Internal Air Quality And Sustainability

At the end of 2021, the UK government announced it’s Net Zero Strategy, which outlines how the UK will reach its commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. Part of this is a Heat and Buildings strategy, in recognition that decarbonising both homes and commercial, industrial and public sector buildings is a large part of reaching that target.

You may be wondering what this has to do with air quality within our buildings. Progress on lowering emissions, like all complex global challenges, is dependent on many different streams of activity and air quality is part of the challenge.

Internal air quality monitoring can contribute to a strategy for improving energy efficiency in commercial & public buildings. At the same time, internal air quality monitoring is still an essential part of firstly protecting the health of building users and secondly giving them conditions for optimal productivity.

South Coast Science has been in discussion with leading engineering and environmental consultancies on these topics and it’s products are designed to be part of a joined-up solution for air quality, health and sustainability.

Use IAQ monitoring to optimise ventilation

Appropriate ventilation for offices, industrial sites and public buildings is an important part of managing internal air quality. Ventilation also affects the amount of energy needed to heat or cool the air, in order to maintain a comfortable temperature for building users.

Any time air is removed by a ventilation system, it must be replaced. Heating or cooling the replacement air to the required temperature uses extra energy and when the ventilation system is operating, it can significantly increase energy expenditure and also costs.

Is your ventilation system only operating when it’s needed? With a robust internal air quality monitoring programme, it’s possible to understand when and where in the building ventilation is needed.

Establish a baseline for IAQ through intelligent monitoring

For an internal air quality monitoring deployment to give data you can use to inform building ventilation (and other air quality interventions) it must do several things:

  • gather data in real-time
  • provide robust data
  • provide data from many different locations in the building
  • monitor outdoor air at HVAC inlets, entrance/exit etc

Monitoring outdoor air quality is vitally important for working with the building’s HVAC system. Knowing air pollutant levels inside the building isn’t enough, it is important to know if the air coming into the building will reduce or increase pollutant levels.

Traffic exhaust, for example, might be drawn in through the HVAC inlet during rush hour. Where are loading bays and drop-off points located, as these may both have an effect? It would be both energy efficient and better for indoor air quality to reduce building ventilation during the rush hour and/or when loading bays are in use.

A network of instruments that monitor outdoor and indoor air quality in real-time can provide building managers with a baseline and knowledge of how air quality is affected by occupancy, use of the HVAC system, and many other factors. Use this to create an effective implementation plan for both air quality and energy efficiency with regard to building ventilation.

Most newer buildings already meet high HVAC monitoring standards. It would only take the addition of a properly executed air quality sensor network to demonstrate that the internal air is healthy and suitable for long-term occupation. If workers are reassured that the workplace meets safety standards, this can have an immediate impact by allowing increased rental costs.

Strive for sustainability with devices built to last

Actions mean very little without robust evaluation, so you need to keep monitoring to know which interventions are working and if your targets or standards for air quality are being met. Once you start monitoring, you need to continue and the longevity of your devices matters.

Through consultation with partners, including a leading global engineering consultancy, South Coast Science learned that many air quality monitoring products are treated as disposable, posing a problem for advocates of the circular economy. What if the rate of device replacement undoes any energy and cost savings through optimising building ventilation?

The simple answer is to build devices meant to last, where individual sensors can be replaced easily and cost-effectively. Following it’s ethos of minimal maintenance and utilitarian design, South Coast Science has made this a core feature of its internal air quality monitoring product. The device housing and other components of the Praxis/IAQ have been built to far outlast individual sensor lifetimes, reducing electrical waste and conforming to WEEE.

Praxis/IAQ: new product in development

South Coast Science is currently developing the Praxis/IAQ, which has been developed in consultation with a global environmental consultancy and facility management experts.

The Praxis/IAQ uses the same sensor technology and data interpretation models as the Praxis/Urban and Praxis/OPCube (for outdoor air quality). Monitoring data is sent directly to the cloud: the South Coast Science open source infrastructure makes it easy to integrate with existing customer building infrastructure.

Following the efforts to create legislation (both nationally and globally) for outdoor air quality, it’s anticipated that indoor air quality will come under increasing scrutiny. To talk with us about indoor or outdoor air quality monitoring please contact David Johnson.

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