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ICTD International Centre for Training and Development

HVAC Direct Digital Control (ddc): Practical Application & Design

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Over the last 20 years, no one area of the HVAC industry has changed so dramatically as controls. These critical HVAC subsystems have undergone significant and fundamental changes, perhaps the most drastic of any in our industry. We have evolved from pneumatic controls to "overlay" energy management systems and first generation Direct Digital Controls (DDC), to current generation distributed DDC. The transition has been rapid and today we find ourselves dealing with control systems that are very different than those that were available just a few years ago.

The computer industry's trend of increasing processing power and memory at a lower cost over time is quickly influencing DDC controllers. The advent of open protocols and increased availability and use of site/building/campus networks has increased the complexity of the design, procurement, and operations of these systems. Twenty years ago, we were looking at pneumatic receiver controllers, transmitters, and actuators, along with first-generation, expensive, and centralized DDC products. Today, our control systems are graphical, decentralized, relatively inexpensive, and serve up information to us via the Internet. We have moved from a non-proprietary communication protocol that relied on air pressure, to a very proprietary one that allows us to receive and respond to control alarms via our cell phones. Additionally, the control logic that in the past was distributed to single-function hardware components (receiver controllers, switching relays, etc.) now resides in software.

The DDC system is the "brain" of the HVAC system. It dictates the position of every damper and valve, along with which fans, pumps, and chillers run, and at what speed or capacity. Yet, proportionally, it receives very little consideration as compared to the rest of the system during the design phase. This applies in the procurement, installation and maintenance phases as well. Therefore, this workshop is designed to improve the participant’s knowledge of current DDC systems and the issues surrounding their correct deployment into HVAC systems. The workshop will give participant a broad range of knowledge to understand the principles and technical concepts used by the various manufacturers. This understanding is essential for the acquisition, implementation, and operation of a cost-effective system. The workshop will also cover planning, designing and specifying DDC systems. It will provide participant with a comprehensive understanding of the technologies available today.

Course Objectives

This intensive and interactive course is your opportunity to expand your knowledge of direct digital control systems (DDC) for control of HVAC processes. This course will enable you to:

  • Define your requirements for a DDC system to serve HVAC and related building systems
  • Describe the hardware and software elements that make up a DDC system
  • Develop a DDC architectural master plan for your requirements
  • Describe the essential elements of a DDC system specification
  • Define the application requirements for the building systems
  • Plan for the commissioning of the DDC system
  • Learn how to design HVAC DDC Systems
  • Understand the various types of commonly used control systems
  • Reviews open DDC systems that allow for future expansion and interoperability
  • Understand the Internet DDC system
  • Learn how to use the WEB-Browser for Automation Interface
  • Learn the critical do's and don'ts as well as accepted rule-of-thumb checks in HVAC control design.

Course Outline

Day 1


  • Covering the basics of HVAC and Direct Digital Controls (DDC), this part enables students to understand the simple basic fundamentals of HVAC DDC Systems Design.
  • Topics include: The Six Steps of HVAC DDC System Design, DDC Controllers, and Control
  • Systems and Activities, the Foundation for Learning Practical Designs, Advanced HVAC
  • DDC Control, and Sustainable Designs.

Day 2

HVAC System Design Credit:

  • This practical part is divided into single topics. Each lecture is followed by problem solving and practical applications sessions. Topics include: HVAC systems, Air
  • Distribution Systems, Fan Curves and Fan Selection, Piping Design, Pump Curves and
  • Pump Selection, Coil Selection and Characteristics, HVAC Zoning, Indoor Air Quality,
  • Chiller and Boiler Selection. This part also reviews the advantages and disadvantages of the latest energy efficient HVAC systems including Variable Air Volume, Chilled
  • Beam, Positive Displacement, Ventilation, Variable Refrigerant Flow, Natural Ventilation, and Hybrid Natural Ventilation. An optional field trip is included with this course.

Day 3

HVAC DDC System Design Credit:

  • Explore HVAC and DDC system design and application. This fast paced part enables you to design the building automation system for a wide variety of energy efficient and sustainable buildings. This part reviews: Air Handling, Chilled Water, and Hot Water
  • Systems Control for Constant Volume and Variable Air Volume (VAV) applications.
  • Commissioning of HVAC DDC systems and various DDC open systems and protocols will be discussed. Instruction emphasizes critical do's and don'ts as well as the accepted rule‐of‐thumb checks in HVAC control design. An optional field trip is included with this course.

Day 4

HVAC Design Calculations Credit:

  • Learn the fundamentals and required calculations for the HVAC design of buildings.
  • Topics include: Cooling and Heating Load Calculations for Commercial Buildings,
  • Psychometric Chart Analysis, HVAC Energy and Return on Investment Analysis. Focus is on practical methods of HVAC calculations using governing codes and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air‐Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidelines. Emphasis is placed on accepted rule‐of‐thumb checks in HVAC load calculations and energy analysis, including a review of available computer programs. An optional field trip is included with this course.

Day 5

HVAC DDC Networking Credit:

  • This part focuses on practical scenarios of communication and networking between DDC controllers and DDC systems. The topics include: HVAC DDC System Architecture, HVAC DDC Topologies and Protocols, ASHRAE BA Cnet, Gateways, Open Systems and Lon Works Platform, Practical Examples and Review of Real Projects. This part also addresses common questions such as: how to upgrade existing HVAC DDC systems, the advantages and disadvantages of open systems, and how to integrate various building automation systems. An optional field trip is included with this course.

Course Methodology

A variety of methodologies will be used during the course that includes:

  • (30%) Based on Case Studies
  • (30%) Techniques
  • (30%) Role Play
  • (10%) Concepts
  • Pre-test and Post-test
  • Variety of Learning Methods
  • Lectures
  • Case Studies and Self Questionaires
  • Group Work
  • Discussion
  • Presentation

Who should attend

Due to the complexity and proprietary nature of DDC systems, it has become difficult to stay current with the designs, installations, operation and maintenance of DDC systems. This guide was developed specifically to help building owners and consulting/specifying engineers with these issues.


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