Fresh Air Requirements in Commercial Buildings

Commercial buildings accommodate millions of American workers, making occupant safety a top priority for building managers and leasing companies. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is an important part of occupant safety. Well-designed, operated, and maintained commercial HVAC systems are indispensable for meeting fresh air requirements, and preventing indoor air pollution. Effective ventilation not only enhances indoor air quality but also boosts overall comfort and well-being in commercial spaces.

Ventilation Standards and Building Codes

Since ventilation standards, fresh air requirements, and building codes are modified annually, be sure to stay current on the latest requirements. Your commercial HVAC company can be a great partner in helping you comply with evolving requirements. You will need to demonstrate that your building and ventilation system fulfill and maintain the minimal requirements for indoor air quality. In addition, your ventilation system aids in the management of mold, humidity, pollutants, and pollen. A commercial building’s HVAC system can also serve to keep any products safe and guarantee that the space is habitable and useful.

Fresh Air and Ventilation

Ensuring clean indoor air can be achieved most effectively by controlling pollutants at their source. However, the sources of indoor air pollution are not always under control or amenable to mitigation. Ventilation, whether it be mechanical or natural, is the second best method for supplying suitable indoor air. Ventilation refers to indoor air movement and the dilution of viral particles through mechanical or nonmechanical means. This can happen through central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems or in-room air cleaners. Commercial ventilation ensures that indoor air quality meets fresh air requirements, is suitable for human habitation, and it mitigates harmful health impacts for occupants.

ASHRAE Standard 62.1 & 62.2

Standard 62-1989 was developed in 1989 by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to define indoor air quality and fresh air requirements. “Specify minimum ventilation rates and indoor air quality that will be acceptable to human occupants and are intended to minimize the potential for adverse health effects” is the standard’s primary objective. The ASHRAE Standards 62.1 and 62.2 continue to be the fundamental guidelines for ventilation in commercial buildings, notwithstanding state-specific variations throughout time.

OSHA Standard 1910.94

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emphasizes environmental control and occupational health with Standard 1910.94. It applies to all industries, so for additional information on employment in shipyards, long-shoring, and construction, go to the OSHA website. Every employer is required to adhere strictly to any OSHA regulations that are relevant to their line of business.

Indoor Air Pollution

Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution originates from various sources such as fuel-burning appliances, tobacco, and cleaning supplies. Building materials, excess moisture, and outdoor pollutants like radon add to the problem. Emission levels, maintenance, and age affect the significance of each source. Some release pollutants continuously, while others do so intermittently during activities. Malfunctioning appliances can worsen indoor air quality, leading to prolonged pollutant presence.

Some common sources of indoor air pollution include: 

  • Fuel-burning combustion appliances
  • Tobacco products
  • Deteriorated asbestos-containing insulation
  • Newly installed flooring, upholstery, or carpet
  • Cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products
  • Products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies
  • Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices
  • Excess moisture
  • Radon
  • Pesticides

Health Problems and Ventilation

Ventilation involves several processes: drawing in outdoor air, conditioning and mixing it with indoor air, distributing it throughout the building, and exhausting stale air. Inadequate ventilation can lead to the buildup of pollutants like carbon dioxide, causing drowsiness, headaches, and reduced productivity.

Legionnaire’s disease is one example of a building-related illness with a clearly defined cause: harmful contaminants from several sources. Inadequate operation or maintenance of HVAC systems can lead to sick building syndrome (SBS), a condition characterized by health symptoms that lack well-defined causes. Dry mucous membranes and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat are a few of these symptoms. Employee sick days rise as a result of these conditions, and productivity at work declines. Meeting fresh air requirements and standards can reduce these issues significantly.

Participate in the Clean Air Buildings Challenge

A nationwide call to action from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge outlines several suggestions and tools that might help lower the dangers associated with indoor pollutants and viruses. Make an action plan to meet fresh air requirements now. While the recommended actions cannot eliminate risks, they will reduce them.

According to the EPA, key actions outlined in the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge include:

  • Create a clean indoor air action plan
  • Optimize fresh air ventilation
  • Enhance air filtration and cleaning
  • Conduct community engagement, communication, and education

Ventilation System Solutions

Proper ventilation helps meet fresh air requirements by bringing in fresh air, expelling stale air, eliminating pollutants, and controlling humidity. Maintaining adequate ventilation is essential for creating a safe and healthy environment for occupants, emphasizing the necessity of regular HVAC system upkeep. How much ventilation is enough? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 5 or more air changes per hour (ACH) of clean air. Visit the CDC’s “Ventilation in Buildings” to learn more about how to calculate ACH.

Ensure existing HVAC systems provide at least the minimum outdoor air ventilation requirement following ventilation design codes. Consider upgrading central HVAC filter efficiency to a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV)-13 or better. When compatible with your HVAC system, increased filtration efficiency is especially helpful when enhanced outdoor air delivery options are limited. Maintaining at least the minimum for fresh air requirements in your commercial buildings is non-negotiable for occupant well-being and productivity.

Optimize Indoor Air Quality with MMC

Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors can help you prepare for and combat harmful substances in the air by installing air purification technology. We install UV lighting and bi-polar ionization technology as well as provide the small changes that can help eliminate the spread of germs within your facility. In addition, we also can service and maintain your equipment to keep it running properly. If you need filter changes or coil cleaning, the team at MMC can get the job done.

The health and safety of you and your building occupants is important to us which is why we provide only the best technologies when it comes to improving indoor air quality. If you are interested in learning more about our indoor air quality services, contact MMC today!