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PIARC ROAD TUNNELS MANUAL

PIARC

8.5. Ventilation
Ventilation in tunnels has two functions:
In normal operation, it ensures sufficient air quality in the tunnel, generally by diluting

pollutants;
In a fire situation, it should make the environment as safe as possible to the tunnel users and

rescue services by controlling the flow of smoke in an appropriate way : see Sections 1.6 & 1.7
of the Report 05.16.B : "Role of the ventilation system during the self-evacuation phase" and
"Role of the ventilation system during the fire-fighting phase".
Historically, the first reason for installing ventilation systems in tunnels was the reduction of pollution
levels. Although the emissions of pollutants by road vehicles have decreased dramatically over the last
decades, this function is still important and must be paid close attention at the design stage. In some
cases, natural ventilation due to the piston effect of moving vehicles may be sufficient to fulfil the air
quality requirements in normal operation. The need for a mechanical ventilation system is assessed
considering the length of the tunnel and the traffic type (bidirectional or unidirectional) and conditions
(possibility of congestion) : see Technical Report 2004 05.14.B : Road tunnels: Vehicle emissions and
air demand for ventilation. This report will be replaced by a new report to be published soon.
The same factors determine the requirements for ventilation in emergency situations, especially fire.
The presence of other equipment or facilities, emergency exits for example, should also be taken into
account. Natural ventilation might be sufficient in some cases, but mechanical ventilation is often
required for tunnels over a few hundred meters in length.
Different ventilation strategies may be used in tunnels. The choice between them is generally guided
essentially by fire safety considerations; the use of the system in normal operation is adjusted to suit :
see Chapter V "Ventilation for fire and smoke control" of report 05.05.B 1999
The longitudinal strategy consists in creating a longitudinal air flow in the tunnel, in order to push all
the smoke produced by a burning vehicle on one side of the fire. If users are present on that side, they
may be affected by the toxic gases and reduced visibility, so the use of this strategy in bidirectional
and/or congested tunnels requires great caution. The minimum air velocity for successful smoke
control depends on the design fire size and tunnel geometry (slope, cross-sectional area).
The transverse strategy takes advantage of the buoyancy of fire smoke: smoke tends to concentrate in
the upper part of the tunnel space, from where it can be mechanically extracted. The system is
designed so as to preserve a fresh air layer in the lower part of the cross-section (correct visibility, low
toxicity) which allows self-evacuation. It is therefore important to keep the longitudinal air flow as
low as possible in the fire region to avoid de-stratification and excessive longitudinal spread of smoke.
This strategy is applicable to any tunnel, but the design, construction and operation of the system are
more difficult and expensive.
The ventilation design process includes the computation of the minimum acceptable capacity of the
system in terms of thrust and/or flow rates, the design of the ventilation network and the choice of
appropriate ventilation equipment Chapter 4 of the Report 2006 05.16.B : Ventilation and its
appendices 12.3 "Jet Fan calculation procedure", 12.4. "Smoke dampers" and 12.6. "Sound impact of
jet-fans". Ventilation equipment should meet a number of specifications, including resistance to fire
and acoustic performance.
The design of appropriate ventilation control scenarios for each possible fire situation is a very
important part of the process : see Technical Report 2011 R02 : Road tunnels: Operational strategies
for ventilation. These scenarios can be simple, especially when the longitudinal strategy is applied, or
involve a large number of measurement and ventilation devices in complex, transverse-ventilated
tunnels. The optimisation of ventilation control for air quality considerations during normal operation
is crucial to reduce energy consumption; it is an important issue since this consumption represents a
significant part of the operational cost of a tunnel.

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PIARC ROAD TUNNELS MANUAL

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The interactions of the ventilation system design with other elements of a tunnel are numerous and
diverse. In the case of transverse ventilation, for example, the required flow rates may impact the
excavated section, with a potentially important impact on the construction cost. Ventilation also
accounts for a large part of a tunnel's power supply requirements. It interacts closely with other safety
equipment such as fire detection and fire fighting systems : see Chapter 5 "Fixed fire fighting systems
in the context of tunnel safety systems" of the Report 2008 R07.
The environmental issues linked to ventilation, besides the energy consumption and the related carbon
footprint, are linked to the localised, concentrated discharge of polluted air from the portals and stacks.
Reducing their impact on the tunnel surroundings is part of good environmental design : see
Section 4.3. "Tunnel air dispersion technique", Section 4.6. "Operational aspects" and Appendix
D. "Overview of dispersion modeling in designing ventilation systems" of the Report 2008 R04.
Finally, other parts of a tunnel than the main traffic space may require ventilation, most notably the
emergency exits : see Section 5.3. "Escape route design" of report 05.16.B 2006.

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