Designing for High Indoor Air Quality during COVID-19

Sep 5, 2020DMA Engineering

DMA just recently completed the design of a luxury home that had a requirement for high indoor air quality. It’s never been more necessary to have exceptional indoor air quality.

Covid-19 and the widespread closures it has brung make me wonder what I can do as an engineer to make life as normal as possible. The codes and ASHRAE 62.1, 62.2 have minimum fresh air rates that are requirements. LEED gives a point for going over the minimum, Well buildings give 3 points for enhanced indoor air quality. They state “The majority of ventilation standards specify ventilation rates and other measures intended to provide indoor air quality that is merely “acceptable” to building users and that reduces the risk of adverse health effects.[65] Even with proper ventilation designed to meet ventilation standards, the concentration of indoor pollutants can exceed concentrations found in outdoor air.[66,67] Ventilation rates less than 10 L/s [21 CFM] per person in all building types are associated with negative perception of air quality and actual health outcomes.[68]and others require that the ventilation rates be increased above these minimums to achieve compliance.”

The main takeway: if indoor air quality is poor, human health suffers. That’s the bottom line. I believe the minimum to be barely acceptable. A recent client was part of the movement to evolve beyond ‘barely acceptable’ and drove the decision for extremely high indoor air quality.  

How did DMA deliver extremely high indoor air quality? 

  • We increased the ventilation rate from the code minimum of .29 ACH to .5 ACH. 
  • To make it energy efficient we designed two heat recovery systems coupled with a filtration system using MERV 13 filters and HEPA filters, along with plasma filtration.  This system will provide air that is fresh, cleaner than the outdoors, and with the use of heat recovery is energy that will be efficient to obtain.  

Yes, this does increase system cost and is a bit more expensive to operate, but the client’s indoor air quality is at a level that is the best for the health of all inhabitants. During a time of a spreading virus such as this, you want to up the level of what’s acceptable for indoor air quality. If you want to move beyond minimum and optimize your air quality, give us a call. We can design a system that is the best for your health and the health of the community.