Kartik Singhal, Founder, O2 Cure

Kartik is a young entrepreneur having experience of 7 years in managing his business. He joined his father’s business, Zeco Aircon Ltd., a 30 year old leading manufacturer of HVAC systems. During his initial stint, he was offered a role to understand and manage 3 production facilities (North, west and South India), after 4 years of experience in managing operations & streamlining processes, kartik joined the sales and marketing department where he was successful in establishing a strong connect with the consultants & international clients & used ZECO’s strength to design and deliver a bespoke experience by providing customisable solutions. Under his leadership, Zeco has won many awards on national & international platforms, for innovative air quality products , energy efficient products & Corporate social responsibility.

 

Why is Indoor Air Quality Important for workplaces?

Indoor air quality (IAQ) at the workplace is a crucial factor that impacts the comfort, wellbeing, health, and productivity of the employees and building occupants. Consequently, it becomes a prime factor in the profitability of a business. Many studies have proved that sometimes indoor air is up to 10 times more polluted. Occasionally, even well-run buildings can experience episodes of poor indoor air quality. It is a big problem for urban service class people who spend around 90% of their time indoors, of which 8-10 hours in an office environment. Moderate to severe level of indoor pollution at workplaces causes sick building syndrome and adversely impact the health of employees. Improved indoor air quality can result in higher productivity and fewer lost workdays. According to some estimates, indoor air cost hundreds of billions of dollars each year in lost productivity and medical care globally.

What are the factors contributing to IAQ at workplaces?

IAQ is a continually altering interaction of complex factors determined by types and levels of pollutants in indoor environments. Inadequate ventilation, building design, ventilation system, source of pollution, sunlight, occupant perceptions, kitchen emission, moisture, paint, consumables, fixture, and furniture are some factors that contribute to the deteriorating IAQ at workplaces.

Three basic categories of pollutants that impact IAQ are Biological contaminants, Molecular pollutants, and Particles.

What should be the Strategy to Control Indoor Air Quality?

Three main approaches to improve indoor air quality are.

  • Management of the sources of pollutants
  • Dilution and removal of pollutants through ventilation
  • Air filtration to clean the air pollutants

The first and foremost thing to be done is to identify and eliminate sources of pollutants both inside and outside the building. It could be, chemicals stored in the premises, pollutants inside or outside the building, biological contaminants, products used in the building like office equipment, furniture, wall, and floor coverings, carpets, rugs, curtains, mattresses, cleaning agents, and other consumables. Another important thing in managing pollutants is to control moisture and relative humidity in occupied spaces. Moisture helps in the growth of microbes, sources of moisture like pipelines, water connections, and sanitation are to be managed properly.

Once sources are identified the next step is to dilute and remove these pollutants, for which an efficient ventilation system is required, which should be designed, implemented, and managed properly. For it, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system are used. It includes all of the equipment used to ventilate, heat, cool, move, filter, and clean the air around the building through ductwork. This system significantly impacts the distribution and removal of pollutants. If not managed properly, HVAC systems can themselves act as a source of indoor pollutants, especially when they become contaminated with dirt, moisture, and microbial growth from the stagnant water in drip pans or uncontrolled moisture inside the air ducts.

There are many factors to determine what type and capacity of HVAC should be used few critical criteria are area and design of the building, the material used in the building, and the number of occupants of the building. Even existing HVAC systems need to be modified if there is an alternation in the use of areas than the original purpose, or if there is the emergence of additional and new types of loads. Kitchen ventilation in offices that has kitchens is also a crucial factor in maintaining the IAQ of the building, for the kitchen emits many pollutants. The HVAC system maintains an adequate supply of outside air in an office environment to dilute pollutants that are released by equipment, building materials, furnishings, products, and people. But many times, outside air quality, is also equally and sometimes much more polluted with all the types of pollutants like particulate matter, pollen, dust, harmful gasses, and microbes if such air is taken into building ventilation system it will adversely affect indoor conditions, for this filtration and air purification is required.

Lastly, Air filtration to clean the air from all the pollutants like microbes, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), dust, pollen, Particulate Matter (PM) is required of both recirculated air and fresh air from outside. There are many solutions like filters of HVAC and AHUs, in-duct air purification technology, and standalone air purification.  Air filters these days are sold like home appliances, while proper awareness and consultation are required to select the correct air purification solution for the specific pollutant. There are two technologies of air purification used for removing pollutants from the air, passive and active air purification.

Passive air purification: In this air is passed through filters, and pollutants are captured in these filters. An example of this is HEPA or High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters installed in an HVAC/AHU that can filter out 99.97% of particles of ≥0.3 μm diameter.

Active air purification: It is a more advanced technology where pollutants are neutralized in the air by using cleaning agents. Examples are PHI (Photohydroionizatio) Technology and REME (Reflective Electro Magnetic Energy Cell) Technology are very effective to eliminate particles and microbes (Bacteria, Spores, and Viruses, including Coronavirus) even of ≤0.3 μm diameter.

Other critical considerations to improve IAQ of workplaces are:

Housekeeping: Disposal of garbage and cleaning of spills are to be done promptly.

Space planning. Placement of furniture and equipment may affect the delivery of air. Furniture or partitions that block the circulation of air can affect IAQ and need to be positioned with attention to airflow.

Smoking Policy: Effective smoking policy to be formulated and enforced on the premises

Equipment maintenance. Periodic and efficient maintenance of HVAC equipment is essential for the adequate and good quality air delivery in the office building. Appropriate preventive maintenance programs to ensure the proper functioning of HVAC systems should be in place.

Building Management: IAQ should be considered important in BMS and its purchase decision. 

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