Indoor Air Quality

The air quality in any structure is of vital importance to the occupants of the building. Taking the time to properly assess and determine what a structure needs in terms of indoor air quality filtration systems is very important to the long-term use and life cycle of the building.

When it comes to actually determining what type of indoor air quality filtration system you need, enlisting the help of an MEP engineer is vital to project success. With their expertise, they will be able to effectively and efficiently assess and determine what is needed for the structure. there are a variety of ways to achieve indoor air quality that is livable. Nearby Engineers knows which direction to go in when it comes to designing and installing an indoor air quality filtration system.

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Indoor Air Quality

Understanding Indoor Air Quality

While it may seem simple to understand what indoor air quality is there are some nuances to it and ways to measure indoor air quality. As stated above, indoor air quality is impacted by naturally occurring elements, pollutants, vapors, and gases. These pollutants can be created by the occupants themselves, the processes that happen in the building, and other factors. Vapors and gases can occur when the ground beneath the structure after time.

According to the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) “indoor air quality Is the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Understanding and controlling common pollutants indoors can help reduce the risk of indoor health concerns for occupants.” They also state that “the four most dangerous indoor air pollutants in developed countries are cigarette smoke, formaldehyde, radioactive radon-222 gas, and very small fine and ultrafine particles.”

The EPA offers A variety of suggestions on how they believe you can improve indoor air quality and maintain acceptable indoor air quality over the life of the structure. Over time the soundness of the systems may lessen and you will need to continuously measure the air quality to ensure the safety of the occupants. If you will not be in contact with the owners, then providing this information with the owner’s manual at the time of startup will be recommended.

According to the EPA here a few ways to determine if there is a problem with your ventilation once the structure is built

  • moisture condensation on windows or walls
  • smelly or stuffy air
  • dirty central heating and air cooling equipment
  • and areas where books, shoes, or other items become moldy

It may also be necessary to test the air quality periodically. Occupants may exhibit health symptoms that aren’t immediately apparent that they are related to indoor air quality. Additionally, some health effects may show up right after exposure or only after repeated exposures. These are a few of the health effects that may be observed in occupants who are exposed to inferior air quality; difficulty breathing, skin reactions, lethargy, fatigue, brain fog, inability to focus. This is not an all-inclusive list.

Indoor air quality is impacted by a variety of naturally occurring elements, pollutants, vapors, and gases. These factors can have detrimental impacts on the occupants of the building and the physical assets that are located in the building.

Indoor Air Quality Systems

Indoor air quality filtration systems provide the infrastructure to filter outside and inside air and clean it for indoor consumption. These systems are generally used in applications such as clean room, hospitals, and labs that need air to maintain their internal systems. indoor air quality filtration systems are also used in residential homes and commercial buildings to ensure air quality is consistent and of good quality in the building four occupants.

The EPA is the go-to source for understanding your options for how to manage indoor air qiuality. They offer the most comprehensive research on the subject and can offer expert suggestions on how to accomplish decent air quality. The EPA currently recommends three distinct ways to improve air indoor air quality; management and removal of pollutant sources; utilizing HVAC ventilation to dilute contaminants, and utilizing filtration to clean the air. In addition to these methods, there are a number of other ways to implement an indoor air quality filtration system.

To ensure your air quality filtration system is going to work well here are a few things you will want to be aware of and monitor. These are directly recommended by the EPA:

  • Proper Equipment Sizing: HVAC filtration and ventilation equipment must be adjusted depending on the use of a particular space. For example, turning a storage space into offices would require the HVAC system to be modified.
  • Outdoor Air Cleaning: The location of air intake units, the filtration system’s efficiency, and the system’s ability to infiltrate enough air for dilution are all critical considerations.
  • Space Planning: Interior spaces can affect the HVAC system’s performance. For example, locating heat-generating equipment near HVAC units can cause misreadings.
  • Equipment Maintenance: Regularly cleaning and maintaining HVAC equipment is imperative for efficiency, preventing pollutant build-up and long-term performance.
  • Improperly installed windows: this can lead to air seeping in, thermal transfer, draftiness, water leakage and condensation. All of which can lead to poor air quality. Having properly installed windows will reduce the reliance on HVAC systems allow the structure to manage its own heat transfer.

