There’s no doubt that indoor air quality (IAQ) is an important metric.
IAQ is something your prospective occupants are always concerned about when choosing a place to set up their business or raise their family.
Poor IAQ can cause severe health issues and hamper productivity for your occupants, pushing them to leave for better spaces — and causing you to lose valuable customers.
On the other hand, not only does good IAQ attract and retain high-value occupants, but it’s an essential piece to getting flagship certifications such as WELL and LEED.
At this stage, you will have settled on the need to improve your building’s IAQ, or to ensure that when it’s built, it meets the top IAQ standards. Below, we have outlined 4 critical areas to hit in order to improve your building’s IAQ.
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality
1. Identify & Remove the Source
In many older buildings, a major cause for poor IAQ is a pre-existing pollutant source.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that radon, asbestos, and lead are top contributors to poor IAQ. Unfortunately, these substances were the norm in previous construction methods, meaning they are a serious issue in old structures.
Take, for example, asbestos.
Asbestos was the go-to method in the industry for fire-prevention and insulation. But it has fallen out of favor because it’s a highly poisonous and friable material, i.e., it can crumble into a tiny, particulate dust form that’s easily inhalable.
You won’t have good IAQ unless you remove the source of the problem.
In this case, extensive abatement, repair, and renovation will be necessary. Fortunately, once the material is gone, it’s gone permanently.
On the other hand, biological contaminants — such as mold — need to be removed and prevented from returning through specific processes and systems.
In the case of mold, you must ensure that your building is generally kept dry and that moisture is prevented from building up.
In this case, an HVAC system is critical to ventilating the air to remove moisture and to filter out spores before they enter your building.
In addition, building owners and property managers are advised to regularly inspect vulnerable areas and to speak with occupants. You can catch a mold outbreak in its early stages this way and minimize the necessary repair work.
2. Design Your Building to Achieve High IAQ Standards
You can save yourself from headaches (figuratively and literally) in the future by getting your building designed around high IAQ standards.
Prevention is the best antidote.
Practically, this means requiring a design that promotes air ventilation, blocks outside pollutants, and prevents moisture and humidity. You can get an idea of how architectural firms are beginning to implement these concepts by looking at our list of well-known LEED-certified buildings.
In technical terms, consider building around a raised access floor (RAF) system.
In terms of IAQ, there are two critical benefits to RAF:
- First, it lets you install an underfloor air distribution (UFAD) HVAC system, which offers improved ventilation efficiency and better thermal comfort.
- Second, RAF lets you design your building with more open spaces, which in turn allows for greater air movement.
See How You Can Clean Your Air
& Lower Your Costs with UFAD
3. Change Processes in Your Building
One potential near-term fix for improving IAQ is to stop certain activities from taking place in your building.
These can include, among others, banning smoking, requiring cooks to use exhaust fans, not allowing transport trucks from starting in the garage, or no longer leasing to businesses that cause indoor pollution (e.g., manufacturers).
However, for many building owners, this is not a realistic solution as that could mean losing business. For example, casinos attract smokers as patrons and leasing to major or even minor manufacturers is profitable.
Thus, you will have to look at changing how your building manages indoor air instead.
For More on Improving Your IAQ:
- WELL Certification: How Improving Air Distribution Helps the Planet & Your Occupants
- What are High-Performance Buildings?
- The 7 Core Concepts of the WELL Building Standard
4. Install an HVAC System Centered on IAQ
Ultimately, your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is essential to any IAQ improvement project. Be it for a new building or as a retrofit, carefully examine how your HVAC options will help you attain and maintain good IAQ.
For example, with a UFAD system, you can provide better thermal comfort by placing the air diffusers to the ground, i.e., nearest to the occupant.
In addition, a proper AHU (i.e., air handling unit) will include HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters to keep harmful outdoor pollutants from entering your building.
The larger and more elaborate your building, the more essential it is to have a properly designed and fully capable HVAC system. After all, because indoor air pollutants are a staggering 2 to 5 times more concentrated than they are outdoors, constant ventilation and filtration across every area is critical to maintaining good IAQ.
In a way, improving IAQ is about (1) removing the source of the pollutants and (2) severing the pollutants’ method of reaching your occupants. The second part is linked to your HVAC system.
Consider examining our guide to UFAD to see how your HVAC system should work when it comes to maintaining good IAQ in your building. If anything, it would be a good reference for benchmarking your HVAC options as you proceed with your IAQ improvement efforts.
At AirFixture, we have delivered 80 million square-feet in HVAC projects in over 25 countries. Speak to us today and leverage our experience. Benefit with higher occupant satisfaction and lower operating costs through your HVAC project.