Indoor air quality
Why and how to take action?
Why and how to take action?
Driven by the health crisis, the need for Indoor Air Quality analysis has increased tremendously in the past few months.
However, preventing the spread of COVID19 is not the only reason why building managers and owners are interested in this subject.
Whether it is to meet legal obligations, health issues, or economic issues, all buildings are now subject to the analysis of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ).
In this article, we offer a focus on the main aspects of indoor air quality and on the actions needed to be taken to improve it.
In 2013, the Ministries of Environment and Health launched an Action Plan on Indoor Air Quality. The subsequent law made it mandatory to monitor air quality in certain establishments receiving a sensitive public:
For collective childcare facilities for children under 6 years of age.
For secondary schools and children’s activity centers.
For all other establishments receiving the public (ERP).
A 2-step process:
“In closed rooms with non-specific pollution, where employees are required to stay, the air is renewed in such a way as to maintain a state of purity of the atmosphere capable of preserving the health of the workers, avoiding exaggerated temperature rises, unpleasant odors and condensation.”
A minimum incoming flow of fresh air per occupant must be respected (article R. 4222-6).
Depending on the duration and intensity of exposure, poor air quality will have more or less harmful effects on health.
In the most serious cases, a distinction is made between:
However, in the most of the cases, exposure to unhealthy air may cause:
Although some of these symptoms may be relatively benign, they have a real and significant impact on the quality of life inside the building. Air that is too hot, too dry, too polluted… will create a real feeling of unease among the people present in the building.
More and more studies also show that poor air quality will have a lasting effect on concentration.
Employees or schoolchildren who work in unhealthy air are more likely to lose attention and thus to lose productivity or learning capacity. They will also be absent from work more often because they feel unwell. Studies have shown that working in unhealthy air can lead to a productivity drop of up to 15%.
A recent European study on 800 pupils in 8 schools also linked it to reduced concentration and performance at school¹.
¹Myhrvold, A.N., E.Olsen, et al., Environnement intérieur des écoles – Santé et performance des élèves au regard des concentrations en CO2
Monitoring air, temperature and humidity will also have consequences for the life on the building. Too much humidity in a building will lead to the development of mould and will therefore damage the building. Ensuring good air quality therefore helps to maintain the value of the building.
Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Pollutant from human breathing. Can generate a feeling of confinement (need to open windows).
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Gases and pollutants released by furniture and building materials in the building. Can cause discomfort.
Fine particles (PM1, PM2.5, PM10)
Dusts mainly from outside. Can be inhaled through the respiratory tract.
Thermal comfort (temperature and humidity)
Air that is too dry promotes the volatility of particles and dries out mucous membranes and eyes. Air that is too humid favours the development of moulds and dust mites.
In general, monitoring outdoor air quality forecasts is also recommended to adapt ventilation and aeration periods.
In order to assess indoor air quality (IAQ), the first thing to do is to implement solutions to measure the concentration level of the different pollutants and components presented above.
It is therefore necessary to set up sensors to monitor:
Once the data has been collected, the important thing is to know how to read it. For this purpose, there are indicators, such as ICONE and TAIL, which combine the data collected by these sensors and give a clear and understandable indication of the air quality level.
Daily room containment level (CO2).
User comfort (temperature, humidity, CO2, PM2.5 and light levels).
Anticipate maintenance or increase reactivity in case of breakdown.
Anticipate filter maintenance.
Ensure that ventilation systems are working properly
Controlling indoor temperature and humidity
Renewing the indoor air is THE solution to eliminate many of the pollutants present in a room.
Renewing the indoor air also helps to avoid the problems of moisture concentration and condensation, which deteriorate buildings.
For buildings which have a ventilation system, it is therefore essential to ensure that it is working properly. In order to be effective, the operation of these systems must be adapted to the actual use of the building.
Indeed, a higher air renewal than necessary would lead to an excessive demand of energy consumption.
Controlling the operation of the ventilation system and adapting its use will therefore allow for better and lower consumption.
When we know that Air Conditioning-Ventilation-Heating and Refrigeration equipments are the most energy consuming technical systems, we understand that these questions are of interest to many building managers. And then again, the legislative framework is pushing in that direction with the application of the tertiary sector decrees and BACS decrees relating to the implementation of concrete actions to reduce energy consumption in French tertiary buildings.
IoT sensors are one of the solutions for monitoring air quality in buildings. Smart Building solutions offer the possibility to monitor risks related to indoor air quality in buildings in real time and thus to