The Impact of Buildings on Air Quality and Climate Change
Our work at Peak Power centers on developing and applying ways to benefit both the planet and the people on it. Our mission is to help the largest sectors contributing to climate change be a part of the solution. We started by looking at how the building sector could be more energy efficient. Our customers taught us that there is a balancing act for building managers and owners to achieve sustainability, without compromising occupant comfort and safety. With this balancing act in mind, we developed a solution, and found an additional way to fulfill our mission.
Buildings and the Air Inside
With the added risk of COVID-19, occupant comfort now includes the safety of the air we breathe inside. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is the largest factor in COVID transmission, as viral loads spread via airborne particles. The majority of COVID transmission occurs indoors, many within the workplace. In fact, 66% of employees worry about their health and safety when returning to the workplace.
Humidity, temperature, and CO2 levels in the air are important factors in occupant comfort and safety. High humidity supports the spread of mold, while low humidity allows viruses to stay in the air longer and travel faster. 40-60% humidity levels are ideal. Higher temperatures seem to reduce viral transmission potential. However, it’s necessary to sustain a temperature that is not too hot to maintain occupant comfort. Carbon dioxide levels are a great proxy indicator for ventilation. People exhale when they breathe and the gas builds up inside places that aren’t well ventilated. These three areas should also be examined, not just for COVID-19, but when looking at the overall health and safety of the air quality in a building.
Buildings and the Air Outside
The air outside affects the air inside when it’s pumped in. With this being said, buildings are responsible for 40% of the energy consumption in the world. Human activities like burning fossil fuels, to create and maintain buildings, has released large quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere and warm the planet. This warming effect has only accelerated with time, and as a result, we’re seeing more forest fires, hurricanes, droughts, and flooding. Forest fires create vast amount of smoke and produce carbon monoxide emissions, which causes respiratory deaths and illnesses. High temperatures can also raise the levels of ozone and other pollutants in the air that worsen cardiovascular and respiratory disease. The problem is getting worse. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than any preceding decade since 1850. As buildings continue to emit pollutants and influence rising temperatures, indoor air pollution will also rise.
Improving Air Quality from the Outside, In