How would a contractor go about purchasing or sourcing/sizing one?

The first step in sourcing and sizing, or designing, an indoor air quality filtration system is contacting an MEP engineer to work with you on the process. Once you have brought them onto your team they will need time to review the existing project plans including any mechanical, electrical, plumbing systems that could impact and or support the filtration system. They will be able to spot problems that could otherwise be missed by architects and other Construction team members.

The next step before actually selecting components for the filtration system will be to assess a number of factors that will impact the system and occupants. This is not an exhaustive or a complete list of all the things that will need to be assessed and considered as you design your filtration system.

  • Environmental factors
  • System load
  • Occupancy load
  • Building usage
  • Construction classification
  • Fire ratings
  • Access to required components
  • Project timeline
  • Project budget
  • Local building codes
  • Any other construction restrictions
  • Space allowed for the system within the structure
  • Access for future maintenance and ease-of-use
  • And more

This is just the beginning of what you will need to consider when designing and selecting an air quality filtration system for your project application.

What are some common applications used in Commercial Construction

Every building needs to have good air quality, however, there are instances where additional air quality measurements and screenings should be conducted routinely. These include applications like labs, hospitals, chemical plants, manufacturing, and other buildings where additional pollutants are released into the indoor air. Every application will need a custom approach to the indoor air quality filtration system design. Bringing on an MEP engineer early on in the design process will help streamline the design timeline and ultimately the project timeline. Their input and knowledge will be immensely helpful in designing a system that will adequately maintain EPA standard air quality.

Applications like laboratories tend to create more pollutants than the average commercial building application. For instance, an office building will produce far fewer pollutants in the interior air, than a full-fledged functioning laboratory. For this reason buildings with laboratories in them, we'll need to have extensive assessments and design consideration when it comes to the indoor air quality filtration system. Enlisting an MEP engineer is the recommended route to ensure your system will adequate adequately clean the air and maintain the quality required by the EPA. The pollutants that occur in laboratories are generally caused by the activities of the lab techs, testing, experimenting, and driving new chemical elements. They also come from the occupants themselves. In a lab setting, it will be vital to the safety of the occupants to routinely, more so than in a normal application, measure the quality of the air. In addition, routine maintenance and systems checks should be executed to maintain the efficiency and effectiveness of the air quality system.

In applications like hospitals, and indoor air quality filtration system could be the difference between life or death 4 the patients in the hospital. in areas like the emergency room or NICU, if it has one, these occupants are highly susceptible to airborne pollutants and chemicals. it will be imperative that the air quality filtration system adequately and efficiently filters the air for the occupants. With this in mind, it is highly recommended to enlist the help of an MEP engineer that specializes in air quality filtration systems for these applications. Checking with your engineering firm or in-house engineer that they have these specializations will be a way to streamline the selection process.

What can cause systems to fail

There are a variety of reasons why air quality systems can fail. REGARDLESS of the components, the maintenance schedule, the application, the occupants, and a variety of other factors these systems Rely On human input to maintain their functioning. This means that when systems fail not only do humans have to fix it, they may also be the cause of it. most system failures occur because something was missed, maintenance wasn't completed, or the manufacturing of a part was faulty. Other system failures occur because of build up from excessive pollutants that weren't accounted for in the initial design process. With this in mind, it is imperative that the design process for an indoor air quality filtration system is thorough, thoughtful, and intentional. Doing the work on the front end of the project will help avoid problems during the project and hopefully avoid failures in the system once the structure is completed. 

How can an MEP engineer help

A qualified MEP engineer can help you size and design your indoor air quality filtration equipment based on a number of factors. The engineer is required to have a certain level of construction and mechanical, electrical, Plumbing knowledge. they are also required to know and understand the load calculations necessary to size MEP equipment. there experience and knowledge gives them the basis to effectively and efficiently design your MEP equipment.

