An expert panel discussion sponsored by Daikin has played up the vital need for better understanding across the building engineering sector on the complex, diverse factors impacting IAQ
Work to improve indoor air quality is being undermined by a lack of overall industry knowledge on how best to implement ventilation and purification systems, a H&V News Live webinar has heard.
Dr Vina Kukadia, an industry specialist from the University of Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research, said there was a critical shortfall in both research and understanding across the building engineering sector to understand the complex relationships between internal and external air quality.
She was speaking during a H&V News webinar – sponsored by Daikin – on the role ventilation could play in creating healthy indoor environments. The full session can be viewed in the player below.
Dr Kukadia said that air quality within buildings has largely been inadequate for many years as a result of the large number of factors and variables – both environmental and technical. These variables have had significant impacts on how air is being managed, if at all, in a building.
She said, “Whilst there has been research carried out and there is some guidance out there, there are still many gaps that exist in the detailed knowledge needed.”
Dr Kukadia added that these gaps included understanding the importance of the source of airborne pollutants, the different type of contaminants in an indoor environment and the impact of nearby buildings and their design on air flow.
The pandemic effect
The webinar heard from a range of experts on how the industry is seeking to address growing concerns about air supply and quality in a building on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic. It also noted that there was increasingly an economic and productivity component in ensuring effective ventilation and IAQ alongside the growing understanding of the health and safety benefits.
The Global Centre for Clean Air Research is presently among a number of bodies researching air quality issues for a range of building uses including businesses and education, Dr Kukadia said.
She said, “We’re doing a lot of work around schools on indoor air quality and also how outdoor pollution affects indoor environments. This is because it is actually affecting learning ability and cognitive behaviour. It is affecting building structures and materials.”
Dr Kukadia added, “So, it is extremely important to reduce the ingress of outdoor pollution into indoor environments.”
While different regulations and standards have been introduced to address external air pollution levels, Dr Kukadia said it would be vital for fresh efforts to curb the source of external pollutants entering into indoor environments.
She added, “Outdoor air pollution levels are still very high in the UK. And are likely to remain so for the immediate future. So additional measures are required to reduce those and their ingress. The sort of strategies I am talking about are things such as the effective location of ventilation inlets and effective filtration systems.”
“I also think air purifiers are also becoming important as well in the indoor environment.”
A mixed technology approach to IAQ
Dr Kukadia was joined for the webinar by an expert panel including Cliff Jones, applied commercial manager at Daikin Airconditioning and Peter Ruiter, director of filtration technology with AAF International. They were joined by Daikin UK’s Matteo Dall’Ombra to discuss the company’s efforts to collaborate more closely with third parties on providing a range of different technologies to try and meet lower and higher capacity IAQ needs.
The panel took questions from the audience on topics including whether air purifiers may be needed in the case of buildings where effective ventilation was already in place.
Mr Dall’Ombra argued that it would be important to move away from viewing and favouring one specific technology over the other.
He said, “I think it’s never either/or, I think it’s probably going to be a combination of the two or even some additional solutions.”
Mr Dall’Ombra said that IAQ was often dependent on a range of unique requirements concerning the outdoor and internal environments of a building’s location and its design features.
He said, “You need to make sure you are properly dealing with both sides of the equation and at the end of the day, if you are employing multiple measures, you can only compound the positive effects.”
Other panel members also agreed about the importance of different systems being used effectively. Some on the panel argued that more research was required around the effectiveness of air purifiers and how best they might be employed in different types of buildings.