In architectural design, the stack effect refers to passive air movement throughout a building due to variances in vertical pressure initiated by thermal buoyancy. If the air within a building grows warmer than the temperature of the surrounding outdoor air, the warmer and lower-density air will rise. Stack effect ventilation makes use of this activity by forming openings in a building’s structural envelope that are sufficiently lofty to permit the warm air to escape.

At the building top, negative pressure attracts denser, colder exterior air through low-level openings in the structure. Although the effect of this process is relatively weak, it can be concentrated when a stack is implemented. An increase in airflow can be accomplished with use of longer stacks. Controlled stack ventilation can permit passive cooling in hot summer weather while offering low maintenance and cost-efficiency due to low operating expenses, very low energy costs (or none at all) and low construction expenses for new buildings. 

Pros and Cons of Stack Effect Ventilation in Architectural Design

There are primary advantages and disadvantages of stack effect ventilation in the architectural design of buildings, including the following pros and cons:


• Lower Operating and Maintenance Costs. –  Stack effect ventilation enables building ventilation and cooling at lesser operating and maintenance costs than mechanical systems can achieve. Stack effect ventilation also offers low noise levels during operation. 

• No Added Energy Costs. – Passive systems need no additional energy input. Stacks that are augmented by active flow regulation require lower energy levels than comparable mechanical systems. 

• Lower Energy for Building Cooling. – Stack effect ventilation lowers building cooling energy requirements. It may be used in combination with passive cross-ventilation for optimal ventilating effects. 


• Occurrence of Over-ventilation and Under-ventilation. – Stack effect ventilation in buildings can result in over-ventilation or under-ventilation due to its dependency on natural forces. Excellent design and airflow regulation are essential for sustaining acceptable rates of ventilation. 

• Ventilation Inadequacies on Upper Floors. – Unacceptable rates of ventilation and airflow on the upper floors of tall, large buildings may occur with stack effect ventilation. Trapped, stale air may lower air quality, and the addition of operating windows may be needed to ensure adequate ventilation. 

• Over-ventilation During Winter. – During cold winter weather, greater differences in a building’s internal and external temperatures may cause the loss of valuable heat due to over-ventilation caused by inadequate airflow regulation. 

By consulting the expert architectural designers, master planners, engineers and interior designers of Marchese Partners, you will receive top-tier information and advice concerning the use of stack effect ventilation in architectural design. Marchese Partners, with offices in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the UK, has produced exemplary, highly honored and awarded projects in many international locations. Our comprehensive, state-of-the-art architectural design and building services are achieved with an integrated approach involving high levels of professional expertise to complete your building project with finest degrees of excellence.