In most interior design paradigms, building infrastructure such as HVAC ductwork is an unsightly mess that should be hidden. Historically, spaces with HVAC systems exposed were usually industrial in nature. In some design paradigms, however, ducts are not as unwelcome and are embraced as part of the overall aesthetic of the space. Modern and postmodern contemporary interiors often incorporate them into designs when hiding HVAC ducts proves impossible or impractical.
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Industrial interior design takes this a step further and embraces the mechanical aesthetic of the HVAC ductwork. They are often left uncovered when industrial buildings are repurposed, often only being retouched slightly to improve their general appearance, and are incorporated into the overall appearance of the interior along with the exposed brick and unfinished concrete walls of the building.
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The exposed HVAC ductwork is one of the archetypical hallmarks of industrial design. Indeed, incorporating deliberately exposed ducts is planned in much newer buildings incorporating the industrial aesthetic into their interiors. Because the ductwork is often still functional, special considerations must be made to ensure that the ducts work as efficiently as possible. Specific forms like spiral ductwork not only provide a visually interesting contemporary industrial look but also has significant energy-saving advantages such as tighter joints that prevent leaks.
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As a deliberate design choice, leaving the air conditioning and heating systems visible can lead to all sorts of interesting visuals of the roof or ceiling of the room, creating a peculiar and eye-catching geometry in underappreciated spaces or work as accents toward other features. They can be painted to match the look of a room or left in their natural metallic color.