As the new year marches on, COVID-19 is still in the headlines and at the forefront of our minds. Since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic, we’ve begun to pay closer attention to the quality of the air we breathe, indoors and out. Certainly, the vaccination programme signals a return to “normal” life, but assuring people buildings are healthy and safe will be key to enticing them back to workplaces and public spaces.
Moreover, this strategy is key to a sustainability strategy for healthy buildings. This is why today, on Earth Day, we’re discussing how pollution affects indoor air quality and what we can do to ensure ventilation systems aren’t contributing to the problem we’re trying to fix. Let’s take a closer look.
The link between healthy indoor air and outdoor air
Outdoor pollution has a significant impact on indoor air quality. It is vitally important that we work to reduce air pollution, as currently, research suggests that contamination from power plants and vehicles caused 8.7 million deaths in 2018 alone. For scale, that’s almost three times as many deaths as COVID-19 has caused, at the time of writing.
But what does this have to do with ventilation systems? Surely they’re there to ensure the air is fresh? The fact is, the majority of ventilation systems operate like the human body – they draw in air and remove it according to the volume, speed, and rate of exchange by the mechanical or natural system. As such, ventilation systems bring outdoor air in. According to a study conducted by the WELL Building Institute, 65% of exposure to air pollution occurs inside – which is a staggering statistic.
The consequences of poor indoor air quality
Poor indoor air quality is comprised of several elements, the most concerning being particulate matter. Particulate matter is a mixture of tiny solid particles and liquid droplets. Inhaling particulate matter can lead to various health problems, from respiratory illnesses including COVID-19 to poor immunity.
Poor indoor air quality can also affect our energy levels and general well-being. In a study conducted in California, researchers found that student attendance and performance fell in poorly ventilated classrooms. Equally, the WELL Building Institute found that poor air quality in workplaces reduced employee productivity by 10%.
Ensuring healthy indoor air for all
To create healthier, more sustainable buildings, we need to factor in the indoor air quality at the design stage. This means using sustainable solutions for ducts, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for new constructions and renovations. This is because poorly designed HVAC systems can get mouldy, generating dangerous particulate matter.
To enhance indoor air safety, organisations can should look into air purifiers. These units – such as those offered by Rejuvenair – filter the air circulated by the HVAC system. With UVC technology, these purifiers kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria in the air. Used in conjunction with HVAC systems, these purifiers can extend the life and efficiency of systems as mould and other particulate matter can’t accumulate.
Moreover, the frequency of the UCV light means the unit doesn’t produce ozone, ensuring it doesn’t worsen the problem it’s trying to counteract. Together, these elements make for a more hygienic and efficient system – for cleaner air and a cleaner planet.