01 September 2022
Indoor Air Quality Monitoring – A Breath Of Fresh Air
01 September 2022
Energy efficiency and fire safety are key factors that must be monitored, rated and regulation-compliant when maintaining a building. Yet air quality, a significant factor to a property’s overall health and performance, isn’t continually measured and managed within all buildings. David Millward, product manager at Elta Group, explains why we must move away from this if we are to increase productivity and well-being across our nation.
Despite recent news being dominated by other matters – rising inflation rates alongside the fuel and energy crisis – indoor air quality (IAQ) has surfaced as a growing concern for many. For those who have a stake in building management and maintenance, the monitoring and regulation of good IAQ should be a key focus for protecting the health and well-being of occupants.
Addressing concerns over the effects of bad indoor air quality within the workplace, 2,000 hybrid working employees were surveyed by market researchers Onepoll. Over half of those asked (53 per cent) said they were worried that poor ventilation and air quality would impact their general health and increase the risk of them catching a cold or flu. Poor IAQ has been linked to conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as well as increasing the risk of heart disease, and with the average person spending around 90% of their time inside, monitoring is highly recommended.
Beyond this, regulation updates over the last year have headlined the need for concern around the quality of a building’s indoor air. Casting our minds back to June 2022, building regulations received their biggest update, with documents affected including Approved Part F, which governs ventilation and air quality standards. Among the wave of alterations, the changes to IAQ monitoring expectations are arguably the most prominent, demonstrating a greater development in the air quality conversation.
To paraphrase from the document, under point 1.21, it states:
“In new buildings, the following types of occupiable room, unless they are rooms of the size described in paragraph 1.22, should have a means of monitoring the indoor air quality. This may be achieved using CO2 monitors or other means of measuring indoor air quality.”
The new requirements cover habitable spaces where large volumes of CO2 could be expelled or inhaled – offices, gyms, or rooms with low temperatures or humidity levels to name a few. Certain rooms may not be applicable due to their size, such as those under 50m² and over 320m² in floor area. With such regulations in place, facility managers must now have provision to monitor air quality within new builds.
However, moving forward those with a stake in building management need to consider introducing air monitoring measures wherever possible to improve the well-being and comfort of building occupants. This means not only extending the provisions to rooms not covered by the building regulation updates due to their size, but considering existing properties alongside new builds.
Occupant and Management Gain
Rather than seeing the implementation of air quality monitoring as an unwelcome cost and additional layer of complication for building management, it is important to recognise the benefits that can be reaped by all involved. The most prominent of these is the improved health and well-being of occupants within the property. By effectively measuring IAQ, an appropriate ventilation strategy can be actioned to circulate fresh air and remove bad pathogens, working to reduce sickness and improve comfort.
As equally important, from a commercial perspective, having such data from IAQ monitoring can ensure more efficient ventilation solutions can be designed and installed. In turn, this can reduce the energy consumption and carbon output of the building and improve its overall sustainable rating. Using this to benchmark a facility’s performance creates a marketable advantage that can lead to attracting more tenants or people to use your space.
Choosing an efficient monitor
When it comes to using an air monitor, as mentioned previously, there are key factors that should be considered to ensure the technology is performing efficiently. For instance, as set out in updated Part F of the building regulations, placement is paramount as they must be at breathing height to guarantee correct readings are gathered.
Likewise, it is important to recognise that an IAQ monitor’s key function is to measure the volume of CO2 in the air. However, CO2 is just one of many contaminants that can harm occupant health and productivity. PM1 and PM2.5, for example, can suspend in the air in the form of dust, dirt, aerosols and bacteria. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and naturally occurring gases, such as Radon, can also present risks of long- and short-term health effects, from eye and nose irritation through to lung cancer. In certain cases, where buildings reside in Radon affected areas, a bond agreement and testing must be carried out before the property can be sold. Using an IAQ monitor that can detect such VOCs and notify building controls could potentially mitigate this process.
With this in mind, our parent company, Elta Group, have partnered with air quality monitoring specialist Airthings to offer a device able to detect all of the contaminants above while measuring additional IAQ factors, such as temperature, humidity, light, noise and pressure. These products are now available through us here at Elta!
All data is presented on a highly informative dashboard as the system behind the monitors is often what determines whether collated data can be used or not. It’s best to seek systems that provide strong analytics to ensure information can be read and conclusions drawn, alongside monitors that alert users to irregular air quality for added safety.
Joining the air quality conversation
Ensuring the inclusion of efficient IAQ sensor technology within buildings, new build and retrofit, is the foundation to demonstrating change and addressing the need for compulsory air quality monitoring within the built sector. However, having good sensor technology, detecting bad IAQ and recognising its effects is just the start – results need to be acted on.
Elta Group are committed to supporting the development of the air quality conversation. Elta can assist in the design of regulation compliant air quality monitoring solutions to help facilities managers establish the quality of their indoor air. On top of this, we can then provide ventilation equipment and solutions unique to the specific case to increase the well-being and comfort of building occupants.
For more information about indoor air quality and Airthings, click here!