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ASHRAE Members Review Indoor Air Quality Effect on High-Performing Buildings

ASHRAE Members Review Indoor Air Quality Effect on High-Performing Buildings

From eSociety, November 2017

Science and Technology for the Built Environment
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ASHRAE Members Review Indoor Air Quality Effect on High-Performing Buildings

With the goal of analyzing how high-performing buildings affect indoor air quality, Steven Emmerich, Fellow ASHRAE, chair of the ASHRAE Standards Committee; Andy Persily, Ph.D., Fellow/Life Member ASHRAE, chair of ASHRAE Standard 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings; and Kevin Teichman worked together to summarize the current knowledge on the subject. The trio produced the “Literature Review on Field Study of Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality Performance Verification in High-Performance Commercial Buildings in North America” for the October edition of Science and Technology for the Built Environment, even though there was limited published research.

1. Why did you choose to focus on Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality Performance Verification in High-Performance Commercial Buildings in North America?

Significant resources are being spent within ASHRAE to develop Standard 189.1,Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings, and at other organizations to develop green and sustainable building programs such as LEED for Building Design and Construction.

Even more resources are spent implementing these requirements and recommendations when constructing new buildings. Most green standards focus on low energy use while placing less emphasis on achieving high-performance indoor air quality (IAQ) and other building performance aspects. A key recommendation of the ASHRAE Indoor Air Quality Position Document is: “Sustainable (green) building performance codes, programs and standards should be based on thorough consideration of the many parameters impacting IAQ to ensure that limited resources are used effectively and IAQ is not compromised for other goals.”

However, it is unclear whether the resources being expended in development and implementation of IAQ requirements and recommendations are achieving superior or even adequate IAQ performance.

We limited our paper to high-performance buildings in North America because of their direct relevance to ASHRAE and other green building programs and standards.

2. Why did you choose a literature review format?

Unfortunately, the resources to conduct a robust study of the IAQ performance in a meaningful sample of sustainable commercial buildings in the U.S. are not available to us, or anyone else as far as we know, at present. 

By reviewing the literature published on the topic to date, we saw the opportunity to provide a summary of the current knowledge to those interested in the topic. We are also hopeful that highlighting the limitations in the current knowledge will help spur funding for further research in this area. We feel such research is easily justified by the tens of billions of dollars spent annually on green building construction and even greater amounts on the potential impact on occupant health, satisfaction and productivity.

3.  What is the significance of the research?

As stated above, unfortunately the current knowledge of IAQ performance in high-performance commercial buildings in the U.S. is very limited. The number of studies is small, the vast majority studied a single building and the IAQ measurements performed vary widely. 

We conclude that more uniform studies in a larger number of buildings are needed on the economic, environmental and health implications of ventilation and IAQ in commercial buildings to evaluate and compare the requirements of various green building rating systems and standards.  

One approach to achieving this uniformity would be to draw upon previously published proposals for documenting IAQ in high-performing buildings during design, construction and commissioning and after occupancy.


4.  What lessons, facts, and/or guidance can an engineer working in the field take away from this research?

We believe the practicing engineer can be guided toward achieving high-performance building design—for energy consumption, IAQ and other factors—by following the design requirements in a green building standard like ASHRAE Standard 189.1. 

But, at present, they need to develop their own IAQ performance verification approach to be assured their IAQ performance goals are achieved. We provide some candidate IAQ performance measurements to consider.


5.  Were there any surprises or unforeseen challenges for you when preparing this literature review?

The biggest challenge when preparing the literature review was uncovering enough studies to include in the paper. We did not expect to find a great many thorough studies on the topic, but thought there would be more data to include in the review.

In the end, a significant search effort was needed simply to find the studies we reviewed—most of which were very narrow, single-building studies. Once again, we conclude that more uniform studies of the IAQ performance in a larger number of high-performance commercial buildings are needed.


Table of Contents for the October edition of Science and Technology for the Built Environment

October is a general issue that includes ceiling radiant panels and passive wall design among other topics.

Table of Contents

Volume 23, Issue 7, October 2017


Building energy research and the “duck curve”
General Issue

· Correct design of vertical borehole heat exchanger systems through the improvement of the ASHRAE method
· The effects of mixing air distribution and heat load arrangement on the performance of ceiling radiant panels under cooling mode of operation
· Sensitivity of personalized ventilation air terminal device geometry with regard to a human thermal sensation
· Thermal comfort investigation of an outdoor air-conditioned area in a hot and arid environment
·  Experimental determination and computational fluid dynamics predictions ofpressure loss in close-coupled elbows (RP-1682)
·  A passive wall design to minimize building temperature swings for Algerian Saharan climate
·  Updated generalized natural gas reciprocating engine part-load performance curves for cogeneration applications
·  Literature review on field study of ventilation and indoor air quality performance verification in high-performance commercial buildings in North America
·  An acoustic performance analysis of AC-motor bathroom ventilation fansfor a decade-long period, 2005–2015
Experimental feasibility study of a new load-based method of testing for light commercial unitary heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (ASHRAE RP-1608)