Skärmavbild 2014-11-19 kl. 13.27.37

Comfort

Commercial building occupant comfort is a major key performance indicator for any facility manager.

Temperature fluctuations or hotspots and variable airflow are symptoms of a poorly operating air conditioning system.

If unchecked over time, this performance could result in Sick Building Syndrome.

Although you may not be able to see, smell, or feel the molecules of dirty air infiltrating your lungs and body – sick buildings harbour dangerous pathogens that you are inhaling with every breath and clinging to the largest organ on your body – your skin. One of the most deadly pathogens is the highly toxic mould, Stachybotrys that produces mycotoxins.

Unhealthy indoor air from biological contamination of air conditioning systems is a global business issue that impacts the health of occupants, diminishes productivity, saps your energy and puts your assets at risk. A World Health Organisation report estimated that up to 1/3 of buildings in industrialised countries are “sick”. In Australia, the CSIRO concluded this problem costs businesses $12 billion each year in lost staff productivity and illness.

Building occupants complain of symptoms associated with acute discomfort, and include:

eye, nose or throat irritation
wheezing
dry skin or a rash
mental fatigue
headaches
nausea
dizziness
coughing
hoarseness
a sensation of dry mucous membranes
itching and unspecific hypersensitivity reactions

 

With Sick Building Syndrome, no clinically defined disease or specific biological contaminant can be determined as the cause of the symptoms. Most of the complainants feel relief soon after leaving the building. Sick Building Syndrome reduces worker productivity and may also increase absenteeism.

Studies have shown that poor ventilation is a major factor in most problem buildings, with over 50% of “sick buildings” suffering from inadequate ventilation. Poor ventilation can be caused by a number of factors, including:

Insufficient outside air entering the system – Outside air dilutes the concentration of indoor pollutants. Opening a window as a solution is impossible in most modern buildings and impractical when there are climatic extremes.

Poor filtration – Air must be continually cleaned and purified to keep it safe and healthy to breathe. Filters which are mainly designed to stop birds and insects from entering do not filter out smaller particles that can be unhealthy. Filters that do not fit properly and allow air to flow unfiltered around them, or filters that are not properly maintained, will also prove ineffective.

Dirty air handling units – All air handling units get dirty over time. They are composed of many mechanical parts, reservoirs and often kilometres of twisting ductwork, which can collect dirt, dust and other grime. This provides a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, moulds and fungi, which thrive on dirt and dark and damp conditions.

Contaminated ductwork – Ductwork can become contaminated well before a building is occupied, by being used as a dump for construction debris and trash. Ductwork is largely ignored because it cannot be seen – “out of sight, out of mind”.

Poor planning – Mistakes are often made during remodelling or refurbishing of offices when ventilation requirements are not correctly balanced with changes in staffing densities.

What Can Be Done?

Maintaining good indoor air quality should be a high priority in air-conditioned office environments. Filtration systems should be upgraded, regularly serviced and well-maintained.

In many buildings, ventilation rates may be the problem. The relevant Australian Standards for ventilation rates were set in 1980, before current changes in design and construction. Some experts believe that air supply levels need to be much greater than these levels.

A primary source of indoor air contamination is the bacterial and fungal colonisation of air filters, heat transfer coils and ductwork within the air handling systems of modern buildings. While some companies may occasionally clean their air conditioning system, only the AerisGuard techniques both cleans and protects the system by inhibiting the regrowth of mould, fungus and bacteria.

The AerisGuard system comprises a series of solutions specifically designed to clean and most crucially protect the coils, filters, ducts and other surfaces within the air conditioning environment. AerisGuard is applied as part of the building’s regular maintenance procedures and significantly, by inhibiting the build-up of contamination, your system will consume less energy, resulting in cost savings through improved operating efficiencies.

Management of Sick Building Syndrome using AerisGuard – which is environmentally friendly as it is proven to be entirely safe for human health and completely biodegradable – is a major step towards maintaining acceptable levels of occupant comfort in commercial buildings.