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Building an Integrated IAQ Monitoring System

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Laura Miller

The 1970s energy crisis caused a significant change in how buildings were designed and built, many of which are still in use today. Structures became increasingly airtight and insulated to conserve energy. While these design changes resulted in energy savings, they also reduced the fresh air circulating through a building’s HVAC systems. Additionally, synthetic materials became common in the construction, decoration, and maintenance of built structures.

Research now shows that inadequate ventilation, chemicals, and other factors related to building design contribute to indoor pollution and can have a detrimental impact on human health. Addressing indoor air quality (IAQ) must therefore be a top priority for building owners and facility managers. By incorporating smart technologies with your BMS, you can create a cutting-edge IAQ monitoring system that safeguards the health of building occupants

What IAQ Monitoring Systems Should Detect

Smart IAQ monitoring systems continuously measure airborne contaminants that affect IAQ. Identifying and quantifying these contaminants is the first step toward resolving air quality concerns

Important contaminants to monitor: 

  • Airborne microorganisms include bacteria, fungi, and viruses that spread through aerosolized droplets. 
  • Ammonia has been linked directly to sick building syndrome, causing tiredness and lower productivity in building occupants. 
  • Carbon dioxide concentrations as low as a thousand parts per million affect cognitive function and decision-making. 
  • Carbon monoxide causes confusion and memory loss at low levels and can be deadly in higher concentrations.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted by many common products, including certain cosmetics, hairspray, cleaning liquids, disinfectants, and paints. VOCs, such as formaldehyde, are known to cause health problems such as liver and kidney damage.
  • Lead from old, lead-based paints affects IAQ when it is removed improperly. 
  • Mold can cause upper respiratory tract symptoms and aggravate respiratory conditions like asthma and allergies. Colonies can form in paints, insulation, drywall, carpeting, and upholstery.
  • Particulate matter (PM) varies in shape and size. Those 10 micrometers and smaller may be inhaled and adversely affect health. 
  • Radon is an odorless and colorless gas that results from the natural breakdown of uranium. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States after smoking.

Due to the wide array of pollutants that affect IAQ, monitoring systems need to employ a variety of devices. 

Devices for an IAQ Monitoring System

Hardware forms the foundation of any IAQ monitoring system. In advanced systems, this hardware includes IoT sensors that measure specific pollutants and transmit this data to a centralized building management system. In recent years, the cost and size of sensors have decreased considerably. This has significantly lowered the barrier to entry and makes monitoring possible in most built environments. 

Monitoring systems with highly accurate sensors are very sensitive, so it's important to consult professionals for installations to help reduce issues and minimize risk. Here are a few things to consider: 

  • Most modern IAQ sensors are connected to the Internet and operate wirelessly. This means that reliable Wi-Fi access is necessary. 
  • Monitoring devices should be placed near areas with suspected IAQ problems. 
  • Recessed outlets work better with wireless devices to keep plugs and connectors from protruding. 

It’s best to consult experts when deciding which sensors to choose, how many you need, and where to locate them.

The Value of Integration

Gathering data is only part of the IAQ monitoring process. Your monitoring system must reliably evaluate data and make that data useful to you. This includes identifying areas where contaminants regularly exceed healthy levels and revealing trends over time. 

Integrating smart monitoring technologies with an intelligent BMS lets you get the most out of IAQ monitoring. A unified system with advanced analytics allows you to:

  • Acquire real-time data about variables affecting IAQ.
  • Easily understand historical trends.
  • Create customized reports.
  • Automate actions to improve IAQ.
  • Rapidly identify vulnerabilities, diagnose problems, and correct problems.

From sending you alerts when filters need changing to automatically adjusting fan speed to address air quality issues in real time, an integrated system with analytics unlocks the full potential of your IAQ monitoring system.

Buildings IOT offers state-of-the-art solutions for smart building monitoring systems. Contact our team of experts to learn more about what we can do for you.



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