A healthy indoor climate is one with fresh air, moderate temperature, good acoustics, and no harmful radiations. Not only does it help create a safe living environment, it also enables people to be happier and more productive.
At the heart of every healthy indoor climate is an efficient ventilation system. By pumping in fresh air, and evacuating used air, as per changes in occupancy, humidity, temperature, and radon levels etc., a ventilation system keeps a building’s atmosphere in check.
In the following article, we will explain the different factors affecting indoor climate, and how you can keep your air quality optimized, according to global standards.
Most Important Standards for Indoor Climate
- WHO (Global)
- ASHRAE (Global)
- Environment Act for indoor climate by Arbeidstilsynet (Norway)
Main Factors Affecting Indoor Climate
The most important factors that directly impact a building’s environment and indoor climate:
- Thermal: Air and radiant temperature, humidity, air velocity etc.
- Atmospheric: Indoor air quality, gases, moisture, odours, microbes, and dust particles etc.
- Acoustic: Noise, vibrations, sound transmission etc.
- Mechanical: The effects of the building’s interior (furniture, walls, paint etc.) to its users, ergonomics etc.
- Radioactive: Radon and other radiations emitted by building materials.
Why Bother Optimizing Indoor Climate?
Here are some of the reasons why your building should have an optimized indoor climate:
One of the primary benefits of a healthy indoor climate is the comfort it provides. Nothing is more comforting and convenient than getting fresh air, without having to leave your room/office/building.
Moreover, a welcoming interior, coupled with good acoustics (soft music, no noise pollution) afford a comfortable, relaxing experience.
2. Health and Well-being
Since we spend over 90% of our time indoors, most of the air we breathe, also comes from indoor atmospheres. This is why indoor climates have a direct relation with the health of their occupants.
A healthy climate, full of fresh air, and devoid of pollutants and microbes, promotes well-being and good health. A bad indoor climate can have several harmful effects on human bodies, including respiratory and heart diseases.
3. Attract More Tenants and Visitors
People love shopping, working, and living in moderated indoor climates. If they don’t feel hot within your building, even in the driest of summers, they are likely to spend more time inside. If they can focus on work, without experiencing any noise or air pollution, their productivity levels will be much higher.
4. Increased Efficiency
Building automation solutions that are typically used to deliver healthy indoor climates, also ensure increased efficiency, and decreased maintenance costs. Your staff doesn’t have to toggle temperature or air thrust settings manually. The system adjusts itself based on atmospheric changes.
5. Increased productivity
A good and healthy indoor climate also increases people’s productivity. This is another important financial argument for optimizing the indoor climate at workplaces and in buildings.
Most Important Elements of an Indoor Climate
There are many elements that govern just how good or bad your indoor climate is. The most important ones are as follows:
1. Air Temperature
What is the temperature of the air being felt by a person within a building? Air temperature is arguably the most important element of an indoor climate.
2. Air Velocity
How fast is the air as it touches a person? Faster air allows for a greater exchange of heat between the air and the person.
3. Airborne contaminants
These usually include the gases and particles emitted from equipment, carpets, furniture, and other building materials, along with pollutants and microbes.
4. Reverberation time
Reverberation time is the time it takes for a sound to completely fade away in a space. High reverberation times account for noisy rooms and halls. In spaces with low reverberation times, sound doesn’t linger for long.
5. Sound absorption
This is a measure of loss of sound energy when sound waves collide with absorbent materials like walls, ceilings, and floors etc. Sound absorption techniques can be used to decrease reverberation times.
Efficient ventilation is a staple of buildings with excellent indoor climate. Not only does it moderate temperature, but also decreases moisture, humidity, odours, and microbes present in the inner atmosphere.
7. Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality determines both the short-term and long-term well-being of your occupants. It’s a measure of the quality of air within your building’s internal atmosphere, especially concerning the wellbeing and comfort of your occupants.
Causes of poor indoor air quality:
Indoor air quality has since long been considered as a health and safety concern. It’s usually caused by lack of ventilation, contamination due to construction materials, microbes, radiation etc., or an increase in the number of building occupants.
Common air contaminants include carbon dioxide, tobacco smoke, toxic vapours from pesticides and cleaners, fungi, bacteria, and dust mites etc.
Symptoms of poor indoor air quality:
Common symptoms associated with bad indoor quality are:
- Shortness of breath
- Irritation in the eyes
- Sick building syndrome: This is a condition in which multiple occupants face severe health related issues that can be associated with the time they spend within a building.
Benefits of good indoor air quality:
Conversely, good indoor quality guarantees that your occupants:
- Breathe better
- Sleep better
- Stay healthy
- Increased productivity
- Have access to fresh, odourless air
- Enjoy spending time in the building
Standards for Indoor Climate
Following is a non-exhaustive list of indoor climate standards that you should strive to conform with:
- Indoor humidity standards: ASHRAE recommends maintaining relative humidity at or below 65%.
- Indoor temperature standards: According to research, the ideal indoor temperatures are between 70 – 72 °F (21-22 °C). It’s perfect for boosting productivity.
The Environment Act for indoor climate by Arbeidstilsynet, recommends maintaining a temperature of 19-26 °C for light work, 16-26 °C for medium work, and 10-26 °C for heavy work.
- Indoor CO2 standards: For good indoor air quality, ASHRAE recommends the CO2 concentrations to be at or below 1000 ppm in schools, and 800 ppm in offices.
- Indoor air velocity standards: ISO 7730 mentions maximum mean air velocity of 0.12 m/s in summers, and 0.1 m/s in winters.
- Radon level standards: Radon levels of greater than 4 pCi/L (picocuries per litre) warrant immediate fixes in the property. With that said, there is still no unanimously agreed-upon safe level of Radon exposure.
- Indoor Air quality standards: EPA has set different air quality standards, depending on the pollutant in question. E.g., 9ppm of Carbon monoxide, over an averaging time of 8 hours, shouldn’t be exceeded more than once/per year.
Norwegian air quality standards by Arbeidstilsynet, are mentioned in this document.
How to Improve Indoor Climate
The journey to optimizing your indoor air quality has the following broad steps:
- Identify where you stand.
This will involve installing sensors and other equipment to gather data, and then compare it with some of the standardized values shared in the previous section.
- Improve where necessary.
Once you have gathered required data points, you need to find avenues for improvement. Since moderating your climate on-the-fly, based on the subtlest fluctuations in atmospheric factors is impossible, you will need to invest in automation.
One sure-shot way of optimizing indoor climate is via demand-controlled ventilation (DCV). DCV can adjust your ventilation settings, based on real-time changes in factors like occupancy, temperature, CO2 levels, and outdoor weather.
The best part about DCV is that you don’t even have to invest in a whole new system. Modern solutions like ClevAir can integrate with your existing HVAC/ventilation system, and make it intelligent.
Not only does this enhance indoor air quality, revamping your entire indoor climate in the process, it also drastically reduces energy consumption. Ventilation is run on full throttle in peak hours, and at minimum speed during of-peak hours.
Read more: How building automation works with ClevAir
Good indoor climate is crucial for your health, safety, and comfort of your tenants. It also has an impact on your building’s market valuation, and enables you to form a competitive advantage. By automating your building’s ventilation system, not only can you revitalize your indoor climate, but also significantly reduce energy usage, since HVACs consume more energy than any other building system.