Sustainable Office Buildings: 7 Ways UFAD and Raised Floors Can Help the Environment


The demand for environmentally-sustainable buildings is growing exponentially. The number of LEED-registered projects in the United States rose dramatically in the first two decades of the 21st Century, from 41 in 2001 to 65,427 in 2017. As business tenants shift their strategic focus towards promoting health and wellness for their employees and embracing sustainable practices, there’s no question that having your building certified as “Green” is quickly becoming a necessity for attracting and retaining long-term tenants.

A study conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics found that “reducing energy consumption continues to be the top environmental reason for building green (selected as one of the top two reasons by 66 percent of all respondents), protecting natural resources ranked second globally (37 percent), and reducing water consumption ranks third (at 31 percent).”

To satisfy this demand and attract the growing number of environmentally-conscious businesses seeking sustainable facilities to house their offices, commercial building owners should consider installing an underfloor air distribution (UFAD) system to work in tandem with raised access floors. In addition to offering greater energy efficiency and using lower building materials, UFAD delivers superior indoor air quality and thermal comfort compared to traditional overhead HVAC systems.

Let’s examine how UFAD and raised access floors can help make your building stand out and become an attractive destination for environmentally-conscious business tenants.

What do Raised Access Floors with UFAD Mean for Environmentally-Conscious Tenants?

More and more businesses are seeking to lease office space in “Green” buildings. To ensure that a commercial building conforms to environmental standards and best practices, many look for buildings which have been certified by LEED and WELL.

The LEED and WELL Standards

As the industry standard for evaluating and designated buildings as “Green”, LEED currently certifies over 2.4 million square feet of office space every day. This standard establishes general sustainability criteria, and awards credits based on criteria including:

  • Location sustainability
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor air quality
  • Design innovation

Similarly, the WELL Standard evaluates a building based solely on its impact on the health and well being of occupants. It measures factors such as air and water quality, access to natural light, comfort, ease of mobility, and emotional/mental factors.

Both LEED and WELL recognize the environmental and health benefits of UFAD, and implementing UFAD/raised access flooring systems can be immensely helpful for establishing your building’s environmental credentials.

1. Energy Savings

Efficient energy use is a hallmark requirement for sustainability, and UFAD delivers superior ventilation and conditioning performance while requiring 30% less energy. Since a UFAD setup routes ductwork through the empty underfloor plenum void, the system requires less duct-work and therefore creates less air resistance for blower fans. As a result, air is delivered far more efficiently, with lower power requirements for the equipment.

2. Superior Air Quality

By supplying air at floor level, closer to the occupants, UFAD provides 20% better ventilation effectiveness versus an overhead HVAC system. The naturally-rising air has the added benefit of pushing suspended particles upwards and away from occupants, resulting in a superior indoor air quality.

3. Improved Thermal Comfort

With an overhead HVAC system, conditioned air is typically introduced into a room at ceiling height and is forced downwards towards the occupied zone. This means that the entire air volume is effectively heated or cooled, and can easily result in zones which are too hot or cold. With UFAD, however, air is introduced at floor level, and rises naturally towards the ceiling. This means that the system is only concerned with conditioning the lowest six feet of a space, resulting in a much more even thermal control. In addition, specialized floor panels with localized thermostats gives each occupant individual temperature control over their immediate area.

4. Fewer Building Materials

Environmental sustainability is further enhanced in a UFAD / RAF system as a result of using up to 75% fewer building materials to install. This is due to two main factors – less duct-work required overall for operation, and reduced construction time, thanks to the systems modular nature and ease of access.

5. Natural Lighting

Raised access floors eliminate the need for suspended ceilings to house building services such as pipes, wires, and duct-work. This results in greater overall floor-to-ceiling heights, ideal for larger windows for better natural lighting.

6. Reduced Noise Levels

UFAD and raised access floors improve acoustics through lower ventilation fan speeds and the flooring’s natural sound dampening attributes. This significantly reduces noise pollution and creates an overall quieter and more stress-free environment.

7. Design Aesthetic Flexibility

Because raised access floors use specialized floor panels that can be configured to provide power and ventilation, you’ll have far superior design flexibility than you would with a traditional floor type. This, combined with higher ceilings, means that you can shape your environment with aesthetics in mind rather than be limited by ceiling heights and power/ventilation source locations.

UFAD and Raised Access Floors for Environmentally-Sustainable Offices

Implementing an underfloor air distribution system in tandem with your raised access floor offers a variety of energy savings and occupant comfort benefits that can help your building achieve WELL and LEED certification. Marketing your building’s Green designation along with the many UFAD sustainability and wellness benefits will make your property an attractive option for environmentally-conscious tenants. To learn more about UFAD read our complete guide to underfloor air distribution.

AirFixture is a recognized industry leader providing innovative underfloor air distribution products and solutions for office buildings, casinos, event spaces, and government facilities around the world. Contact us today to speak to a UFAD expert and learn how this revolutionary system can deliver unrivaled air quality and significant energy and operational cost savings to your facility.