Fun Fact Friday: Air Handling Units (AHUs)

Fun Fact Friday: Air Handling Units (AHUs)

With summer (hopefully) on its way, you may start thinking about the air temperature in your home or office. We’re lucky to have the technology to regulate the temperature and humidity of the air inside buildings. Have you ever thought about the process and equipment necessary to make that happen, though?

According to The Engineering Mindset, air handling units supply and distribute conditioned air throughout the ductwork within a building, usually on a commercial or industrial scale. These units are tasked with circulating air and keeping it at a comfortable temperature. There are two sections of an AHU: supply and return. The supply has more components than the return, which are broken down below.

The first section of the AHU that obtains air in from outside includes a grate to filter out garbage and to keep other foreign objects from entering into the system. The next part of the system includes a damper, which can either open or close, letting air in and out, or preventing air from moving completely. The system then continues with layers of filters, which prevent dirt and dust from being distributed around the building.

Heating and cooling coils follow, which either increase or decrease the temperature of the air depending on the set temperature on the thermostat. The AHUs also control the moisture level within the air. If the air is too dry, the AHU will emit a spray of water into the air before circulating it. If the air is too humid, the humidity is reduced using a cooling coil. Following the heating and cooling coils is a fan, which pulls the air from the outside, and then pushes it throughout the ductwork of the building. This is the basic design of an AHU supply, but some versions include different technology such as heat wheels and air plate heat exchangers.

The return system is much simpler. It usually only consists of a fan to pull the air out of the building, and a damper to either allow or prevent air flow. There is also a grate at the end of the system to prevent animals or garbage from entering into the vents. Although the system is not as complex as the supply system, it is just as important to remove the used air as it is to add fresh air.

The AHU systems are essential to maintaining the internal temperature and appropriate humidity of a building. If you require AHU system design, please contact Director of Engineering Design Tom Gilmartin at (716) 592-3980 ext 124 or

Fun Fact Friday: Fire Alarm Design

Fun Fact Friday: Fire Alarm Design

Safety is one of the most important factors that engineers must consider when providing designs for any type of facility. One of the biggest safety hazards to prepare for is a fire. Encorus Group has a specific engineer on staff to create designs that will make buildings safer in the case of a fire. Fire Protection Engineer John Allan offers some insight on one of the most common forms of fire protection: fire alarms.

Fire detection and alarm system design starts with identifying the risk. This is typically done through an initial building / fire code evaluation based on occupancy, occupancy population, and hazards in the building. This gives us the baseline for determining what is required for the fire alarm system design.

Once the baseline is established, the client’s requirements must also come into play. For example, a fire alarm system for a VA Medical Center will have agency-specific engineering parameters that have to be met. As these requirements are identified, they become part of the design basis.

Once the design basis is established, the next step is to identify any special conditions in the building that could impact the performance of a fire alarm system. This helps to select the correct detection devices. In some cases, this can require a wide variety of detectors ranging from heat sensing devices to ultra violet and infrared detectors. Selecting the correct detectors is critical to the system’s performance and reducing false alarms.

Fire detection systems serve a critical life safety function. They are 24-hour sentinels that never sleep. When they do activate in response to fire conditions, they can initiate horns, bells, and strobe lights to alert the occupants and start the evacuation process from the building. They can also be interfaced to shut fire doors, shut down ventilation systems, and activate exhaust vents. Most importantly, they can notify emergency responders. More advanced systems use speakers and pre-recorded messages to direct the occupants on what to do.

Today’s modern buildings rely heavily on automated building controls, and fire alarm systems can become a significant part of the control system. In high hazard areas, they can be used to initiate fire alarm suppression systems and monitor other life impacting conditions. Although there are restricting conditions for this type of interface, a well-designed system can be a functional benefit to the operation of a facility. It can even be a life saver.

If you require fire protection engineering services, please contact Director of Engineering Design Tom Gilmartin, PE, at (716) 592-3980 ext. 124 or

Come work with us!

Come work with us!

Encorus is hiring an entry-level structural engineer!  If you a Bachelors degree in civil or structural engineering from an ABET-accredited program, and want to work with one of the fastest-growing companies in Western New York, send your resume to  Previous experience in structural inspection, asset management, and design and registration as an Engineer-in-Training (EIT) is a plus.

