Ventilation requirements – What rules apply?

What are the requirements for ventilation, and how do you know if your air quality meets accepted standards? We spend a large part of our lives indoors; at home, at school, at work or elsewhere. That’s why good indoor air quality is essential for our well-being.

Poor air quality can lead to several types of health problems and make us less productive, unconcentrated, and tired. In many companies, employees struggle with health problems related to poor air quality, leading to high absenteeism.

Ventilation and indoor climate go hand in hand. The most common cause of poor air quality is that the building has an old or poorly maintained ventilation system.

In the following article, let’s explore the consequences of poor ventilation, and what steps we can take to improve it.

Consequences of poor ventilation

The air is polluted by many different gases, droplets and particles. The sources of these can be anything, from car traffic and building materials, to cleaning products and environmental toxins from the furniture. It’s your ventilation system’s job to rid the indoor air of these pollutants. 

If your ventilation isn’t working properly, these harmful components make their way into your airways. Damage and irritation of the lung tissue can lead to activation of inflammatory reactions. This is believed to be the biggest driver of diseases and health problems related to air pollution. If you are exposed to this over time, the ailments can become chronic.

Consequences of poor ventilation

Business photo by yanalya on Freepik

Air pollution increases the risk of these diseases:

  • Asthma and respiratory allergies
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Heart disease
  • Lung cancer

Common health issues:

  • Coughing
  • Dry/burning eyes
  • Lack of concentration
  • Dry Skin
  • Stuffy nose
  • Dry throat
  • Abnormal fatigue
  • Headache
  • Dry mucous membranes.

If you or others in your building are struggling with any of these health problems, poor air quality and ventilation can be to blame. It’s necessary that you start measuring air quality and implementing measures to improve it.

General requirements for ventilation

There are different requirements for ventilation that must be met for buildings in different parts of the world. Here we present the general ventilation requirements for buildings in Norway.

A general rule is that a building’s ventilation must be adapted to the pollution and moisture in the rooms. Pollution in harmful concentrations is prohibited, as this can be a health hazard.

Different types of rooms may require different types of ventilation, depending on the room’s purpose and how many people stay there. Consideration must also be given to furnishings, equipment, pollution load from materials, processes and livestock.

General requirements for ventilation

These are some minimum requirements in Norway:

1. The location of the building and ventilation system

Consider the location of the building and the ventilation system, such that the air that is taken into the building is of good quality.

2. Ventilation adapted to number of people

The ventilation must be adapted to the number of people using the building.

Reading tip: What is Demand Control Ventilation?

3. Materials and products that do not pollute

Materials and products must give low or no pollution to the indoor air.

4. Proper ventilation

Air must be carried from rooms with higher requirements for air quality to rooms with lower standards.

5. Recirculated air should not pollute

Recirculated air, i.e. reuse of exhaust air, may only be done if it does not transmit pollution between rooms.

6. Safe placement of air intake and air exhaust

Air intake, air vents, and exhaust shall be located and designed so that exhaust pollution does not return via the intake. The air at the intake must be minimally contaminated.

7. Major measures in rooms with polluting activities

Polluting activities and processes shall, where possible, be encapsulated or equipped with point extraction. 

The information is obtained from the Directorate for Building Quality in Norway.

Requirements for ventilation in commercial buildings

Workrooms and staff rooms must be designed and furnished to have a satisfactory climate, in terms of temperature, humidity, drafts, air quality and annoying odours. They must be protected against substances that are hazardous to health.

  • The air quality in areas where workers stay must have a proper oxygen content.
  • Solar radiation must be taken into account, so that workers are not exposed to unpleasantly strong light or heat
  • Ventilation systems must be equipped with an error notification, if necessary, for the health of the employees
  • Underground areas, where access is permitted, must have a good supply of fresh air

For more information on requirements for ventilation and air quality, you can download the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority’s guidelines on climate and air quality in the workplace.

How do you know if the indoor climate and air quality are good enough?

How do you know if the air quality and ventilation system is good enough?

Check the air quality

A good start is to follow the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority’s standards for climate and air quality in the workplace. Then you should check how good the air quality is to determine if you need to take further action.

  • Hire a company to perform the measurements for you. Eg. the research institute NILU offers measurements and assessments of the indoor climate-adapted to different types of buildings. From the measurements, you get a detailed analysis of the air quality. They give you information on everything, from NO2, O3, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particles to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, organic acids, ammonia and various climate parameters.
  • Buy an air quality meter. For example, Airthings has products for both individuals and companies that measure air quality. They can help you get information about radon, humidity, CO2, oxygen content, airborne dust, temperature, VOC and air pressure.

Document that the requirements are met

To ensure that you are abiding by the law, you should document that you meet air quality requirements and get a better overview of what uncertainties or possible deficiencies concerning ventilation. You can also use this form to apply for consent for ventilation methods and solutions that involve different air volumes than those recommended by the Labor Inspection Authority.

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