Indoor air quality is a topic of much discussion. Considerable research has been done linking the quality of the indoor air that we breathe to health and performance. A white paper entitled Common Toxins in our Homes, Schools and Workplaces (published on behalf of the Global Indoor Health Network, Inc.) is one of the latest works on this subject.
The average Canadian works 36.4 hours a week (Stats Canada, 2011) and the vast majority of these working hours are spent indoors; office buildings, retail stores, factories and laboratories.
Time spent indoors without proper ventilation has a negative effect on our health. According to the United States (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indoor air pollution causes 50 percent of all global illnesses. A relatively easy way to help decrease this affect is by ensuring that you breathe quality filtered air.
The notion of cleaner air applies to more than just indoor work conditions; think about how much time is spent at home, at school or university; consider just how much carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene, pesticides and even bi-products of personal care products you breathe on a minute by minute basis.
From a pure rate-of return analysis it is often difficult to justify the cost of installing a state-of-the-art HVAC system. However if one takes a macro perspective the calculation is entirely different. How can you put a cost on the benefits of a healthy workforce or students? Just think of the productivity benefits and the lessened burden on the health system. There would be a significant decrease in the amount of children suffering from asthma, disability claims would drop, while worker productivity and students attentiveness would increase (GIHN Position Statement, vii). These improvements can be chalked up to a simple improvement in indoor air quality.
It is widely understood that increasing air circulation throughout a building will increase the overall quality of the air. To provide this circulation a high performance HVAC system is needed. An HVAC system has the ability to not only limit the amount of pollutants and pollen spores entering the indoor air space but can also control the humidity and monitors the levels of CO2 and CO gasses. The quality of the HVAC system, along with regular maintenance, will drastically reduce the amount illnesses due to air born pollutants or toxins.
Studies surrounding legionnaire’s disease and potential combatants for the bacteria can be directly linked to the HVAC system. Legionella bacterium thrives in damp, humid areas such as spas, showers, and HVAC water cooling towers. The link between the growth and the HVAC system comes down to the HVAC’s ability to control humidity within the building and duct work. Legionella bacteria have been reported to affect up to 50,000 Americans per year (Department of Architectural Engineering, Penn State, 2008). Table 1 represents the temperature range for the growth and death of the legionella bacteria. The increasing levels of humidity within buildings add to the rise in the levels of the legionella bacterium. Ensuring that the HVAC system installed within the building controls the levels of humidity eliminates any worry surrounding the legionella bacterium.
The lack of quality air circulation within a school, office building or a home can increase the likely hood of becoming sick due to air born pollutants. Another major health issue is the rise of the carbon dioxide gas (CO2); this naturally occurring gas makes up only a small percentage of the earth’s atmosphere however if inhaled at a high concentration it can adversely affect health and in extreme cases be fatal.
Fortunately, there appears to be a solution to the indoor air quality issue in schools and other similar institutions, and it comes in the form of CO2-based ventilation. Pioneered by Telair (a GE acquisition), the system measures the amount of CO2 particles in the room and then adjusts the amount of room ventilation to dilute the CO2 concentration. While an under ventilated building can have serious health and performance repercussions for the occupants, an over ventilated building is quite simply a waste of energy. So it could be said that the system also reduces the facility operational expenditure (OPex) in addition to creating a better working environment for the occupants.
The costs of installing a state of the art HVAC system may appear to be daunting at first but the long term health benefits to the system far outweigh the financial aspect. GE advanced CO2 sensors integrated with HVAC systems improve the air we breathe and subsequently they improve your overall life quality. The expression a breath of fresh air comes to mind, and should not be limited to the great outdoors, bringing the clean fresh air indoors is beneficial to us all, as we all spend more time indoors than we would like
About the author:
Dale Faulkner is a sales and marketing assistant at Cranial-8. Dale is attending Carleton University where he studies Business. Dale is an avid sportsman playing soccer, hockey and rugby.
Legionnaires Disease Pathogenicity and Design Considerations: http://www.engr.psu.edu/iec/abe/topics/legionnaires.asp
Global Indoor Health Network, Inc:
It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity: Wet Weather Increases Legionellosis Risk in the Greater Philadelphia Metropolitan Area