Few people are aware that levels of many indoor air pollutants can be several times higher than the levels outside. As a result, building occupants frequently inhale about 30 pounds of air each day (but only drink about four pounds of water and eat about two pounds of food). Oddly enough, most people worry much more about the quality of the water they drink and the food they eat than the air they breathe.
Over the last several decades, much progress has been made towards improving air quality outdoors. During this same time, there hasn’t been as much attention on indoor air. In fact, things may actually be worse, as new contaminants are introduced into the indoor environment, and often–time a lack of maintenance leads to lower ventilation rates.
Buildings are expected to fulfill a variety of requirements as defined by their intended function and by applicable codes and standards. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is typically addressed through compliance with minimum code requirements, which are based on industry consensus standards such as ASHRAE Standard 62.1, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality. Yet, IAQ affects occupant health, comfort, productivity, and in some cases even building usability, all of which can have significant economic impacts for owners, facility managers (fms), and building occupants.
IAQ Compromises Can Be Risky Business
While facility owners and managers may recognize the importance of IAQ, they often do not appreciate how routine design, construction, and operation decisions can result in IAQ problems. Additionally, they may assume that achieving a high level of IAQ is associated with premium costs and novel or even risky technical solutions. In other cases, they may employ individual measures thought to provide good IAQ, such as increased outdoor air ventilation rates or specification of lower-emitting materials, without a sound understanding of the actual impacts of these measures or a systematic assessment of IAQ priorities.