Step Inside for a Breath of Fresh Air
Don't let your indoor environment get stale. These ventilation strategies can improve comfort and save money.
Indoor air pollution is nothing to sneeze at. Health issues resulting from poor indoor air quality cost billions of dollars each year and reduce productivity. If your indoor environment feels a little stale, make a fresh start by focusing on ventilation system maintenance and design. You'll improve the health and comfort of your facility and increase your bottom line.
Indoor air quality, health and productivity
Indoor air pollution is caused by the build-up of contaminants coming primarily from inside the building. Common sources of indoor air pollution include biological organisms, building materials and furnishings, cleaning agents, copy machines and pesticides.
These pollutants can contribute to building-related illnesses that have clearly identifiable causes, such as Legionnaire's disease. Ventilation systems that are poorly maintained can contribute to Sick Building Syndrome, which produces physical symptoms without clearly identifiable causes. Common symptoms include eye, nose and throat irritation.
These disorders lead to increased employee sick days and reduced work efficiency. The World Health Organization estimates that 30% of new or remodeled buildings have unusually high rates of health complaints. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identifies poor ventilation as an important contributing factor in many sick building cases.
Ventilation system problems and solutions
The ventilation system moves air in and out of your building. When the system isn't working right, indoor air quality can deteriorate. Increasing the amount of outdoor air is the most common fix, but a number of system design and operational issues can affect your indoor environment.
- Variable airflow. Designs specifying HVAC system operation at reduced or interrupted flow in response to space conditioning needs may impair contaminant removal. Define minimum ventilation rates by air cleanliness and distribution, as well as temperature and humidity.
- Vent placement. Air supply vents located near sources of pollution u2014 such as exhaust vents, heavy traffic areas and trash dumpsters u2014 provide a pathway for contaminants. Carefully evaluate the location of all air supply vents.
- Air distribution. Ensure that registers are not blocked by furniture or equipment and that partitions or other barriers are positioned so they don't restrict airflow. Locate air supply and return air vents at a reasonable distance to ensure balanced air distribution.
- Air treatment and remediation can reduce concentration of contaminants. Ultraviolet (UV) light can keep evaporator coils free from mold and mildew build-up. Ions produced by plasma discharge devices induce particles to coagulate or stick together making them bigger and easier for your filter to catch.
- Scheduling. Ventilation system scheduling is critical to maintaining good indoor air quality. Schedule system operation based on occupancy levels or operating hours. Demand control ventilation using CO2 or VOC sensors can optimize indoor air quality and save energy. Monitor outdoor air quality as required by green building codes.
Pay close attention to these issues and you'll quickly spot potential sources of indoor air pollution and take steps to eliminate them.
Keep it fresh
Optimizing indoor air quality requires ongoing monitoring and a commitment to continuous improvement. Record keeping is also important. See HVAC Management for Better Indoor Environmental Quality from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information about ventilation system design, as well as settings and controls that can help you create a more productive and healthy work environment. Stay up to date on code changes or revisions to ventilation standards.