mechanical Engineer with Affiliated Engineers, Inc. Ms. Graves provides HVAC systems consulting and design for a variety of clients including higher education, healthcare, and federal. Her responsibilities include performing load calculations, duct layouts, sizing, and equipment selection. Ms. Graves also coordinates component locations and constructability through communication and interaction with other disciplines. She has also performed energy modeling in diverse building types.

Clients include: Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago; Baxalta; City of Madison; Medical College of Wisconsin; Northwestern University; Stratatech Corporation; University of Colorado Health; University of Wisconsin; U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Department of Energy.

With AEI since 2006, Ms. Graves holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering for UW-Madison, is a registered professional engineer, and LEED accredited professional. In addition to her project work, she is an instructor for the University of Wisconsin Department of Engineering Professional Development in HVAC codes, design, and systems.

William Bahnfleth

Bahnfleth is a professor of Architectural Engineering at Penn State, where he also directs the Indoor Environment Center. Prior to joining the Penn State faculty, he was employed as a consulting engineer and as a researcher at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory. Bill holds BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Darrel Hermans

Darrel J. Hermans, PE, is president of T&B Services. He has more than 30 years of experience in balancing and troubleshooting of HVAC systems ranging from single units to nuclear power plants. Hermans teaches two one-week testing, adjusting and balancing courses for the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

James Procknow

Jim Procknow has over twenty-five years of controls expertise with Johnson Controls. As a Senior Account Executive he develops and coordinates projects with engineers, contractors and owners for their Building Automation needs in commercial buildings. Mr. Procknow holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a past president of the Madison ASHRAE chapter.

Greg Quinn

Greg J. Quinn, PE, LEED AP is a Principal and national Healthcare Market Leader with Affiliated Engineers, Inc. He brings strong management and planning skills, coupled with technical design expertise, to research and healthcare facility projects occurring at academic medical centers and hospitals across the country. He routinely leads clients through the critical planning process of integrating the facility’s diverse programs of teaching, clinical care, and medical research.

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Program Director

Joy Altwies

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