Building Ventilation – Not as Easy as 1, 2, 3

Modern day buildings come with an array of requirements and standards that need to be met. With new regulations and programs such as Title 24, The Well Standard, and LEED certification, designing a perfect ventilation system in a building is not as easy as it may seem.

The idea of making buildings airtight and having better control of their airflow leads to a more energy efficient system that can cut costs and help move our planet toward a greener future. Behind the scenes, it is a tricky science being able to manipulate the indoor air quality and abide by all necessary regulations to keep a consistently healthy environment for building occupants. Typically, designers focus on air quantity instead of air quality. The service engineers must create a process of diluting the indoor air contaminants to reduce heat, stuffiness, and manage humidity levels while also taking outdoor air pollution into consideration. In addition, all other aspects must be recognized such as: aesthetics, noise, weather, security, and energy efficiency.

One method utilized is focusing on purpose provided openings (PPOs) and staying on top of any unintentional openings that could be allowing unwanted air into the building; thus, causing the system to work harder and cost more money. PPOs allow the focus to stay on bringing fresh air into the building to be circulated. The PPOs must be the correct size, with the correct placement in order to achieve proper indoor air quality. Aesthetics may not allow some PPOs to not be positioned in the most logical locations or force the PPOs to be smaller than maximum efficiency prefers, therefore creating future unbalanced ventilation across the building.

Building designers and operators are continuously reminded of the importance of potential condensation and mold problems. The presence of mold in the ventilation system can lead to health concerns and respiratory issues. Proper insulation must be installed. Engineers must account for wind and rain protection to keep the moisture out. Noise pollution can be avoided by lowering air speeds. Minimizing cooling loads can aid in energy efficiency by diverting air intakes away from hot surfaces. Another highlight of concern that should be addressed from building designers and service engineers is the presence of hazardous materials. Specific appropriate filtration should be used to avoid odors, particulates, pollen, and fire hazards.

Achieving proper indoor air quality through proper ventilation in a building is more complicated than ever. With a copious amount of key factors to consider not only in the design process, but in servicing and maintaining the ventilation system, it is important to focus attention on the lungs of a building to ensure the health of its occupants.