A local qualified MEP engineer will have knowledge and understanding of the local building codes and local governing bodies for the commercial construction industry. They are your expert boots on the ground in the mechanical, electrical, plumbing areas of your project. The MEP engineer is a vital component of your construction team and someone who you should use as a reliable resource. If your general contractor does not have an MEP engineer in-house, do your due diligence and find one that you work well with.

The MEP engineer will be able to review the plans you have drafted with your architect and with all of the information you have gathered on the size of equipment you think you need, they won't be able to determine your next steps and the direction you need to go. They may need to conduct additional or complementary research and inquiries to verify they are making the correct recommendation for the size of equipment for your application.

Calling on the experts like an MEP engineer will help your project succeed in the long run and help you to continue being profitable and efficient. Knowing when to call in an expert is a valuable skill to have. If you think you need an MEP engineer please take a moment to contact us and we would be happy to review your project information. We are pleased to serve the Chicago area and welcome local and out of state clients.

HVAC Systems For Indoor Environments

Much before the XIX century, we have been trying to realize how to implement technology on our day-to-day basis, but since then, we have started to talk more about the commodity for ourselves and for being more comfortable in our “common private spaces” and, upon that necessity, HVAC systems have appeared. Nowadays, we can control almost everything.

Even the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems use various fuel inputs, they can ensure the right temperature and the constant supply of fresh air for indoor environments. As the company we are, we maintain the airflow, humidity, temperature, and pressure of all the areas we have control on.

Based on the HVAC system, we can maintain temperature as we want. Many people choose the most regular one, which is 24 degrees. For reducing air infiltration, slight positive pressure is controlled. Humidity can be set between 30 to 60%. With this system, we make sure the airflow is continuous throughout the space and, consequently, ensuring that the intake of fresh air is sufficient.

HVAC Concept And Actions

We could say that it refers to the constant renovation and treatment of the air; and to confer to this last, health conditions. That is to say, conditions of purity, conditioning to obtain an air suitable for breathing, comfortable temperature, and humidity for people. Let’s have a look a little more in detail. HVAC includes the following actions:

  • Indoor air movement: It consists of distributing the air of refreshment coming from the outside to the interior, so no disturbing air currents are created for its occupants. The diffusion and circulation of the air in occupied interiors must be carefully conducted because excessive speeds are perceived as annoying by the occupants. The renovation of the interior air must be effective but “without being noticed”.
  • Cleaning: There is a growing concern about the quality of the air we breathe, hence the use of filters to retain suspended particles. It consists in filtering the air to eliminate pollen, pollen, dust, etc. Eliminates all types of solid particles suspended in the air.
  • Dehumidification / Humidification: For an interior to stay comfortable, the humidity in the air increases or decreases. For example, in the case of heating very cold air, it could be humidified to reduce the sensation of dryness. Conversely, in overcrowded interiors or with high humidity, it can be reduced by cooling the air, thickening part of its humidity and heating it until it reaches the ideal temperature.
  • Ventilation: Renews the air from a closed environment, providing air from the outside, keeping the polluted gases in healthy or non-harmful levels, assuring quality.
  • In this process to increase the temperature, heat is added to the air. Our most efficient systems recover the heat of the extraction air to heat the supply air since the only energy consumption is from the two fan motors; of extraction and impulsion.
  • Cooling: Its function is to subtract heat from the air by lowering the temperature to the desired levels. The most used and efficient systems are using a compressor to compress a gas into a liquid state and expand it by removing heat from the air that flows through it. Energetically speaking, the most efficient system nebulizes water droplets in the air stream that, when evaporated, these drops cool the air sensibly.

To conclude this summary, we can say that the heaters/air conditioners are a product of the HVAC (Heating, ventilation and air conditioning) industry and as part of it; we have the best professionals in the field.

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