IAQ problems don’t exist just in homes. In fact, there is an increasing awareness about the importance of IAQ among not only commercial building owners and facility managers but also non-industry professionals as well. IAQ product sales are on the rise. According to a report from BCC Research, the U.S. IAQ market is forecast to grow to $10.8 billion by 2021, increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.3 percent from 2016 to 2021.
EYES WIDE OPEN
“One of the biggest trends we’re seeing is customers are becoming more cognizant of IAQ,” said Dave Binz, application engineering manager, Cambridge Engineering Inc. “Years ago, engineers and facility managers figured that MERV-13 filters were high performing. Now, there’s much more sophistication — it’s not just about high filtration, it’s about better understanding IAQ, humidity, and temperature controls, and there is more focus on how ventilation systems play into IAQ.
“Energy efficiency has always been more ahead of the curve than IAQ,” he continued. “So 10-20 years ago, people were looking at energy efficiency and kind of put IAQ on the back burner. A lot of commercial clients would scale back some ventilation to lower their energy usage. Now, we’re seeing customers are much more focused on providing more ventilation because of its impact on IAQ. And in some cases, we have clients who want to have better IAQ, better ventilation, and lower energy efficiency, and I think there’s more of a factor on how those two play together.”
Binz said IAQ products are definitely in high demand in the commercial market.
“Just last month, the Harvard Business Review did a study and released a paper on the impact of ventilation rates and IAQ and how it affects productivity,” Binz noted. “So, business leaders outside of our [HVAC] industry are becoming more cognizant of IAQ and what it means for productivity. I think we’re going to see business owners begin to have more of a say in terms of what IAQ means for their facilities. It’s not just the building owners’ and facility managers’ responsibility anymore.”
Dennis Mueller, engineering section manager for commercial products, Modine Mfg. Co., agreed.
“We are seeing a significant increase in the sales of dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS) and high percentage outside air systems (HOAS) for handling building ventilation load,” he said. “Increased ventilation rates have created higher sensible and latent cooling loads in buildings and have accelerated the use of DOAS and HOAS units to assist in dehumidifying and tempering the ventilation air. DOAS and HOAS units are designed to efficiently condition large percentages of outdoor air. This allows the building terminal units to be more effective as they only need to handle the sensible load. By decoupling the latent load, the overall design is much more efficient.”
Daniel Jones, president of UV Resources, said IAQ continues to be an area of concern for building operators and owners.
“Relative to the UV-C [ultraviolet-C] commercial market, there is an upwardly trending interest and use of UV-C,” he said. “Once primarily used in healthcare facilities, commercial building operators have become more and more aware that UV-C in their HVACR systems can deliver on both fronts — that is maintaining and/or returning HVACR efficiency via the increased heat transfer of constantly clean coils to improve IAQ by eliminating any type of biologicals in the systems, thereby reducing their spread throughout the building.
“Building owners’ and facility mangers’ increased demand for IAQ is directly correlated to their tenants and potential tenants becoming more attentive to the environment where they spend a large part of their life,” Jones continued. “Filtration and UV-C both have proven records of improving IAQ. UV-C additionally offers the benefit of reducing maintenance and boosting energy efficiency. IAQ improvement associated with the application of UV-C has been demonstrated through case studies of similar building types that benefited from the installation of UV-C equipment, university studies, ASHRAE’s supportive position documents relative to UV-C installations, and support material highlighting ease of application. The fact that the costs associated with UV-C installations have decreased by 50 percent or more over the past 10 years also factors into the benefits of this application.”
According to Mathew Charles, vice president of sales, RGF Environmental Group Inc., there has been a substantial increase in commercial IAQ sales in recent years.
“IAQ awareness has created concern amongst all industries, including medical facilities, daycare centers, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, and office buildings,” he said. “These businesses are much more aware and concerned with air purification and the health benefits it can provide. Consumer awareness is forcing building owners and facility managers to improve IAQ and install adequate precautions.”
For years there has been a demand for commercial buildings and facilities to reduce their carbon footprint, improve environmental performance, and push toward a more sustainable design, said Aaron Engel, vice president, business development, Fresh-Aire UV.
“These initiatives have brought new and innovative technologies to the market while helping the environment, conserving resources, and reducing pollutants,” he said. “The savings associated with a green building may be beneficial in many ways, but one that may be lacking is the ‘human component,’ or the well-being of the occupants.
“There is an increased understanding that air quality is one of the most important variables within a building’s envelope that can directly influence the impact on occupants’ well-being, influencing everything from health to productivity,” Engel continued. “Facilities and engineers also understand that implementing proven IAQ technologies can contribute not only to occupants but also save resources within the building, improve equipment efficiency, and even complement present technologies being used to sustain a green building.”
