The increasing complaints from your building occupants about indoor air quality are not unfounded. This month, the WHO conceded that COVID-19 could be spread through airborne transmission. Airborne pathogens stay in the air longer and travel farther than droplets from coughing and sneezing.
Fortunately, advances in building automation are improving air quality and reducing the spread of airborne pathogens. The following air quality controls could soon be part of every building automation system (BAS) installation.
Replacing Indoor Air With Outdoor Air Ventilation
An advantage of a BAS system is the ability to control the environment room-by-room. More precisely, occupancy sensors can control the environment (e.g., heating, cooling, lighting, and humidity) by the number of individuals entering and exiting a room. But even when you're managing environmental factors on a sensor level, your occupants will not be satisfied with the indoor air quality within rooms if airborne pathogens are not eliminated.
To control airborne contamination, some HVAC systems are shutting indoor air circulation down. In its place, filtered, treated outdoor air is being processed through the ventilation system. This replacement of air reduces the risk of contaminants remaining in the air.
Containing Contamination With Room Pressurization
Airborne pathogens can be contained in a room to prevent them from spreading. Building automation systems accomplish this by applying negative pressure room-by-room. Should bacteria, viruses, or VOCs contaminate a room, the spread of the pathogens can be stopped.
You can create negative pressure by controlling the ventilation system to remove more exhaust air than there is air coming into the room. Negative pressure is being widely used in hospitals. Emergency waiting rooms, lab areas, and bathrooms, for example, are being pressurized.
Destroying Pathogens With UV Lights
Full-spectrum UV lights with UV-A, UV-B (anti-bacterial), and UV-C (germicidal) properties can kill airborne and surface pathogens. With UV lights, you can program your building automation controls to disinfect rooms on demand.
Both built-in and portable UV light systems can be integrated into a BAS to disinfect highly trafficked areas, hotel rooms, or hospital areas, as required. The control system needs to adjust for the amount and intensification of the dose, air recirculation rate, and other factors. UV light is already being used to disinfect coils and other components in HVAC systems. UV lights could be integrated into future BAS installations.
These new indoor air quality solutions can introduce new problems. Contaminants and debris can be pulled in from the outside air. Negative building pressure can increase energy costs. Occupants may complain of discomfort from uneven temperatures in rooms. Through more deeply integrated building automation sensors and controls, building managers can more precisely control air quality, energy costs, and environmental comfort.
Contact a company that offers building automation services to learn more.