Many people experience circulatory issues. It’s a common phenomenon that often leaves the sufferer with the undesirable symptom of losing feeling in a limb because blood flow isn’t getting to where it needs to be. Sometimes, the cause is straightforward, e.g. being in the same position for too long. And, the solution is equally simple - standing up and stretching. Other times, however, it is symptomatic of something more serious.
In these more serious situations, understanding the symptoms becomes a critical step in diagnosing the problem. However, pinpointing the symptoms can become problematic if you’re limited to certain diagnostic tools. Generally, a doctor wouldn’t skip the bloodwork and send you for x-rays. Only basing the diagnosis on partial data may lead the doctor to prescribe the wrong treatment.
So why do we use that logic when it comes to assessing a building’s health?
Much like the human body, a building has several systems that need to be functioning efficiently to maintain overall health. One malfunctioning part can cause an array of issues.
Currently, when conducting a commercial building audit, auditors will take a look at the building’s energy consumption data, mechanical systems and the building’s envelope. Once the data has been collected, the auditor identifies and provides savings and cost analysis of measures and potential capital improvements. The details provided in the analysis will vary depending on the level of audit. Finally, based on these findings, a report is drafted.
There is no doubt that these are all important components in identifying improvements. But, they are not showing the whole story.
A recent example:
ioAirFlow recently assessed an older Class C building.
Each floor had four thermostats that could be manually controlled by the facility manager. The occupied setpoint temperature was steady at 22°C with setback temperature was 23°C, but a number of occupants were complaining of hot and cold spots across one floor. We placed wireless sensors throughout the floor in strategic locations to measure thermal comfort variables.
What was highlighted was a mean temperature difference of over 3°C across the floor. Not only does this point to an issue, but it also exceeds acceptable ASHRAE standards and is over three times greater than the setback temperature difference.
Building automation systems can help track some anomalies in buildings. However, most systems are still only measuring the ‘bones’ of a building (its mechanical system, and its thermostats and control points). They’re missing a fundamental part of the equation – how is air flow reaching zones with no sensors? Is air flowing as it should be? Are there ‘dead zones’ where air flow is not reaching, creating areas that run too hot or cold?
Even with advancements in technology, these systems are still out of reach for many building owners. They are expensive, implementation can be invasive, and interpreting the data often requires someone with some engineering expertise on staff.
Traditional building audits remain the most feasible option for the majority of building owners interested in understanding the best ways to improve their building’s health. By using temporary, wireless sensors to track additional variables, ioAirFlow can compliment and digitize part of the auditing process.
The benefits to a building with this method can be overwhelmingly positive. Poorly insulated areas or how occupancy and your office space is interacting with the building can be identified, and whether changes can be made to increase occupant comfort. You can even understand if your HVAC system really is working as it's supposed to be, or whether an aging system needs repairs.
As we continue to refine our algorithm, these symptoms will be flagged automatically, and will pinpoint to precise problems found in the building. This is the first step to automating the auditing process.
If you’re an ESCO or a firm that provides energy audits or IEQ assessments to commercial buildings, and are interested in testing our process and providing feedback, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
These days, many of us arrange Zoom parties with family and friends, order food through contactless delivery and meet work deadlines in pyjama pants. While not an entirely bad set up, “Covid fatigue” is inching its way into our vocabulary and many of us are expressing how much we “can’t wait for things to return to normal”.
Here is the problem with a return to normal: While “normal” for many of us means bars, beaches, festivals and gatherings, for too many of us, it was and continues to be food and housing insecurity, extreme weather events and increased illness brought on by climate change and environmental degradation.
Establishing a new normal scientists have been ringing alarm bells on climate change and its consequences for years. But worldwide, GHG emissions continue to increase. This is because the habits and systems that have led us here are deeply-seated in our social and economic structures. They’re not easy to change. However, in the last 6 months, the Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the status quo and has demonstrated that we can work together to shift away from some of the harmful habits we’ve developed as a society.
Being the change we want to see can start just about anywhere. But for the sake of this blog, let’s start with commercial building health!
In ioAirFlow’s home base of Winnipeg, buildings account for 35% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Though Winnipeg does have an older building stock compared to many other cities across the country, buildings still account for a significant percentage of GHG emissions at around 13%. Class C buildings, which buildings make up over 70% of the country’s existing building stock, have ample room for improving their energy consumption, their comfort levels and their indoor air quality. A few other things to note about these buildings:
Despite this, and the well-recognized existence of technologies to improve energy efficiency and IEQ in commercial buildings, many still aren’t utilizing these low-risk and well-proven tools for responsible fiscal, social and environmental management. While there is no doubt that changing regulations, increasing costs and climate change recognition have energy efficiency top of mind for many commercial building owners and operators, limited resources, including constraints on capital, expertise and time render alleviating barriers difficult.
This can be especially true in Class C buildings, which generally don’t have the expertise on hand to undertake the improvements to reduce the ecological impact of their buildings, ensure tenant retainment and increase the life of their buildings.
But, right now, numerous new policies are going to be put into place in many of our workplaces to ensure occupants remain healthy amid the pandemic – everything from limiting touch points, to enforcing physical distancing criteria. These expected workplace changes render this the perfect time for incorporating shifts in behaviours and processes that improve energy use and building comfort for occupants.
With buildings being relatively empty for many commercial building owners, this is an ideal time to invite the experts in and support improvements.
