How do you improve indoor air quality?
Indoor air quality is important because humans spend most of their time indoors, whether at work, school, home, or in the car. There are several ways to improve the air inside buildings that include:
- Remove or eliminate indoor pollutants
- Monitor and control air flow and ventilation
- Air filtration
- Regulate humidity levels by addressing sources of moisture
- Clean regularly to minimize dust and prevent pests
These are just some of the ways to positively impact the built environment and create healthier spaces for people to live, work, and play.
There are four main categories of indoor pollutants: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), biological pollutants, combustion byproducts, and legacy pollutants.
Furnishings, cleaning supplies, and buildings materials emit chemicals, or VOCs, into the air, so it’s important to choose low-VOC when purchasing these items for your building. Mold, mildew, pet dander, and dust are biological pollutants that can be eliminated with regular cleaning and moisture mitigation. Additionally, be sure to monitor carbon monoxide levels with a carbon monoxide detector and replace the battery when necessary.
Finally, eliminate any asbestos, PCBs, or lead found indoors. These are called legacy pollutants because while they are illegal to use now, they are often still found in older buildings. Consult a professional when eliminating these pollutants as they can be dangerous if not disposed of using proper protective measures.
Outdoor and indoor air circulates in and out of buildings. This is measured by the air exchange rate and can be controlled through proper ventilation. Follow local outdoor air ventilation rate guides to control the air exchange rate. This will ensure the proper amount of outdoor air is being circulated to reduce odors, chemicals, and carbon dioxide levels.
Large buildings will typically have automatic controls that regulate how much and how often outdoor air is brought inside the building. These can be programmed to be automated based on when occupants are present and when they are not. These systems must be monitored in real-time, regularly maintained, and properly commissioned to ventilate buildings effectively.
Filter Outdoor Air
Outdoor air can be polluted too. That’s why it’s important to install filters to remove at least 75% of all particle-sized fractions. Air filters should be regularly replaced per their maintenance schedule.
Excess moisture in indoor environments can cause mold and mildew to grow. Mold contributes to poor air quality and can exacerbate symptoms of asthma and other respiratory ailments. It is usually a late indicator of a larger moisture issue such as a leaky roof, excess condensation on HVAC equipment, or leaky plumbing. Regularly inspect these areas of the building to make sure that water is not building up where it shouldn’t be. Remove and clean mold when found and remediate any underlying sources of humidity. In larger buildings, most humidity is introduced from bringing in outside air so be sure to carefully control that source of humidity as well.
Control Dust and Pests
Establish and maintain a regular cleaning schedule to be sure that surfaces are dust and dirt free. Use vacuums with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters which remove 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and airborne particles. Clean surfaces, seal entry points well, and remove trash regularly to help prevent pests. Large buildings should have a well-defined pest management plan that includes how to respond to occupant complaints.
Taking steps to improve the air quality of your building will have a significant positive impact on occupant health.