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How Facilities Can Improve Their Air Quality

As facilities managers continue to improve their buildings’ indoor air quality (IAQ), they should learn about the new American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 241; the different types of air-cleaning technologies and their costs; and their occupants’ needs.

Facilities Management Advisor had an educational session on August 17 as part of Healthy Buildings Week 2023 titled “ASHRAE Standards for Control of Infectious Aerosols: Improving Clean Airflow Rates,” presented by Larry Rothenberg, president of session sponsor Agentis Air.

Why Create a New IAQ Standard?

“During COVID, it was clear that the existing standards weren’t sufficient, and they relied mostly on increasing dilution from ventilation and increasing the MERV [Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value] rating of filters. While this was the standard way of doing things, it was clear that first of all, it had limited effectiveness. These two tools provided some reduction in transmission, but I think the general feeling was that we would like to do better,” Rothenberg explained, adding that the “ASHRAE put together this new standard that tends to resolve some of these issues.”

While organizations can continue to use increased ventilation and MERV filter ratings in their facilities, they should also look at other options.

What Is the New Standard?

Facilities managers should be sure their properties follow the new ASHRAE standard. This standard includes the following major provisions:

  1. Establishes an infection risk management mode (IRMM)—enhanced concern for IAQ during infection disease threats and wildfire smoke;
  2. Creates requirements for equivalent clean airflow rate—sets a flow rate by using a variety of technologies;
  3. Develops requirements for the use of filtration and air-cleaning technology—provides groundwork on how to clean air effectively and safely and in a budget-friendly way; and
  4. Planning and commissioning—establishes requirements to develop a building-readiness plan and procedures for commissioning systems to determine their performance.

To learn more about Standard 241, read “New ASHRAE Standard Covers Airborne Disease Mitigation in Buildings” on Facilities Management Advisor.

IAQ Technology

In order to achieve compliance, facilities managers will have to use IAQ technology.

“It’s pretty much impossible to reach your target clean air flow rates simply using your central HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system,” Rothenberg said.

Some of the IAQ technology Rothenberg mentioned included:

  1. Air cleaners: These remove small airborne particles from the air but should be combined with another method, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH).
  2. Air filters: These remove particles by capturing them on filter materials, such as when using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which can include portable units, the U.S. Department of Education says.
  3. Air purifiers: These capture dust, smoke, and other particles and sanitize the air, but the Mayo Clinic warns that “ozone air purifiers” that emit ozone can irritate the lungs.
  4. Air ionizers: These release invisible negative ions that attach to tiny particles, making them too heavy to stay in the air, so they fall onto surrounding surfaces that then have to be cleaned, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  5. Germicidal ultraviolet (UV): This uses UV energy to kill viral, bacterial, and fungal organisms, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.

Additionally, employers with hybrid office settings should invest in IAQ technologies that can be turned off when the office isn’t being used.

Occupant Needs

When determining IAQ, Rothenberg said facilities managers should keep in mind the type of facility they work in and the level of occupant exertion.

For example, they should have a higher-equivalent clean airflow rate in gyms and school classrooms than in warehouses and quiet office areas.

IAQ Costs

Facilities managers who are trying to determine a solution for their IAQ needs should weigh a variety of cost factors.

These include:

  • Initial cost of the system
  • Energy cost to run the system
  • Cost and frequency of maintenance and filters
  • Amount of particle pollutants that can be captured

Learn More

During the webinar, Rothenberg went into detail regarding the new ASHRAE Standard 241 and discussed target equivalent clean airflow rates, as well as advanced particle removal technology (APART).

To watch the entire webinar on demand for FREE, click here. Additionally, be sure to check out all the virtual events and resources as part of Facilities Management Advisor’s Healthy Buildings Week 2023.  

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