As discussed in Outside Air Optimization, Occupied buildings are full of people and chemicals that could be harmful to human health. This “dirty”, unhealthy air comes from fabrics off gassing, cleaning supplies, Human metabolism, perfumes, colognes, and the list goes on. Less than desirable air can also be exhausted directly from bathrooms, kitchens, equipment rooms, and by the central ventilation system. Clean, healthy fresh air is brought into the building to replace the dirty, unhealthy air to improve the Indoor Air Quality. However outdoor air is not always ideal for the indoor environment either. It should be filtered, and often needs to be tempered (warmed up or cooled down) to be comfortable for the inhabitants. Introducing the minimal amount of outdoor air into a facility is critical to occupant comfort and introducing additional outside air greater than the minimum can improve the IAQ but it can be at the cost of energy efficiency. Too little outdoor air can save energy and money but can result in an unhealthy or sick building. Too much outdoor air can waste energy and money but provide a fresh facility with improved Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Finding the proper balance of a healthy environment and energy conservation is critical to the operation of a building.
In the age of easily transmitted dangerous viruses and bacteria IAQ could become much more than just inducing outside air. Yes, having the minimum required outside air and preferably more being induced will help the IAQ but the filtration of the air within the building will become more important. Increased filtration such as High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters will help clean the air being circulated by the HVAC systems. A HEPA air filter can potentially remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles. HEPA filters are used in commercial airplanes, operating rooms, clean rooms and in the future may be used in most commercial locations. Using HPEA filters along with Ultraviolet Lights (UV) within the HVAC systems can help clean the air even further. UV lights have been used for a long time to sterilize objects and rooms. They have been used for many years in HVAC systems to prevent biologic growth on HVAC cooling coils. New UV lights that utilize a particular wavelength of ultraviolet light called far-UVC can potentially kill viruses and bacteria without harming humans so they may possibly be used in the near future at entry ways and common areas of buildings or on mobile robots to help kill viruses and bacteria within the building and on occupants and their clothing. The cost of this improved IAQ will likely be offset by the financial loss that comes from lost employee productivity due to illness and potentially having a business closed due to virus or bacteria infiltration. It can also potentially give the occupants of a building some added peace of mind knowing that the latest technology is being used to help clean the air they breathe.
Commercial buildings can utilize a Building Automation System (BAS) to monitor air quality sensors throughout the building and regulate increased outside air to an area in response to the air becoming more contaminated with VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) and maintain the optimum amount of outside air being induced into a building. A BAS utilizing air quality sensors and controlling the HVAC system can improve a buildings IAQ while utilizing the least amount of energy necessary to do so.