University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Interdisciplinary Professional Programs

Understanding Building Mechanical Systems See upcoming dates

Course Overview

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, P.E., LEED AP+, is a program director for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of Interdisciplinary Professional Programs. Since 2004, 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.

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

Dr. 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.

Matt Bond

Matt Bond, NEBB CP, operates Badger Balancing LLC as a NEBB (National Environmental Balancing Bureau) Certified Professional and Co-Owner. He is responsible for the supervision of all work performed by his firm and employees with an emphasis on engineering principles, system design and system equipment and procedures. Matt has extensive experience utilizing instrumentation and procedures to troubleshoot both air and hydronic systems. His clients include architects, engineers and building owners spanning healthcare, industry, education and other facility types. He is a member of NEBB, specializing in Air and Water testing and balancing policy and procedures for the industry. He is also an associate member and Silver Sponsor of Wisconsin Healthcare Engineers Association (WHEA), and a member of ASHRAE, ASHE and CETA.

John Pratt

John is a HVAC sales manager for Johnson Controls supporting the Madison, Appleton and UP MI Branches . He has worked in sales roles for JCI, Glacier Group and Trane with over 15 year experience in HVAC systems design and control.  John is an ASHRAE member, Trane GTP graduate and has taught Trane GTP classes and JCI BEST program courses.  Prior to the HVAC industry he had 7 years of experience working in the chemical industry in manufacturing and sales.  John holds BS degree in Chemistry and Math from University of Wisconsin Lacrosse and a MBA in finance from Central Michigan University.

Take this course when it’s offered next!

Past dates