New Study Assesses Rate of Increased Productivity from Enhanced IAQ

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A research entitled Economic, Environmental and Health Implications of Enhanced Ventilation in Office Buildings, conducted by the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, Carrier, Syracuse University, and SUNY Upstate Medical found that increasing the ventilation rate in common office buildings can be achieved at an approximate annual energy cost from $14 to $40 for every person. This may result to an equivalent of $6,500 improved productivity for every person annually. The study also found that when energy-efficient machines are utilized, the energy costs could be much lower.

The study was supported by United Technologies Corp and its UTC Climate, Controls, and Security sector, one of the leading suppliers of building controls and automation, HVACR systems, and fire and security systems.

Published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health’s special issue entitled “Indoor Environmental Quality: Exposures and Occupant Health”, the study, also known as the COGfx Study, found that cognitive function test scores developed101 percent in green building environments with upgraded ventilation as compared to typical building environments.

According to UTC Chief Sustainability Officer John Mandyck, “This study shows there is no longer a tradeoff between energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality – both can be achieved together to accelerate the green building movement. Readily available, energy efficient technology can turn office buildings into human resource tools that improve the health and productivity of the people inside.”

The research team selected a 53,000 square foot, three-story building with more than 260 occupants, the U.S. Department of Energy Medium Office Prototype, as the standard. They also used the state average utility costs per city and referenced salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They studied three indoor environments with four different HVAC systems in seven cities in the U.S. The seven cities represent various climate zones are the following: New Mexico, Albuquerque, North Carolina, San Francisco, Baltimore, Austin, Texas, Boise, Idaho, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Below are the three indoor environments that the research studied:

1. 30 percent higher ventilation than ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2010, the standard required to attain a U.S. Green Building Council or USGBC Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) approval for enhanced ventilation. This is equivalent to 27.6 cubic feet per minute of outdoor air for each person.
2. Standard ventilation at 20 cubic feet per minute of outdoor air for every person. This is the green condition used during the COGfx Study.
3. 40 cubic feet per minute of outdoor air for an individual person, the enhanced green condition that the study used.

Fan coil unit (FCU) and variable air volume (VAV) systems, both machines used ordinarily used in office buildings were evaluated and assessed with and without an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) that improves system energy efficiency rating (SEER).

Using Carrier’s Hourly Analysis Program (HAP) to determine the energy consumption per year for the HVAC equipment, the study concluded that at the highest ventilation rate, adding an ERV actually counterbalances the environmental impact of enhanced ventilation. The power generation fuel mix for each city is a valuable factor in determining the results of the study and as per the researchers, “the per building environmental impact on greenhouse gas emissions is not as impactful as the estimated benefits.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s power Profiler tool was also used to know the environmental impacts of the subjects.

“Research like this has the potential to encourage the adoption of more green building, which means more energy can be saved over the long term,” Mandyck added.

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