There are "strong arguments" to be made for going beyond minimum standards when it comes to establishing indoor air quality (IAQ) in buildings, said Andrew Persily, who leads the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Indoor Air Quality and Ventilation Group. It is for this reason that five building industry associations and a federal agency last month unveiled the document "Air Quality Guide: Best Practices for Design, Construction and Commissioning."
In current practice, "indoor air quality is mostly dealt with by complying with building codes, which are based on consensus standards like Standard 62.1, and those are inherently minimum requirements," said Persily, who chairs the committee that authored the new guidance. The document is designed to assist those people who are seeking to exceed those minimum requirements to provide indoor environments, improve productivity, trim healthcare costs, reduce occupant complaints, and curb litigation, he said.
The guidance document and an accompanying CD provide strategies for achieving adequate IAQ using proven technologies and without significantly increasing costs, according to American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
"The health and comfort of buildings occupants is too important to leave IAQ as an after-thought in design, construction and operation," Persily said. "There is plenty of experience out there to help avoid IAQ problems in buildings, allowing all of us to breathe a little easier."
The document is a collaboration between ASHRAE, the American Institute of Architects, the Building Owners and Managers Association International, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association and the U.S. Green Building Council.
Document Outlines 40 Strategies for Achieving IAQ Objectives
The book describes 40 strategies for achieving IAQ objectives related to moisture management, ventilation, filtration, air cleaning and source control. It also highlights how design and construction teams can work together to ensure that good IAQ strategies are incorporated from initial design through project completion.
The organizations offered the following tips from the guide for improving indoor air quality in buildings:
- Bring IAQ into the very earliest design discussions. Don't get stuck retrofitting the design for IAQ at the end of the process.
- Strictly limit liquid water penetration and condensation in the envelope and control indoor humidity.
- Where outdoor air quality is poor, use enhanced filtration and air cleaning to provide high quality ventilation air. Locate outdoor air intakes away from contaminant sources and provide the means to measure and control minimum outdoor airflows.
- Select building materials and furnishings that have low contaminant emissions and don't require use of high-emitting cleaning products.
- Exhaust contaminants from indoor activities as close to their source as possible.
- Recognize that operations and maintenance (O&M) is essential to long-term IAQ, and provide the access, training and documentation needed to facilitate O&M.
- Commission from design through occupancy to ensure that IAQ objectives are met.
The guidance is suited for design engineers, architects, specifiers, contractors, building owners, developers, other decision makers, organizations promoting sustainable buildings and building occupants.
When asked whether there are plans for follow-up research on this topic, Persily told GBI, "Discussions have already started about what's next. Should there be a similar document for residential buildings or for schools? Should this publication be updated some years down the road? It's time for everyone to take a breath and then start talking about what is next. It has yet to be decided."