The expression Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the quality of air in indoor environments, a topic of utter importance to the health and well-being of the occupants in any building. In fact, poor air quality can lead to a variety of issues, ranging from headaches, asthma and concentration problems to allergies or even worse health problems.
Indoor environments can significantly increase exposure to air pollutants, whose concentration may even be higher than in outdoor environments, due to penetrating outdoor air, indoor pollution sources and lack of air exchange.
Considering that people usually spend almost 90% of their time indoor, and that indoor air quality can be 2 to 5 times worse than outdoor air, it is extremely important to take measures to ensure buildings’ occupants can always benefit from clean indoor air.
The role of mechanical ventilation
Among the most effective ways to improve indoor air quality there is mechanical ventilation.
Ventilation is the process of introducing clean and fresh outdoor air into a building and removing contaminated indoor air.
This can be achieved through different methods, including natural ventilation and mechanical ventilation, which is usually the most efficient and effective.
Mechanical systems can introduce properly filtered air from the external environment and simultaneously extracts the internal air, expelling it outside. This allows proper ventilation and air exchange in indoor environments, diluting or even removing the possible presence of bacteria, viruses, CO2, and other contaminants.
While doing that, mechanical ventilation systems can also ensure energy savings, thanks to heat recovery features, able to transfer heat and moisture from the airflow being extracted to the airflow being introduced in the premises.
These systems, besides being extremely effective in replacing exhaust air and ensuring high indoor air quality levels, also guarantee perfect thermal control, minimizing or avoiding thermal dissipation, then making the whole building more efficient as far as energy consumptions.
Other aspects that can be addressed with mechanical ventilation and can make indoor environments healthier are:
- air processing, which can help filtering out allergens and odours that are harmful to human health
- and humidification, which helps controlling humidity levels within a building. Very important as high humidity levels can lead to the growth of mold and other harmful microorganisms, which can also have negative impacts on human health.
Mechanical ventilation system design: things to consider
Good indoor air quality is vital for human health and well-being. While mechanical ventilation systems can be an effective solution to improve indoor air quality by introducing fresh outdoor air and removing pollutants, it is important to choose the right type of mechanical ventilation system for a particular building and to maintain it properly to ensure optimal efficiency.
When designing mechanical ventilation systems, no matter the building type (residential buildings, schools, office, commercial buildings, or light commercial buildings), meeting the cooling and heating demand of the facility, in the most energy efficient way possible, is very important. Air filtration and air exchange is equally important.
To ensure a comfortable and healthy environment in buildings of all sizes and types, ventilation systems need to be properly sized, so the right airflow and adequate air-exchange rate can be ensured.
There is a close correlation between ventilation-rate and how clean indoor air is, because the higher is the ventilation rate per hour in a room, the lower will be the pollutants concentration. The air exchange topic has been repeatedly brought up during the COVID-19 pandemic, when mechanical ventilation systems have been an important solution to ensure the health and safety of people.
Read more here about going back to attending indoor spaces safely
Another relevant aspect, not to be overlooked, is the level of air-filtration the ventilation system can provide, cleaning the outdoor airflow before it is introduced into an indoor environment. Since we do not want to introduce outdoor contaminants in indoor environments during the air exchange process, it is important that ventilation systems can adequately filter outdoor air, through the use of filters of the highest standards.
Besides design, there is also maintenance to consider, as those are crucial to ensure that the system operates effectively and efficiently. It is necessary to properly schedule cleaning and maintenance activities to ensure correct operations and reliability of the whole system. Regular cleaning and filter replacement are part of the activities that can help ensuring that the system is able to effectively remove pollutants and control humidity levels.
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