For building owners, our occupants and our environment are what sustains us. And, as construction resumes, manufacturing chains begin to flow and we start to trickle back to work, let’s push their needs to the forefront. Now more than ever, people want to stay healthy. Give them a head start.
By Amanda San Filippo - VP Business Development & COO, ioAirFlow
A starting point to improving the health and efficiency of your building is to measure your building’s energy consumption and thermal comfort. As the infamous business adage goes: You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
There are many ways this can be accomplished. Building energy audits, benchmarking software, and automation systems are some examples. However, these options aren’t ideal for Class C buildings for many reasons: the information requires an expert on staff to interpret, the costs associated with them can be very restrictive, or the age of the building renders installation too invasive.
The good news is new technologies are being developed that are making energy efficiency achievable to a wider range of buildings. For example, we are beginning to see an increase in wireless systems in building automation. Wireless systems can measure building health and efficiency without the high cost and building disturbance that is traditionally required for wired systems. ioAirFlow also uses a wireless sensor array that is easy to place and securely stores information, as a Wi-Fi connection is not required.
Whether using audits, benchmarking tools or wireless sensors, once a building's energy consumption and thermal comfort levels have been measured, the next step is to determine strategies to improve them. One of the most beneficial strategies to focus on is the building envelope’s thermal performance. The thermal performance of a building relies on the tightness of its envelope. In other words, its ability to prevent heat exchange through its structure and resist air penetration.
Improved thermal efficiency can be achieved by adding insulation. Using thermal insulation will not only reduce the energy required to heat and cool the building, but increase the period of indoor thermal comfort especially in climates with extreme seasonal variation. There are different types of insulation to choose from: blanket, loose-fill, blow-in, rigid fibrous, spray-foam, or structural insulated panels. Thermal resistance is the most important property when considering thermal performance and energy saving. The selection of the material should be based on high resistance, continuity of thermal insulation to prevent thermal bridging, cost, ease of construction, building code requirements and durability, as the R value of the insulation changes over time as well as the strength and stability. Assembly of the building's exterior wall and where insulation is applied should be taken into consideration as well.
Another strategy to reduce air leakage can be achieved by using sealants, gaskets, additional window panels, or by replacing windows and doors all together. This can save 5-40% of the energy required for heating and cooling a building.
Windows play a crucial role in the efficiency of the building by providing natural daylighting. However, if the windows are single glazed and the frames are poorly insulated, undesired heat can be transferred in and out of the building. Replacing windows with triple-glazed, two layers of e-coating, and low conductive frames gives the best result by reflecting the heat without compromising the amount of transmitted visible light.
To increase sustainability and even generate revenue, green roofs and solar panels are becoming increasingly popular. Green roofs are considered a great insulation tool and can reduce waste by capturing the storm water runoff, which can be filtered and used to flush toilets and irrigate the outdoor landscape. Solar panels can be installed on a building's roof to generate electricity for the building. In addition, depending on the jurisdiction, if the energy generated by the solar panels exceeds the building’s demand, it can be sold back to the grid and credited to the user, or even transferred to another building. These options may not be feasible for Class C buildings, but if they are, return rates on investments can be impressive.
Don’t forget to measure the energy consumption of the building before and after implementing changes to see how they worked. Going green will save cost and reduce your building’s ecological footprint.
By Sarah Al-Saadi - ioAirFlow Summer Co-op Student
The average American will spend 90 percent of their life indoors. Work, school, and the comfort of your home contribute to this large amount of time spent indoors. Why does it matter if people spend most of their time inside? Inadequate ventilation, as well as chemical and biological contaminants from carpeting, cleaning products, and mold, all lead to indoor environments having much higher concentrations of pollutants than the outdoors.
These high pollutant levels have led to people developing Sick Building Syndrome. Sick Building Syndrome is a condition which occurs when occupants experience health related effects due to poor indoor air quality and where the exact cause of the symptoms is unknown. Occupants with Sick Building Syndrome will often complain about symptoms of acute discomfort such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, difficulty concentrating as well as eye, nose, or throat irritation. Symptoms will often disappear soon after the occupant leaves the building and is exposed to lower concentrations of pollutants.
When assessing different types of buildings, schools often have higher percentages of occupants suffering Sick Building Syndrome. This is in part because schools are under financial pressures to reduce the costs of construction, operation, and maintenance of the building. These pressures lead to schools having poorer indoor air quality which increases the chances of building occupants developing Sick Building Syndrome.
With a strained budget, schools are often unable to pay for a building health assessment or install expensive air quality monitoring systems to understand and fix issues relating to indoor air quality and overall building health. However, as new wireless technologies enter the market, such as the sensors used at ioAirFlow, tracking the indoor environmental quality of a building is becoming more affordable. This is due in part to decreased installation costs from not having to disturb building structures that are often associated with the implementation of permanent wired monitoring systems. This helps make building health assessments and monitoring more accessible to buildings like schools, which can lead to improved indoor air quality and reductions in the number of people experiencing Sick Building Syndrome.
It is especially important to assess the air quality in schools as there is high occupancy density and young children are more susceptible to the effects of high indoor pollutant concentrations. With symptoms including difficulty concentrating, indoor air quality requires careful consideration as it is directly correlated to childrens’ ability to learn and retain information while at school. Children are the next generation of leaders. It is important that we keep their learning environments as healthy and safe as we can.
By Carly Dyck - ioAirFlow Summer Co-op Student