That around 800,000 people die each year worldwide due to poor indoor air quality in their workplaces should be enough to alert those responsible for these spaces to improve this situation. However, the topic has not been as much debated as outdoor air pollution. Although indoor air quality deficiencies are difficult to detect, this does not indicate that they are harmless. Some contaminants become two to 10 times more concentrated in closed places than in open places.

For all these reasons, you must take the necessary measures to guarantee that the air quality in your offices and other workspaces is adjusted to the regulated standards. In this sense, the design of the air conditioning system has an important role.

What are we talking about when we refer to indoor air quality?

Specifically, the concept of indoor air quality (IAQ) covers the conditions that the air in closed environments should meet to preserve the health of the people who occupy them temporarily or permanently. In other words, indoor air quality determines how pollutants, temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors affect health, comfort, and performance.

As surprising as it may seem, closed spaces greatly increase exposure to air pollutants. Most people spend almost 90% of their time indoors. In the latter, the air quality may be affected due to the entry of outside air. In addition, specific sources of indoor pollution and poor air exchange also count.

In this regard, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) identifies nine causes of poor indoor air quality:

  • In the first place, the design and construction of the buildings or enclosures.
  • Lack of inspections and reviews to verify the suitability of these spaces for their occupants.
  • On the other hand, many ventilation systems accumulate dirt and moisture.
  • Common factors of contamination in closed places.
  • Equipment, machinery, and indoor activities added to pollutants.
  • Existence of current humidity in the enclosure.
  • Poor maintenance and cleaning of the air conditioning system and its filters.
  • Poor quality outside air.
  • Very low ventilation rates.

To minimize these factors, it is critical to provide effective air exchange to indoor environments. In fact, the COVID-19 health emergency confirmed the importance of improving indoor air quality levels through air exchange. This option is frequently used to decrease the concentration of pollutants and bring it closer to zero.

Effects of indoor air quality

In our opinion, it is pertinent to summarize the findings of a comprehensive study carried out by health and environmental experts in 2015. The aforementioned investigation involved three prestigious American universities. It revealed that people who work in well-ventilated offices with lower-than-average levels of air pollutants have better cognitive performance than those who work in rooms with medium levels of indoor air pollution.

By the way, those in charge of the study focused, first, on volatile organic compounds (VOCs), concentrated to a greater extent inside interior spaces. VOC emissions originate from the materials used to make furniture and products used in offices. Among them: are photocopiers, plastics, papers, carpets, cleaning materials, synthetic fragrances, and tobacco smoke.

For the purposes of this investigation into the influence of indoor air quality, they compared three groups of participants. Each one worked in different office conditions:

  1. An ideal space with improved ventilation and very low concentrations of volatile pollutants.
  2. The second was done in an office with a low VOC presence.
  3. While the third worked in a conventional work environment, with high concentrations of VOCs.

In short, participants in the ideal office had double the cognitive performance scores of those who worked in the intermediate environment. And the latter outnumbered those who carried out their work in space under conventional conditions by 61%.

Evaluated cognitive areas

Of the nine areas of cognitive function assessed, the most relevant improvements were in:

  • Response to crisis situations. In this, the ability to plan and create strategies in emergencies was 131% and 97% higher in workers in the first two environments, compared to those in the highly contaminated space.
  • Strategy. That is the ability to apply solutions through information and planning. Individuals in environments A and B were 288% and 183% superior, respectively, compared to those in environment C.
  • Use of information. This domain refers to the ability to use the information provided and collected to achieve objectives. Once again, individuals assigned to environment C were outperformed by 299% and 172% by groups A and B, respectively.

Lastly, the researchers evaluated the effect of carbon dioxide (CO2) on people. In reality, we cannot classify this as a direct indoor pollutant, as it is an essential gas naturally present in the atmosphere. However, their concentrations tend to be higher in closed spaces due to poor ventilation. For this reason, it influences cognitive performance. By way of conclusion, the research found that, of all the cognitive functions assessed, the scores in seven of these fell as CO2 levels rose to the levels of conventional spaces.

The air conditioning system influences

Indeed, the design of air conditioning systems for buildings or industrial warehouses must meet the requirements of indoor air quality. Whether it is residential, commercial, educational, or other structures, this is an essential aspect to comply with legal parameters. For example, those established in the Regulation of Thermal Installations in Buildings (RITE), here in Spain. In article 11.2, this legal instrument establishes that thermal installations must have the capacity to maintain the acceptable indoor air quality in premises occupied by people. This includes being able to remove contaminants typically produced during normal use of the systems. In parallel, they must provide a sufficient flow of outside air and guarantee the extraction and expulsion of stale air.

From this perspective, there are essential aspects that must be prioritized, such as ventilation, air filtration, and the quality of indoor air itself. Therefore, ventilation systems are critical to achieving a healthy environment in buildings of all sizes and purposes. Based on this, these units must be correctly dimensioned, to guarantee an appropriate flow and percentage of air exchange. It should be noted here that there is a correlation between the levels of ventilation and the levels of indoor air cleanliness. The higher the ventilation per hour in a room, the lower the concentration of pollutants.

Another essential aspect is the level of filtration that the ventilation system applies to the flow of outdoor air before introducing it into the space. Therefore, it is essential that the ventilation system has high-capacity filters to properly filter the outside air.

We design air conditioning systems that guarantee indoor air quality

At Intersam we design and build custom refrigeration and air conditioning systems for industry and commerce since 1995. Our products are of high quality and have the most advanced technology to guarantee the best treatment of air flows, so relevant today. In addition, we incorporate a low energy consumption ventilation system into them. All this is to ensure the best indoor air quality, reduce costs and take care of the environment. We attend projects anywhere in Spain and the world. Contact us!