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The comfort and wellbeing of occupants in commercial buildings is now in focus more than ever before. We are not just considering energy efficiency when it comes to the Building Management System (BMS) it is also about Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and how it can improve comfort.
By: Simon Ward, Director of Sales, UK & Ireland – Distech Controls
Concern about the quality of the indoor environment is not something new. Many industry professionals have heard about Sick Building Syndrome and its effects on the occupants of buildings. The term "Sick Building Syndrome" was created by the World Health Organisation (WHO) back in 1986, when they estimated that 10-30% of newly built office buildings in the Western portion of the world had indoor air problems. Since then building and facility managers have been using the BMS to monitor and control our indoor air quality much more closely.
However, the new philosophy of wellbeing in the workplace, which is defined as caring for occupants' physical health, mental health and social aspects of the work environment, has created a new demand for improved air quality within a building. This has been driven by a realisation from the senior management of office-based businesses that improvements in the quality of the workplaces can make a significant difference to their employees' productivity. The ability to attract and retain the best talent, which has a direct impact on the business' profitability is also tied to occupants' perceived quality of their workplaces. As an organisation's workforce is their most important asset, any improvement in productivity and employee retention can have just as big an effect on the bottom line as energy savings or improvements in maintenance efficiency.
Two years ago, BESA (Building Engineering Services Association) formed an IAQ Action Group with the aim to provide clearer technical guidance for members and the industry on this important topic and also to raise awareness at government level, with the general public, and across the sector. At the end of last year, BESA launched its 'Building Safe Havens' campaign aimed at promoting the concept of indoor clean air zones that protect occupants from the worst impacts of air pollution. It followed the UK Government's proposed Environment Bill, which had a clear focus on air quality but BESA's campaign was designed to be “bold” and calls on the Government to make measuring and monitoring of IAQ mandatory.
There are European regulations in place to ensure IAQ and air ventilation in commercial buildings are considered appropriately by building owners and facility managers. EN 15251 specifies the indoor environmental parameters which have an impact on the energy performance of buildings. Whilst EN 13779 applies to the design and implementation of ventilation and room conditioning systems for non-residential buildings subject to human occupancy, excluding applications like those used in industrial processes. These standards were created specifically to focus on designing systems by businesses, building managers, consulting engineers and architects to bring fresh air into buildings to improve occupant's comfort, well-being and productivity. These campaigns and regulations will help ensure that IAQ is at the forefront of people's minds when it comes to designing and operating commercial buildings.
One solution that can aid in establishing the right IAQ and ensure that HVAC equipment is installed and operating as effectively and efficiently as possible is utilising a control system. As an example, an effective HVAC system will ensure that the air circulating around the building is suitable for all building occupants. A variable air volume (VAV) system offers more precise temperature control and lower energy consumption than a constant air volume (CAV) system, which can be ideal in this situation to provide suitable air circulation. Controls are an important element in guaranteeing the air flow is circulating as it should for occupant comfort and wellbeing, as well as providing energy savings. A controller such as the Distech Controls ECLYPSE Connected VAV Controller series is designed to control any VAV box and is an all-in-one solution for fresh air renewal and demand-controlled ventilation. The VAV Controller is ready for install and use “out of the box” and users can simplify fresh air flow monitoring with embedded ENVYSION graphics, web-based design and visualisation interface. It virtually eliminates engineering, programming and graphics development, increasing time efficiency by over 25% from the design, installation and commissioning process. As part of the ECLYPSE Connected IP and Wi-Fi product series, these controllers were also developed to use standard web services protocols, facilitating data exchange and providing unique opportunities for value added services.
A control system also gives you the opportunity to place control in the hands of the occupants and allow them to manage their own comfort and wellbeing by changing the temperature, air conditioning or even lighting within a space to suit their own requirements and maintain a comfortable working environment. In this new world of connectivity and the IoT, building occupants have also come to expect they can have more control over their comfort and wellbeing using apps and devices. Studies have demonstrated an increase in employee productivity of an additional 9%, when occupants were provided with control over their environmental settings. For instance, the Distech Controls Connected VAV Controllers support the company's Smart Room Control solution, a unified system for the control of HVAC room terminal equipment, lighting, and shades/sunblind.
IAQ should be at the top of the agenda when designing and operating buildings. We need spaces that improve the health and wellbeing of occupants, as this is now just as important as creating energy efficient buildings. To learn more about solutions for your building or for a consultation, please contact us by filling in the form.