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Article - July 2000
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Len Damiano, Director - Marketing & National Accounts Manager
EBTRON, Inc. 

The stability and reliability of precision dilution ventilation control will satisfy all requirements of ASHRAE 62-1999 and avoid most of the litigation risks and liability associated with IEQ. Plus, it can be accomplished at the absolute minimum energy cost needed for conditioning any additional outside air required.


"Productivity gains are an important aspect of global competitiveness in the international marketplace. In recent years, the U.S. has maintained an advantage over the rest of the world in productivity due to the extraordinary effort of working people to devote extended hours at their jobs. This cannot last or be relied upon indefinitely. There will eventually be a backlash. As a nation, we would be wise to make use of every economic edge identified and obtainable. That is how we have survived, thrived and lead the world."

It has been suggested and indicated in numerous studies, that improving a building's indoor environment quality (IEQ) will also improve occupant productivity. The impact of such a finding can mean Billions of dollars in savings and/or increased capacity for U.S. companies, our Federal and State governments.

IPlantPROCOREndoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a significantly large component of IEQ, which also includes lighting, air movement, temperature, humidity, etc.

The World Building Design Guide recommends: "Appreciate that there is mounting evidence of a strong positive correlation between environmental satisfaction and increased productivity." To emphasize the potential impact, the U.S. Navy presents an example for private sector offices in the WBDG, and concludes:

"Therefore, a 'productivity' increase of 1% will completely offset the building's entire energy bill. This implies that it is crucial that interventions made in the name of energy efficiency do not negatively impact occupant satisfaction and productivity."

This means local and national government may provide more services with the same number of people, and lessors can justify higher rental rates, with better IEQ.

While few people doubt a connection between productivity and IEQ, there have been few studies showing a definite effect, although several such studies are currently under way. Still, some analysts have shown that ignoring the IEQ impact of building management policies can have a negative financial effect that far outweighs minor savings from those policies.

In another statement from an authoritative government agency, we find:

"Because worker salaries exceed building energy, maintenance and annualized construction costs by a large factor, the cost-effectiveness of improvements in indoor environments will be high even when the percentage improvements in health and productivity are small…….The resulting benefit-to-cost ratios were very high, approximately 50 to 1 for increased ventilation…" USDOE, 1993

Productivity gains are an important aspect of global competitiveness in the international marketplace. In recent years, the U.S. has maintained an advantage over the rest of the world in productivity due to the extraordinary effort of working people to devote extended hours at their jobs. This cannot last or be relied upon indefinitely. There will eventually be a backlash. As a nation, we would be wise to make use of every economic edge identified and obtainable. That is how we have survived, thrived and lead the world.

We Seem to be Cutting Off Our Noses

Very often, building managers propose cost cutting moves without considering the added expense from lowered productivity if those changes have a negative effect on the indoor environment. An example of this came to light recently with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) boasting to members about its success in beating back two provisions in ASHRAE Standard 62.

Titled ASHRAE 62: The Check's in the Mail, the article appeared in BOMA's member newsletter SkyLines. The two provisions in question would have required major construction areas to be isolated from the rest of the building by negative pressure and mandated a 48-hour period for purging contaminants from those areas following construction.

BOMA claims that these provisions were onerous and would have cost building owners about $0.10 per square foot (ft2) for the first provision and $0.01 per ft2 for the second. According to the BOMA analysis, defeating those provisions would save a building owner about $11,096 for a 100,000 ft2 building.

However, BOMA's analysis didn't factor in a possible loss of productivity that would result if contaminants from the construction activity migrated into the occupied space of the building. This has been a factor in numerous IAQ cases and was the principal cause of the problems 10 years ago at the headquarters of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That situation resulted in numerous people being injured and multiple lawsuits.

But lawsuits aside, even a small negative effect on productivity in that same 100,000 ft2 building could more than offset the $11,096 saving. Consider the example of such a building with occupant density at that recommended by ASHRAE (7 persons per 1,000 ft2 ) for a total of 700 people in the building. Then, assume an average annual salary of $25,000 for each person. This would be a total weekly salary of $336,538. If construction activities cause IAQ degradation and merely a 1% drop in productivity, this would be a loss of $3,365 for each week that the situation existed.

It's easy to see that it wouldn't take long to eat up the alleged $11,096 in "savings", if the degraded IAQ were more severe or lasted more than a few weeks. This also doesn't take into account possible long-term health effects, such as in the EPA case, potentially disastrous lawsuits.

Many new products are being developed or refined to measure and control dilution airflow rates, directly -- some better than others. From basic research and analysis of technical publications on the topic, we know that indirect methods of ventilation control are "complimentary" at best and "totally useless", at worst. Unfortunately, many industry gurus have supported these methods for years, and seem reluctant to admit that there are better and more effective methods.

Traditional methods of dilution ventilation control found "lacking", include: fixed-position minimum outside air dampers, fixed MOA dampers with reset, supply minus return airflow calculation, VFD slaving of return fans, direct mixed air plenum pressure control, direct building differential pressure control, adiabatic mixing calculations and CO2 demand controlled ventilation schemes. Your favorite is probably in this list. (Subsequent articles will address the reasons for these conclusions.)

The stability and reliability of precision dilution ventilation control will satisfy all requirements of ASHRAE 62-1999 and avoid most of the litigation risks and liability associated with IEQ. Plus, it can be accomplished at the absolute minimum energy cost needed for conditioning any additional outside air required. I call this a Win-Win situation.


The S4 Group
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