Providing sufficient amounts of outdoor air to occupants is a critical building function for supporting occupant health, well-being and productivity. In tropical climates, high ventilation rates require substantial amounts of energy to cool and dehumidify supply air. This study evaluates the energy consumption and associated cost for thermally conditioning outdoor air provided for building ventilation in tropical climates, considering Singapore as an example locale. We investigated the influence on energy consumption and cost of the following factors: outdoor air temperature and humidity, ventilation rate (L/s per person), indoor air temperature and humidity, air conditioning system coefficient of performance (COP), and cost of electricity. Results show that dehumidification of outdoor air accounts for more than 80% of the energy needed for building ventilation in Singapore's tropical climate. Improved system performance and/or a small increase in the indoor temperature set point would permit relatively large ventilation rates (such as 25 L/s per person) at modest or no cost increment. Overall, even in a thermally demanding tropical climate, the energy cost associated with increasing ventilation rate up to 25 L/s per person is less than 1% of the wages of an office worker in an advanced economy like Singapore's. This result implies that the benefits of increasing outdoor air ventilation rate up to 25 L/s per person - which is suggested to provide for productivity increases, lower sick building syndrome symptom prevalence, and reduced sick leave - can be much larger than the incremental cost of ventilation.
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