An indoor air quality (IAQ) management plan is invaluable for protecting the health of building occupants. Since 2020, such plans have become more important and more prevalent than ever before, and forward-thinking building owners are turning to innovative technologies for help. Automated smart systems that monitor and analyze air quality make it easier to implement robust IAQ management plans and quickly identify and resolve issues. This means safer buildings and healthier people.
Americans spend a lot of time indoors. How much time? According to the EPA, the average American spends as much as 90 percent of their time inside. And a large percentage of that is spent at work. The challenge for facilities managers is to ensure time spent at work is as healthy as possible.
An intimate jazz concert took place in October 2020, in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, at a downtown bar in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. An audience of less than two dozen students and faculty from the University of Illinois sat listening, all of whom had recently tested negative for Covid-19. For some of the performances, the musicians performed wearing masks or with covers over their instruments’ mouthpieces; the rest of the time, they did not. While they played, a mechanical engineering professor experimented offstage, altering the airflow at the venue throughout the evening by turning on and off exhaust and recirculation fans. His students monitored air quality to determine how well-ventilated the building was by measuring the presence of fine particles and carbon dioxide concentrations.
Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors, and the air we breathe when inside a building can have a big impact on our health. Airborne pollutants indoors can occur at up to five times the concentrations of outside air, leading to the development or aggravation of respiratory health conditions like asthma, lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and pneumonia. Several studies have even found that buildings may even concentrate contaminants present in the air from their immediate vicinity.
A 2015 Rutgers University study looked at whether green building tax credits and compliance with certification programs contributed positively to improving indoor air quality in green buildings and its relation to occupant health. Over the course of five years, researchers measured indoor air quality at a residential high-rise complex, using an industrial hygiene contractor to conduct annual air quality assessments. It compared these measurements to conventionally-built residential buildings, following New York’s Green Building Tax Credit (GBTC) and Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) requirements.
In Australia, aerosol scientist Lidia Morawska works with a device the size of a shoe that measures carbon dioxide in the environment, visiting restaurants, offices, schools, and other buildings to determine how well-ventilated they are. Outside, the monitor typically reads just over 400 parts per million (ppm), though areas with more traffic or industrial activity tend to have somewhat higher levels. When indoors, her readings sometimes shoot up to as high as 2000 ppm, even in buildings that seem well-ventilated.
Health, thermal comfort, and indoor air quality are topics of concern for facilities managers—especially amid extreme weather conditions, pandemics, and emergency situations. Indoor air pollution (IAP), air particulate matter, and extreme hot and cold temperatures can affect the quality of our time spent indoors and even be harmful to our health. As facilities managers, you need to provide solutions for building owners, occupants, and tenants so that the health and comfort of their indoor spaces isn’t one more thing on the list to worry about. That’s why we’ve put together some simple suggestions for how to improve the thermal comfort and air quality of your building.