Tackling Building IAQ Is a Complex Problem

February 16, 2001
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ATLANTA, GA — The ASHRAE forum, “Gaseous Contaminants and Removal Equipment — Improving IAQ in Buildings,” explored a range of issues regarding effective contaminant removal to maintain indoor air quality.

What are the important issues, the audience was asked. A filter company representative said odors and health. We have carbon, he stated, “but users say it’s expensive, messy, and not user friendly.”

Another issue to consider, said an engineer, is how to adapt chemical removal equipment to the hvac system.

“There are quite a lot of products out there to remove contaminants,” a user remarked. “We need more information to sort them out.”

“There are hundreds of chemicals in this room that you might want to control,” an engineer noted. To measure all these “is an extraordinarily complex problem.”

An IAQ specialist stated that trying to get from “I smell something that stinks” to “What is that chemical?” is difficult. We need to be able to identify the chemical to know how to take it out.

It Stinks; No It Doesn’t

Perception is the problem, another engineer said. “You smell it, it stinks. He smells it, it doesn’t. And I don’t smell anything. How do you deal with this?”

The contaminant may be local and you need source removal, said another, or it may be in the central system so you need system control.

The consensus was that we need better detection methods to develop better removal equipment.

The question was posed, “Do we need a list of chemicals with the suggested removal equipment for each?”

Two engineers both responded to that question with another question: How much detail can you reasonably provide on the long list of chemicals that must be considered and what about cost issues?

A filtration representative contended, “Sometimes it’s more economical to trash the building than to solve the problem.”

You can end up with a list of chemicals present in the building that’s five pages long, he continued. “Now what do I do? Which one is causing the problem?”

And if we shoot at removing a particular chemical, how does that affect removal of other contaminants, another asked.

There is not much case information on this, an engineer pointed out. Such information is needed.

Summing up this session, the moderator noted that there are a lot of issues in the IAQ arena that need further discussion.

Publication date: 02/19/2001

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