Fun Fact Friday: Bleacher Design

Fun Fact Friday: Bleacher Design

If you’re a sports fan, you’ve probably spent a lot of time in the bleachers. If you’ve attended a concert or event at our local Erie County Fairgrounds, you likely sat in the grandstand. But did you ever wonder what the difference between a ‘bleacher’ and a ‘grandstand’ is? Actually, according to ICC 300-2017 “Standard for Bleachers, Folding and Telescopic Seating, and Grandstands” there is none! The definitions for each are:
• GRANDSTAND is “Tiered seating supported on a dedicated structural system and two or more rows high (see “Bleachers”).
• BLEACHER is “Tiered seating supported on a dedicated structural system and two or more rows high (see “Grandstand”).

It is generally accepted that grandstands are larger than bleachers.

Bleachers are a popular seating choice for spectators, fans, and players to gather in large numbers and view local sporting events, ceremonies, motorsports, and other community activities. They are the primary seating for spectators. They are customizable for visual appeal with items such as color and style. As engineers, we are interested in the design and construction of bleachers and grandstands.

Almost everything we use is influenced by engineers! ICC 300-2017 is a document published by the International Code Council outlining provisions consistent with the ICC family of codes. The purpose of this standard is to protect public health, safety and welfare through structural strength, means of egress, and stability – and a document referenced by engineers. This standard provides a guide to design grandstands and bleachers with prescribed loads like sway, wind, live and load combinations. Included in the design of bleachers are:
• Raker Beams or Stringers
• Cross Beams
• Columns
• Cross-Bracing
• Foundations
• Press Boxes
• Railing and Rail posts

There are many types of bleachers and components:
• Galvanized or Powder Coated Steel / Aluminum
• Elevated / Non-Elevated
• Portable Angle Frame
• Tip & Roll
• Permanent Beam
• Handicap Platforms
• Covered Grandstands
• Bench Seating / Chair Seating
• Picket Railings
• Ramps / Stairs
• Number of Rows
• Sightlines

Encorus is currently working with E&D Specialty Stands, Inc. in North Collins, NY. They are a top three leader in the country for providing bleachers and grandstands to high schools, universities, motorsports, professional sports venues and private owners. We are currently working on a University of Connecticut (UCONN) project which includes 5 total bleachers: baseball, softball and three bleachers around their new soccer field.

If you are in need of bleacher design or if you have any questions, contact Structural Engineer Gerald P. Sullivan, PE, at or (716) 592-3980 ext 160.

The Advantages of Finite Element Analysis in Mechanical Engineering

The Advantages of Finite Element Analysis in Mechanical Engineering

From aerospace to healthcare, engineers in every industry are constantly thinking of how to make improvements. Designing new components, materials, and procedures is a process of constant innovation. Before these designs can be used, they must be rigorously tested under real-world conditions to ensure that they work safely and effectively. Instead of testing prototype after prototype, it can be more cost-effective to subject designs to finite element analysis performed by a mechanical engineering service.

What Is Finite Element Analysis?

Finite element analysis involves breaking down the complex geometry of a mechanical component or system into an assembly of smaller (finite) and simpler elements. Each of these elements is modeled in a computer and subjected to mathematical calculations that test everything from the effects of electromagnetism on the component to its response to prolonged heating, physical stress, etc. These calculations are described using partial differential equations that are systematically applied to each element to demonstrate how it would react to real world conditions.

The Three Stages of Finite Element Analysis

Mechanical engineers begin finite element analysis by developing an “element mesh,” a breakdown of the test subject into multiple discrete elements. Then, each element is systematically analyzed in a computer simulation, applying any condition the engineering team deems important and solving equations at numerous data points to create a matrix of information. That range of data is then compiled and analyzed to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the design.

The Benefits of Finite Element Analysis

Finite element analysis lets mechanical engineering firms test, re-test, and recalibrate designs for a new component, material, or process. Breaking down physical structures into groups of smaller elements allows engineers to subject them to a variety of simulated conditions without the need for multiple prototypes. Finite element analysis can be used to test components in situations that would be expensive or difficult to test in a controlled environment, such as a piston design’s response to extreme temperatures or the durability of components in an oil rig under fluid pressure.

Encorus Group offers nationwide finite element analysis as part of our broad range of mechanical engineering services. From municipal waterworks to nuclear power facilities, we can help you rigorously analyze, assess, and perfect your designs to ensure that they will perform as intended. We are proud to be a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) with decades of experience in the field. For more information about finite element analysis or our other mechanical engineering solutions, call Dana Pezzimenti, P.E. at 716.592.3980, ext.128 or email him at