Indoor Air Quality & its Growing Relevance in the Built Environment

Posted on 2020-09-07
Indoor Air Quality & its Growing Relevance in the Built Environment

Enhancing indoor air quality (IAQ) and HVAC systems has become a key component of return to workplace strategy. Building owners and facility managers alike, are  evaluating options available and seeing what best suits their needs. Filtration and disinfection options, as well as, increased outdoor airflow options are being evaluated. The issue is not the options or how they will be integrated with existing system, but the real challenge lies in integrating the systems, while keeping energy use of the building minimized or unaffected.

There are two aspects to this- one  is IAQ treatment upon completion of a new fit-out . People are worried about smells in the newly fitted-out office. It’s not the smell that is worrying, but the formaldehyde, benzene, TVOC and other chemicals that are hazardous to the human body. It’s not about fumigation or disinfection of the site, but the removal of these chemicals. The so-called smell is the smell of a new environment, just like a new car. This is normally conducted prior to occupation of the newly fitted-out premise.

The second aspect is incorporating equipment as part of the MEP system for the life cycle of the facility to manage IAQ. This is a long-term strategy that aims to improve and monitor the IAQ of the office throughout its life cycle, and especially so in the current global COVID-19 pandemic. This involves integration of the HVAC and Fresh Air Supply System with the PM 2.5 equipment, with back end monitoring systems.  From the Mechanical and electric HVAC systems found in most commercial buildings, to bi polar ionization filters to HEPA filters, choices are aplenty. The former has filters (MERV) that are rated on their filtration system ranging from one to sixteen with 16 being the best.  Bi-polar ionization filter on the other hand, is a relatively economical option which as the name suggests uses ionization for decapacitating air borne contaminants. Purging or Fresh Air Supply System, where airflow into the building is increased is yet another option which is highly recommended. In fact, CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) specifically mentions "Increase ventilation rates" and "Increase percentage of outdoor air."

IoT automation tools have made gauging the effectiveness of ventilation systems much easier. It is as simple as screens within the office premise, displaying key IAQ parameters like temperature, humidity, airflow levels in the area, and employees can access these readings via web as well. More importantly, this system is able to reduce risks of circulation of micro-organisms and a key consideration for companies in the current epidemic situation.

Depending on the type of workplace, you could be looking at a modification, a retrofit or an overhaul of the existing system. Care should be taken to ensure that ventilation system installed is responsive and adaptable. It will be prudent to consider the positive effects  of proper HVAC design, improved ventilation techniques, contaminant source removal on the indoor air quality of a workspace. This, in turn, will improve overall productivity & efficiency of employees, contributing to the growth of an organization.

Vestian’s team and network of professional HVAC system designers & executors are abreast of the latest technology and best practices; and can assist  in  transitioning  to a better and healthier workplace.

Commercial buildings, Commercial Real Estate, Facility management, HVAC, Industry Updates, Sustainability, Technology.
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