What’s a Vent Shaft?

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Ventilation shafts are open passageways that circulate air in underground and surface constructions. They bring fresh air in and remove stale or polluted air, with fans and heating/cooling machinery often integrated. Mines, subways, military installations, workspaces, homes, and skyscrapers all use ventilation shafts. Chimneys are the simplest form of ventilation shafts, carrying smoke out of buildings.

An air shaft is an open passageway designed to allow air to circulate to or from an enclosed space. These shafts are common design and construction elements in underground projects of all kinds, including subways, service tunnels, living spaces, and mines. They can bring fresh air into a space, or remove stale or polluted air, and often have fans or heating and cooling machinery integrated with their ventilation functions.

Man has known for centuries that fresh air is a necessity for health and well-being. Mines have long employed ventilation shafts to allow continuous air circulation in deeper areas, bringing fresh air to workers at lower levels and carrying away stale or contaminated air with noxious or explosive fumes and gases. While a well-designed ventilation shaft system may not require fans to keep the air circulating, most mines with ventilation shafts are designed with large fans to help move massive amounts of air.

While mine ventilation is one of the most common uses for a ventilation shaft, they are found in all sorts of settings, above and below ground. Any underground installation will require ventilation to keep fresh air supplied to its workers or inhabitants and to remove or allow stale air to escape. Subways, military installations, workspaces, and even museums are just some of the underground constructions that require ventilation shafts.

Surface buildings often employ ventilation shafts to circulate air in otherwise enclosed spaces. Air ducts are common in almost all modern buildings and are used to circulate air and to bring heated or cooled air into work, living and commercial spaces of all types. Large, complex systems of ventilation shafts, integrated with fans and heating and cooling machinery, are found in hidden spaces in the walls and ceilings of homes, businesses, factories and skyscrapers.

One type of ventilation duct that has been around for as long as man has employed fire indoors is the chimney. These structures are the simplest form of ventilation shaft, usually a simple vertical column used to carry smoke from a fireplace or stove up and out of a house or other building. While many ventilation shafts work in pairs, one bringing air in and the other going out, chimneys are meant to carry the air in, expelling smoke along with it. Air circulation is completed by the entry of air into the building through windows, doors and other openings.

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