Heating,ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
Inadequate indoor ventilation is now being combatted by intelligent heating ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC).
HVAC systems are now being developed and integrated in a standard way to establish a balance between adequate ventilation to prevent sickness, and also energy efficiency.
Building management systems are one solution to address the balance, whereby widely distributed sensors that, for example, monitor temperature, humidity and VOCs can be used to optimise HVAC performance but minimise energy use.
Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)
Poor air quality and ventilation are key contributing factors to Sick building syndrome (SBS), an illness diagnosed by a collection of acute symptoms whilst in a particular environment.
Possible SBS symptoms according to the NHS include:
- blocked or runny nose
- dry itchy skin
- dry and sore eyes
- tiredness and difficulty concentrating
Work, Home, Outdoors
Multiple inspiring innovations are being integrated globally across the built environment to address the ongoing issue of air quality. Each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution.
Living among busy roads and industrialised areas is creating vulnerability in the public’s health and stretching the healthcare system. In Greater Manchester outdoor air pollution is costing the regional economy close to £1bn a year, plus reducing life expectancy by six months due to the high levels of pollution in the congested city area.
As a result of modern day activities and lifestyle habits we are being exposed to higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), in our work place, in the home and equally in the outdoor environment.
Clean Air Strategy 2019
To further address the health and safety and environmental issues surrounding air pollution, in January 2019 the UK government launched a Clean Air Strategy to outline how they will tackle all sources of air pollution, making air healthier to breathe, protecting nature and boosting the economy.
The government confirms their plans for dealing with all sources of air pollution, making our air healthier to breathe, protecting nature and boosting the economy.
Air pollution is now something we are all aware of and is often included alongside UV levels on weather forecasts.
VOCs are themselves directly an air pollutant but also have secondary effects. When sunlight and heat react with VOCs, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides (gasses released from many industrial process and vehicles) ozone is generated and smog is formed.
Health and Safety issues
Whilst many VOCs have no adverse effects on health and the environment, some are harmful. Health effects include eye, nose and throat irritation from short term exposures (think about a whiff of super glue) and long-term exposure to very low concentrations you are not aware of (parts per billion) may cause damage to liver, kidneys, central nervous system and cancers.
As VOCs exist as a gas at room temperature the main exposure route is through normal respiration. Exposure to harmful VOCs can happen at home, outdoors or in the workplace.