Environmental 327 views Aug 24, 2017
Putting the emphasis on air quality

With people having far less control over indoor air quality in their offices, schools and hospitals, for example, than in their homes, the onus on creating a healthy indoor environment is down to the property owner or facility manager.  Too often, routine design and construction decisions can end up with indoor air quality (IAQ) issues. But it doesn’t have to be that way as it’s possible to achieve good IAQ without incurring undue expense or using practices that are beyond the capabilities of the building trade.  Often the challenge comes down to the monitoring aspect, which poses the question, what should we be monitoring against?

Pollutants in buildings range from volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and emissions from products and cleaning products - gases such as nitrogen dioxide; ozone and carbon monoxide; particulate matter and fibres, and biological particles such as bacteria, fungi and pollen.

Common building standards such as BREEAM and WELL help building owners and occupants operate healthy buildings, but along with RESET and the Green Building Council of Australia, these organisations have recently joined forces to establish a coordinated set of standards and guidelines for indoor and outdoor environmental monitoring systems and sensors.

Better air quality inside office buildings will make employees happier and more productive and it can impact performance in schools and health outcomes for patients in hospitals. It’s why the interest in indoor environmental performance of buildings is growing rapidly across the industry.

Under the WELL standard, building owners can install sensors that are monitoring pollutants in the air which will then inform the building management system.  If someone paints a wall with an oil-based paint for example, the chances are it will show up on the management system of the building because the detector in the extract air system will realise there is something that has contaminants in it.

Environmental standards are also making sure that during construction and refits, contractors haven’t put something in the environment that, from a ventilation point-of-view, will impact the air quality to the detriment of occupants both now and in the longer term. All of our installations must conform to VOC guidelines, which in turn will ensure the environmental quality of the building.

If we are working on one floor of a multi-story building, it’s imperative that we put suitable filters on the extract system, particularly if we can’t turn the system off because it’s providing air conditioning to other floors. There is a responsibility for the contractor to ensure the correct temporary filtration is used on the air systems to make sure dust and pollutants don’t get into the system.  The last thing a building owner wants is a lot of hazardous dust and contaminants being blown around a building to the detriment of the occupants.

In any building, you are trying to control the temperature, the fresh air, the humidity, and reduce the complex mixture of pollutants. As the industry moves toward high performance green buildings, building professionals must become more knowledgeable about indoor environmental air quality and ensure IAQ strategies are incorporated throughout the build process.

By Steven Argent, Construction Director at QOB Group

Visit: http://www.qobgroup.com/