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The restaurant industry in the United States is the nation's second largest private sector employer with a workforce of nearly 13 million. Nearly one in ten working Americans work in a restaurant. The industry is projected to increase by 1.3 million positions, reaching 14.1 million in the next decade. The restaurant industry was an engine of growth for the nation's employment recovery in 2011, and this trend is expected to continue in 2012. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) expects restaurants to add jobs at a 2.3% rate in 2012, a full percentage above the projected 1.3% gain in total U.S. employment.

The commercial kitchen is a unique space where many different heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) applications operate within a single space. The critical work place in a commercial kitchen is at the cooking line, which produces the largest heat gains in the space, and where the workers are exposed to the highest temperatures. This work activity generates heat and effluent that must be captured and exhausted from the space in order to control odor and thermal comfort. Therefore, an adequate exhaust air-flow quantity is fundamental to ensure good system operation, thermal comfort, and improved indoor air quality, without interfering with the quality of the cooked food.

Based on a work statement developed by ASHRAE’s Technical Committee 5.10, Kitchen Ventilation, KEMA and DTU.ICIEE (Technical University of Denmark, International Center for Indoor Environment and Energy) collaborated to study and evaluate the indoor environment in more than 100 commercial kitchens across the United States.

As indicated in the work statement, the purpose of the ASHRAE-RP1469-sponsored study Thermal Comfort in Commercial Kitchens is to:

  • Evaluate if common methods for determining the occupant thermal comfort zone can be used in commercial kitchens
  • Determine an acceptable level of thermal comfort in commercial kitchens
  • Establish a procedure for measuring thermal comfort in commercial kitchens
  • Provide baseline data for the design community to evaluate technologies that are emerging to accommodate sustainable kitchen HVAC designs
  • Establish a database for the thermal environment in commercial kitchens