Indoor Environmental Quality

It is not enough to be environmentally sustainable... comfortable and healthy building occupants are an equally important component of sustainable work and life.

A green building should really take a whole building approach when designing and implementing technologies and techniques. It is not enough to be environmentally sustainable, comfortable and healthy occupants are an equally important component of sustainable living. A building that uses low emitting materials, increases ventilation, has air monitoring, and efficient HVAC systems is better poised to achieve better indoor air quality and access to daylight and views. In order to achieve these goals, green building professionals will consider Green Cleaning, Indoor Air Quality Testing, Interior Design, Carpeting, Flooring, Furniture, Daylighting Systems, Lighting Controls, Low Emitting Paints and Sealants, and Wall Paper.

Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance

For occupant health, it is important to support indoor air quality in buildings. At a minimum, it is important to meet the requirements for ASHRAE 62.1 Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality. This requirement uses the buildings venting system to contribute to the comfort and well-being of building occupants by establishing minimum standards for indoor air quality.

Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control

Part of indoor environmental quality is the exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. In states that do not prohibit smoking indoors, the LEED rating systems prevents exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. This can be achieved by prohibiting smoking in the building, designating smoking rooms, or prohibit smoking in common areas. States that have statewide bans on smoking in all enclosed public places include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin.

Outdoor Air Delivery Monitoring

Monitoring is a large part of ensuring indoor environmental quality. It can also help to improve occupant comfort and well-being. The intent of outdoor air delivery monitoring is to ensure that air in the breathing zone, about 3-6 feet above the floor, is safe and carbon dioxide free.

Increased Ventilation

Increased ventilation goes above and beyond minimum indoor air quality performance requirements. The goal is to prevent exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. This can be done in two ways, through mechanical ventilation or natural ventilation. To achieve increased ventilation mechanically, the building must exceed ASHRAE 62.1 Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality by 30%. Alternatively, using design steps from the Carbon Trust Good Practice Guide can achieve the same goal through natural ventilation.

Construction Indoor Air Quality Management Plan- During Construction and Before Occupancy

The construction and renovation process creates a lot of particulate matter and poor indoor air quality. It is important to protect the people who occupy the building during construction by meeting or exceeding the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning National Contractors Association Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for Occupied Buildings Under Construction, protect absorptive materials from moisture damage, use MERV8 Filters per ASHRAE Standard 52.2.

Once construction has been completed, but before occupancy, the building’s indoor air quality should be improved or tested. Flushing out the building with 14,000 cubic feet of air per square foot at constant temperature and humidity is one option for building occupant well being. Another option is to conduct an Indoor Air Quality test per the EPA Compendium of Methods for the Determination of Air Pollutants in Indoor Air.

Low Emitting Materials

Many adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, carpets, flooring systems, composite wood, and agrifiber emit volatile organic compounds. Although all of these materials are necessary in buildings, someone them can contaminate indoor air. Controlling low emitting materials can reduce the quantity of volatile organic compounds in indoor air. These materials must comply with standards like South Coast Air Quality Management District, Green Seal, Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Plus, Green Label, and FloorScore Standard. Also wood products must contain no added urea formaldehyde. All of these standards help to protect occupants from volatile organic compounds.

Indoor Chemical and Pollutant Source Control

Buildings should function as a safe haven, protecting occupants from exposure to potentially hazardous particulates and chemical pollutants. To achieve healthy indoor air quality and minimize and control entry of pollutants into buildings three techniques should be employed. A permanent entryway systems of at least 10 feet long to capture dirt and particulates entering the building at regularly used exterior entryways. Acceptable systems include permanently installed grates, grills, and slotted systems that allow for cleaning underneath. Also, use of exhaust systems to create negative pressure in spaces where hazardous chemicals or gases are used is another way of protecting occupants from indoor air pollution health problems. The final step in mechanically ventilated buildings is to use MERV 13 filters in accordance with ASHRAE Standard 52.2.

Controllability of Systems- Lighting and Thermal Comfort

Occupant productivity, comfort, and well-being can simply come from the controllability of lighting and thermal systems. Light has a profound impact on people physically, physiologically, psychologically, and on their overall performance. Individual lighting controls for occupants in independent areas as well as multi-occupant spaces can increase worker performance. Likewise, the unpleasant sensation of being too hot or too cold can distract people from their work and disturb their well-being. Individual thermal controls help to relieve this problem.

Thermal Comfort- Design and Verification

Also, to achieve thermal comfort, a building must have an HVAC system that is designed to run efficiently. To achieve thermal comfort design, the HVAC systems and building envelope must meet ASHRAE Standard 55-2004 Thermal Comfort Conditions for Human Occupancy. Even if a building meets the ASHRAE Standard, it is important to confirm that the building is achieving occupant thermal comfort. After 6 to 18 months of occupancy, surveying the thermal comfort of occupants and taking corrective action if occupants are not comfortable will ensure building occupants are productive and well-being.

Daylight and Views

In order to connect occupants with the outdoors, providing occupants with daylighting and views can provide occupant productivity. Environmental biologists theorize that windows that admit daylight and provide ample and pleasant view can dramatically affect mental alertness, productivity, and psychological wellbeing. Contact with natural daylight promotes circadian stimulation, regulating physical and mental function through our natural responses to the rhythms of light. Circadian dysfunction can even cause cardiovascular problems, immune dysfunction, cognitive and functional deterioration, and depression. Also, exposure to full spectrum sunlight enables the synthesis of vitamin D which promotes nerve and muscle function, as well as cell growth regulation. Exposure to daylight has been linked to better production of melatonin, controlling sleep cycles, which allows people to achieve higher levels of concentration and better short-term memory recall. Suffice it to say that exposure to daylight has better outcomes for worker performance.

: 650-746-4261