I don’t think that any topic has risen up the building design and operation agenda as quickly as indoor air quality (IAQ) has in the past few months.
We have even seen it covered by the national press. This means that people are more aware than ever of the impact that the air we breathe has on health and wellbeing.
So as we return to office and everyday working life, building managers are looking for ways to ensure they can deliver healthier indoor environments.
Studies show that the level of pollutants inside can be as much as five times higher than the outdoors
IAQ is affected by several factors. Firstly, we have to consider the quality of the outdoor air that’s entering the building through ventilation systems, open doors, windows and gaps in the building envelope.
Depending on location, this air can contain any number of pollutants, including NOx and microscopic Particulate Matter (PM) which can be small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and other parts of the body.
And then, although we may not want to, we need to think the ‘nasties’ brought in to these spaces by the people entering these spaces, whether in their sniffles, perfume or even dry cleaning!
Removing pollutants from the incoming air is a first vital step to achieving good IAQ.
However, there are also sources of pollutants already inside our buildings. These include chemicals from carpets and office furniture, or even from cleaning products, along with bacteria, viruses, allergens, such as pet fur and pollen, dust and mould.
Mixed with the pollutants from outside, the result is a cocktail of harmful indoor substances in the air.
In fact, studies show that the level of pollutants inside buildings can be as much as five times higher than the outdoors.
The need to ventilate
Good ventilation is always the first thing to consider when considering IAQ, whether that is natural or mechanical.
But the challenge of delivering good air quality is complex and has to be balanced with a number of other factors.
For example, the move to improve the airtightness of buildings (for better energy performance) can make achieving good IAQ more difficult.
And although the option of increasing the fan speed on a ventilation system will impact both energy use and noise levels for occupants, we do recommend this as a first step as it is the easiest and most straightforward way of increasing air change in a space.
However, the combination of good ventilation design along with the latest air conditioning and filtration technologies can deliver the IAQ required in today’s airtight buildings.
What’s more, it’s possible to retrofit solutions to existing air conditioning units to help improve the indoor environment, when it’s impractical to install an entire air conditioning system.
A simple bolt-on device
One an example of this is the Mitsubishi Electric Plasma Quad Connect air purifier.
It is a bolt-on device that uses Plasma Quad Technology to neutralise six key indoor air pollutants and inhibit 99.8% of SARS-CoV-2*.
It is also highly effective against dust, viruses, mould and allergens such as pollens. The Plasma Quad technology works like an electrical air curtain to catch and neutralise even microscopic particles in the air – significantly improving indoor air quality.
The device has been designed with easy fitting to both new and existing installations in mind. Its bolt-on capability means that Plasma Quad Connect can be fitted to existing equipment, including wall-mounted units, ducted units and ceiling cassette systems. This makes it ideal for hotels, leisure facilities, medical centres, retail outlets and offices.
With more businesses now focusing on improving indoor air quality, and providing reassurance and confidence for staff and customers coming back into buildings, the Plasma Quad Connect offers a simple and effective solution that will provide years of robust operation – and great indoor air quality.
[*] Derived from and subject to test results, for and on behalf of Mitsubishi Electric, conducted at the Microbial Testing Laboratory, Japan Textile Quality and Technology Centre, Kobe, Japan.
Mel Threader is Senior Product Manager