June 2, 2019: When most people think of air quality, they think of city smog and the pesky pollen during the change of seasons. Rarely do we think about the importance of indoor air quality.
The average person spends 90% of their time indoors. Yet, most people equate air quality with outdoor air quality. While outdoor air quality is extremely important, we also need to be aware of indoor air quality, and its impact on our daily lives.
Indoor air quality can be improved through energy retrofits and energy efficiency.
What is an Energy Retrofit?
Energy retrofits are upgrades to a building’s energy-consuming systems. Energy retrofits can include a variety of energy improvements ranging from minimal, low-cost measures/modifications (such as upgrading lighting and windows) to complete renovations with replacements of major systems (i.e. ventilation systems and HVAC systems).
Energy retrofits, even minimal changes, can result in savings of up to 50 percent. Examples include replacing Examples of energy retrofits include the following:
– Improvements to HVAC system (heating and cooling systems)
– Upgrading ventilation systems
– Enhancing building sensors
– Upgrading lighting
– Upgrading insulation
– And more
What is Air Pollution
HVAC systems (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) account for 40% of the world’s carbon emissions. With this much energy devoted to one system, property owners tend to focus on how they can lower HVAC usage to decrease their overall energy consumption and costs.
When a building is airtight, it becomes energy efficient because the air does not escape. On the other hand, the existing air remains inside the building. Over time, this air can become tainted with undesirable contaminants ranging from dust and paints to cleaning supplies, and/or other materials (commonly referred to as “sick building syndrome”).
The healthiest, most efficient buildings concentrate on balancing indoor air quality with energy efficiency through proper ventilation and air exchanges.
The Benefits of Exceptional Air Quality
Exceptional air quality goes beyond creating an enjoyable indoor environment. According to MDPI, “good indoor air quality (IAQ) is beneficial for human health and performance. Potential benefits of improved air quality include lower healthcare costs, reduced sick leaves of occupants, better performance in work, and lower turnover rates in employees.”
In particular, indoor air quality has a significant impact on productivity. After an energy retrofit, buildings are not only more energy efficient, but they also promote improved health, comfort, and wellbeing. A recent Harvard School of Public Health study compared average buildings to energy-efficient buildings with retrofitted ventilation.
Through the course of the study, researchers monitored air pollutants in each building and had participants perform identical tasks and activities to test cognitive ability (isolating indoor environment as the variable). The results were staggering!
The study showed individuals working in the energy efficient buildings experienced the largest improvements in the following areas:
– Crisis response (131% higher)
– Strategy (288% higher)
– Information usage (299% higher)
Poor indoor air quality can lead to a number of health concerns, including respiratory disease, allergies, and cardiovascular disease. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) is actively addressing air pollution. Worldwide, stating that “a third of cardiovascular diseases can be linked to indoor and outdoor pollution while 29% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease deaths are directly tied to poor indoor air quality.”
One of the most common ambitions for building owners is to become LEED certified. LEED certification ensures commercial construction meets modern building standards (including energy efficiency). LEED standards look at how buildings are fueled as well as water efficiency and indoor air quality.
When it comes to cutting emissions, most building owners focus is on external sources of air pollution. However, it’s also imperative for residential and commercial buildings to become more energy efficient. Improving indoor air quality will have an equally significant impact on occupant health and the global environment.
At Taka, we conduct bespoke energy consulting solutions for every stage of a building’s life cycle. From your initial energy audit through design, construction, and operations, we are here to support your goal of creating a smart, energy-efficient building. Our energy retrofits are designed to ensure your building is performing at its maximum potential.
Contact a member of our team to schedule your building consultation today.