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Books about Designing Building Mechanical Systems

  1. Dec 9, 2007 #1
    Hi... I've been seeing a lot of job postings looking for engineers for designing and engineering mechanical building systems such as: HVAC systems, refrigeration systems, fire protection systems, plumbing and piping systems for some new commercial building developments. I am about to complete my undergraduate degree but my education has thus far been all analysis with very little emphasis on design. I am wondering if any engineers here can show me some good books that can teach me design of these systems.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 10, 2007 #2


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    I know exactly what you are talking about. I ran into the same issues when I became more of a designer than an analyst. Unfortunately I can not help you directly with what you are looking for. However, I can tell you that a lot of designs and methodologies will depend heavily on two things: Local-Federal Codes and a company's proprietary designs. Neither one can you really get a grasp on until you are on the job. So I wouldn't worry too much. If you have no design experience, you should look into some of the basics that span across all design areas in mechanical engineering. Sources like Machinery's Handbook are must haves.

    Russ works in that area. Perhaps he knows of some good references more specific to your needs.
  4. Dec 10, 2007 #3


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    Yeah I would ask Russ as that is what he does for a living.

    Other than that, you may have more tools in your tool box than you think. Have you ever heard of Design by Analysis? You can definitely use your analysis skill to help you design a system.

    There will be codes that you have to follow as Fred pointed out, which will have some of the basic design criteria that you are looking for. Handbooks are also an excellent source to get started.
  5. Dec 10, 2007 #4


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    ASHRAE has a set of handbooks which are pretty good, but to be honest, they don't really tell you how to be an HVAC engineer. In most cities, there is an ASHRAE course that will give you a lot of the basics, but it is generally targeted at non-college grads. The basic things you need to know to be useful right away are CAD and how to follow directions. Other than that, being able to think like an engineer will help you learn how to be an engineer. That's what college is really for.

    My first day at my current job, I was handed a slide-rule type device called a Ductulator, given a couple of rules of thumb, and told to start sizing ductwork. Basic HVAC design is just:
    Computerized load calcs->Select a system/unit->size and draw ductwork

    I'm lucky to have a boss that likes hands-on work, because a lot of young engineers don't do much more than that for several years. Either way, though, there is an awful lot of learning by experience in this job.

    One way you might impress (or fail to impress) a potential boss is by your understanding of psychrometrics. There are some counterintuitive things about humidity that even a lot of experienced engineers get wrong (ie, too big of an a/c unit can make a room more humid instead of less).
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2007
  6. Dec 11, 2007 #5
    Thanks for the replies. I'll definitely look up those ASHRAE books. I remember my prof in my thermo 2 class talking about a ASHRAE society/club but it seemed pretty much dead in my university campus. Its also a shame in all my four years, I only had one lab that showed us psychrometrics. But of course, I have all that textbook knowledge about refrigeration that I have to study up on for my finals.

    Since you are in the HVAC business, could I ask you Russ what is the outlook on this kind of work in the future? local or otherwise, and where are you working?

    I've kind of been having my heart set on pursuing a masters degree in fuel cell research, particularly the applications of fuel cells used as back-up power supply for buildings with cogeneration. But money is another factor, I see a few jobs postings where HVAC engineers are being offered 75k with only 1-3 yrs experience, while a master's degree only gives you a pittance and the research is directed by a supervisor on whatever work they are doing, although future payoff could be greater.
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