There are a number of factors driving the increased awareness of IAQ; one of them is tighter building envelopes.
“In extreme conditions, e.g. cold winter months and hot summer days, the sealed up indoor environment lacks fresh air to dilute,” said Jones “Therefore, the need for cost-effective, high-performing devices that reduce the worry caused by harmful airborne pathogens is a major driver for innovation.
“No one wants to spend a fortune on maintaining air quality, and when they do invest in indoor air cleaning technology, they want to maximize its effectiveness,” he said. “The challenge, then, is to produce reliable, efficient products at affordable costs.
“The focus on IAQ in commercial buildings can be traced back over the past 15-25 years,” Jones added. “From a trend standpoint, it appears IAQ is receiving more attention lately. From the building owner’s perspective, Promoting that a building offers a better work environment through better IAQ helps to attract higher-end customers. From a tenant’s perspective, many companies are creating a nontraditional work environment to attract a new generation of workers, i.e. millennials. Providing good IAQ is as important to tenants [to keep their employees healthy] as ping pong tables and an endless supply of espresso is to their employees.”
According to Mueller, the factor driving the growth trend in DOAS and HOAS units is the publishing of minimum requirements for Integral Seasonal Moisture Removal Efficiency (ISMRE) in ASHRAE 90.1 for DOAS equipment. Additionally, Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) 920 testing is a key factor differentiating a DOAS unit design from a typical rooftop unit, he noted.
“This has led to an understanding that there is a big difference in how DOAS and HOAS units are designed and has led to more specifying engineers including them in their designs,” said Mueller.
Another large driver in the market is the increase in health scares, noted Charles.
“An increase in health scares is caused by poor air, food, and water quality — E. coli, Listeria, Norovirus, MRSA, Salmonella, etc., — any one outbreak of any of these could cause a company to go out of business,” he said. “With increased public awareness around IAQ and the demand for safer work environments, we will continue to see substantial growth in the IAQ market.”
All of this boils down to the fact that building owners are looking for air quality technologies that reduce costs while positively impacting the health of the building, Engel said.
“For example, UV lamp systems that maintain an evaporator coil free from pressure robbing bio-film saves energy and resources as well as reduces maintenance costs while treating the air,” he explained. “Energy savings, reducing maintenance costs, improving IAQ, and treating contaminated make-up air are all examples of the various factors that contribute to selecting the right IAQ technology suited for the desired application.
“At one time, air quality systems were solely discussed in the context of improving air quality,” Engel continued. “It has now become somewhat of a domino effect, discussing not only the benefit to the occupants but all the other aspects improved air quality can bring to a building. With everything from improved equipment efficiency to reduced maintenance costs — it has become more than just better air — it’s a better building.”
WHAT LIES AHEAD
With the seemingly constant revisions to minimum standards and regulations, the awareness of IAQ products will continue to increase.
“Consumer demand for safe, high-quality IAQ technology will only continue to grow, and the market will continue to flourish over the next five years as a result,” Charles said.
According to Jones, education will continue to drive the demand for high IAQ.
“As society becomes more aware of the amount of time spent indoors — at work, at home, at the gym, at daycare, etc. — the quality of the air people breathe will become as important as the bottled water they drink.”
Additionally, there will be a larger demand for high-efficiency ventilation systems and DOAS and the need to know how the IAQ of those systems can play into other HVAC systems, Binz noted.
“We’re in this next-age variety of complementing products and systems, so they impact the entire built environment,” he said. “I think you’re going to see a lot more specialization of different technologies in trying to really leverage the unique sort of qualities and applications from an IAQ standpoint.”
Mueller agreed, saying the market will see a trend toward smart systems to efficiently handle the ventilation load over the next five years.
“This can happen through a number of technologies that are currently available,” he said. “DOAS and HOAS systems with adaptive logic understand the most efficient way to condition the air entering the space.
“You will also see the market move towards smarter building controls,” Mueller continued. “This will allow DOAS and HOAS units to better select set points and supply air conditioning based on feedback from terminal systems in the space so that the building as whole is more efficient.”
Internet of Things (IoT) technology will also have a role to play in the future, noted Engel.
“With the emergence of improved sensor technologies and the IoT, IAQ will become more objective, being able to quantify what is in the air, monitoring in real time the many variables that influence air quality, including everything from particulate to humidity levels, VOCs [volatile organic compounds], and CO2,” he said. “The facility will be in a position to have a better understanding of the actual air quality and how the building’s other systems are being affected.”
Publication date: 11/20/2017