eLearning Software Platform









Building Performance Expertise

• Ashrea 90.1


Learn HVAC

Project Overview

Learn HVAC is an interactive tool designed to introduce fundamental HVAC concepts to students. The concepts of HVAC operations come alive by the presentation of real-time 3D animations of the detailed, accurate simulation of a simple HVAC system. The real-time animated simulations permit the user to observe the dynamic performance of HVAC control systems responding to the changing HVAC system and its components. Users can view the HVAC system operating normally, or with one or more "faults" activated. Students can move through the 3D animation/simulation, viewing each system component as it operates. These components visually change according to user inputs and in response to second-by-second simulation calculations. The user can view 3D animations of air and water movement plus performance data.



Funding and Status

Learn HVAC was developed in several phases:

  • • First Generation: Funded by US Department of Defense, US Department of Energy, and US Environmental Protection Agency
  • • Second Generation: Funded by a 3-year grant from the National Science Foundation
  • • Third Generation: Funded by the California Energy Commission (CEC)
  • • Current Funding provided by the California Energy Commission (CEC)

This project is in the final stages of development and currently being expanded into the Learn Green Buildings project.

Project Website

More about the project

Learn HVAC uses goal-oriented, problem-based case study methods to find solutions to complex system-level equipment problems. It promotes a team approach to problem solving and encourages communications and interactions within and between teams and course instructors.

Intended Users
The primary intended users of this first version of Learn HVAC are students and instructors in 2-year technical degree HVAC and ECT programs in community colleges. Within future potential versions of Learn HVAC, we may also be able to address the needs of other types of users with different needs for software-based analysis, presentation, and interaction.

Other possible users may include:
  • • Building operators
  • • Engineers focused on the operation, commissioning, retrofitting, and retro-commissioning of building HVAC systems.
  • • Students in 2- or 4-year universities with technical HVAC programs or schools of architecture
  • • High school students
  • • Participants in union apprentice programs

HVAC systems and controls in buildings are becoming increasingly complex, digitized, and difficult to properly design, construct, operate, maintain, and troubleshoot. Building operators and technicians today must master new computer-based technologies in addition to their traditional skills.

Several major trends are increasing the complexity and difficulty of properly operating and maintaining buildings:

  • • Digital control technology is becoming pervasive on both new and existing buildings. Thus, building operators and technicians must master a new set of computer-related skills (e.g., hardware, software, database management, and local-area networking) in addition to their traditional skills of HVAC management and repair.
  • • Regulations and policies are increasingly involved, including new commissioning and sustainability factors.
  • • Energy performance monitoring, commissioning, and retro-commissioning address increasing energy costs, but require advanced capabilities to be effective.
  • • Security is increasingly important since 9/11 and operators must monitor advanced security systems, initiate emergency response plans, and shut down complex systems in the event of environmental attacks.
  • • As building industry professionals strive to keep up with these increasing needs, one result is that many buildings are not operating properly, thus providing marginal or poor comfort and quality while using much more energy than needed. In many cases, actual energy savings in buildings with advanced technological capabilities falls far short of potential savings, due to the demand for advanced training for building-operations professionals outpacing supply.

Meeting the Need
Saving energy in buildings involves more than just new energy-efficient gadgets and technologies. High-efficiency equipment that is not properly installed, calibrated, tested, operated, or maintained will likely save far less energy than anticipated. Creating a truly energy-efficient building industry involves training skilled people to design, construct, operate, and maintain its increasingly complex buildings and systems.

Learn HVAC addresses this need through the creation of more accessible, engaging problem-based learning software for use in 2-year technical degree HVAC and ECT programs in community colleges. Learn HVAC focuses on teaching system-level troubleshooting skills as well as business skills in communications and teamwork