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Basic Steps for Improving Indoor Air Quality
Health care facilities as well as many responsibilities facility managers and HVAC contractors have always been aware of the need for clean air to mitigate infection risks. Improving Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) has become a must to protect public health and awareness of improved ventilation and air filtration solutions are here to stay.
Building occupants in an office or multi-housing residential can do additional improvements in their own space or at their desks; private residences have complete control of their HVAC, but some improvements can be very expensive. Here are a few steps to take to improve IAQ:
If you understand the standards, you will know how to maintain IAQ. ANSI/ASHRAE Standards 62.1 and 62.2 involve ventilation design and procedure and are intended to minimize health risks of building occupants.
ASHRAE Continues to update its guidelines for IAQ and good to check occasionally; their guidelines aim to protect occupants’ IAQ:
Guidelines are to help prevent the spread diseases caused by airborne pathogens.
As a starting point to determine the health of a building’s IAQ and what improvements need to be made, it’s important to set a baseline by making a thorough air quality and HVAC system assessment. This will identify issues like positive or negative airflow, pollutants, and any leakage that could make maintaining airflow difficult. Once you have the results of your assessment, you will need to consider the solution.
Many of today’s buildings have mechanical systems that were manufactured and installed when filtration, outside air intake, and air-change standards were lower or considered not needed. To retrofit or replace these systems to meet stricter IAQ requirements takes time and money and may not always be feasible. Retrofits often affect operation and production.
Mike, the Facility Guy, at WBC can help identifying cost-effective measures; he has technical expertise in HVAC ventilation.
Creating a clean space
There is not one solution to meeting acceptable IAQ. These steps can help improve IAQ building up for a healthy future.
Air changes—Air changes are the total volume of air within a certain space, in cubic feet. Well Building Connection has specialized equipment, such as negative air machines that can help.
Air filtration—ASHRAE has recommended that filtration be increased during pandemics/flu seasons; better filtration helps ensure high IAQ and offer protection against viruses and contaminants.
The higher the MERV value of an HVAC filter, the smaller the particles it can capture.
HEPA filters, for example, can remove around 98% of particulates. There are challenges to your HVAC equipment when using high-rated Merv filters and should be discussed with your HVAC contractor.
Deactivation of virus and bacteria—Ultraviolet (UV-C) light neutralizes viruses and bacteria in the air. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified the installation of UV-C radiation in HVAC ducts as being the safest approach to deactivating viruses and bacteria, while also protecting occupants in a building. HVAC contractors will have the UV-C light set up inside the air screen. After the air has been filtered, going through a cooling or heating coil, a bank of UV-C lights comes in contact with the airstream to interact with the virus.
To further deactivate or minimize the spread of viruses and bacteria, keep relative humidity between 40% and 60%.
Looking to the future
It is important to implement protocols that monitor the Indoor Air Quality through various air meters, floor mats and miscellaneous ways to keep building occupants safe and healthy.