ATLANTA - Research on improving ventilation and IAQ in big box retail stores has begun under a research project awarded by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), funded with a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). According to ASHRAE, given that there are some 14.6 billion square feet of retail space in the United States where people shop up to 24/7, it is vital that ventilation systems operate as efficiently as possible while maintaining good IAQ.

Currently there is little published information about air quality and ventilation rates in retail spaces. Ventilation requirements for retail and other space types have been set largely by data for commercial office buildings.

The three-year project, “Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality in Retail Stores,” is one of 27 funded by NIST for measurement science and engineering research. ASHRAE awarded the project to principal investigator Jeffrey Siegel, Ph.D., at the University of Texas-Austin and co-investigator Jelena Srebric, Ph.D., at Pennsylvania State University. Siegel is an associate professor and J. Neils Thompson Centennial Teaching Fellow in Civil Engineering, Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering.

“We are working to develop a robust database of indoor air quality, ventilation, occupant surveys, and building measurements for the U.S. retail building stock,” Siegel said. “This database will be used to determine the relationship between ventilation rates, indoor air quality, and occupant satisfaction with a goal of recommending appropriate minimum ventilation rates for different categories and locations of retail establishments. This will help further the industry by improving the energy efficiency of ventilation systems in retail stores while maintaining air quality.”

The building measurements will take place in at least 16 buildings (general merchandise, department, supermarket, restaurant, and home improvement/hardware). Half of the buildings will be located in the hot and humid climate of central Texas, and the other half in the cold and dry climate of central Pennsylvania.

The results should provide a more rigorous basis for the ventilation rate requirements in retail spaces and provide incentives for improved maintenance, if it can be shown that well-maintained spaces lead to lower pollutant concentrations and improve the perception of good air quality.

The project, started in September, is slated to end in December 2012.

Publication date:12/06/2010