There are several ways to improve indoor air quality in commercial office buildings. These quick tips can help improve your building’s indoor air quality without breaking the bank.
1. Eliminate Sources of Pollution
Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles are a top cause of indoor air quality problems, according to the EPA. Some of these sources of pollution can include:
Building insulation that contains asbestos.
New flooring or upholstery installations
Cabinets or other fixtures made from pressed wood.
Certain cleaning products
Poorly maintained HVAC systems
Identifying and eliminating pollutant sources can be a low-cost way to improve indoor air quality in commercial office buildings.
2. Improve Your Building’s Ventilation
An air handling unit, or AHU, is HVAC equipment designed to regulate and circulate air throughout a space. Most air handling units distribute a blend of outdoor air and recirculated indoor air. The amount of outdoor air considered adequate for proper ventilation varies over time. That’s why it’s important to keep up with current CDC and ASHRAE standards.
Some ways the CDC has identified to improve ventilation include:
Open outdoor air dampers beyond minimum settings to reduce or eliminate HVAC air recirculation.
When weather allows, open windows and doors to increase outdoor air flow.
Rebalance or adjust HVAC systems to increase total air flow.
Turn off any demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) controls that reduce air supply based on occupancy or temperature during occupied hours.
Run the HVAC system at maximum outside air flow for two hours before and after the building is occupied.
3. Focus on Thermal Comfort
ASHRAE Standard 55-1981 outlines the temperature and humidity ranges that are comfortable for most people engaged in largely sedentary activities, such as in a commercial office building.
The CDC gives some insight, “When the heating and cooling needs of rooms within a single zone change at different rates, rooms that are served by a single thermostat may be at different temperatures. If air is not properly mixed by the ventilation system, the temperature near the ceiling can be several degrees warmer than at floor level. Even if air is properly mixed, uninsulated floors over unheated spaces can create discomfort in some climate zones.”
4. Maintain Your HVAC System
Increased ventilation and air filtration has been proven to improve indoor air quality in commercial office buildings and greatly reduce the risk of virus transmission indoors. A well-managed HVAC system is critical.
Your specific HVAC maintenance program will depend on the system’s age, condition, size, brand, and frequency of use. But there are a few universal tips property managers can use to optimize their HVAC systems without breaking the bank. For instance, if your unit is older (the average lifespan of a commercial HVAC unit is 15-20 years with proper maintenance), consider replacement. Otherwise, investigate smaller-scale upgrades and have a preventative maintenance program in place.
Additionally, regularly maintaining your ductwork is crucial to prevent dust, mold, pollen, and pest debris. If air ducts are neglected, these agents can accumulate to the point where they start to re-enter your building’s air.