Many different associations in Canada operate to audit and certify buildings for various purposes. One of those purposes is ensuring good indoor air quality for buildings, and this of course is part of the work of a property manager or facilities manager. In this article, Guidelines for Air Filtration for Canadian Property Managers & Facilities Managers are discussed.
BOMA Recommendations for Improving Indoor Air Quality
Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) is one of North America’s largest environment assessment and certification programs for existing buildings. BOMA has many recommendations and standards for indoor air quality (IAQ). In Canada, it has a framework for best practices called BOMA BEST Sustainable Buildings. The updated guidance features air filtration.
BOMA’s Points System
In BOMA BEST’s framework, there is a points system for property managers, facilities managers, and building owners which gauges whether they are doing enough to ensure proper air filtration and indoor air quality.
Points are awarded “if air filters maintain MERV rating-tested in accordance with ASHRAE 52.2 in efficiency.” ASHRAE is the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers with members in more than 132 countries worldwide. One of their prime goals is to advance sustainability.
The framework laid out by BOMA requires that HVAC variable frequency drives (VFD) “not be manually locked to 100% or run at 100% consistently.” The only way to save energy is to use proper air filters with lower average pressure drop and use them in conjunction with a non-locked-in VFD. There may be instances where a VFD may need to be increased to 100% however, this should be only for special requirements and for a short period.
Air filters in a system with constant speed fans will not save energy.
BOMA has specified that activated carbon filtration may be utilized in main HVAC systems or in a majority of return-air systems in order to reduce various VOC concentrations. All of these technologies are available and can be used in the buildings being managed.
BOMA also notes noticeable odours or invisible gas are often a concern when indoor air quality is assessed. This can be mitigated with the use of activated carbon, a.k.a. molecular air filtration.
Indoor air quality is a growing concern for building managers and owners. Many technologies exist which go beyond the standards set out in the BOMA BEST Assessment. These technological innovations improve air quality, but they can be expensive to implement. For this reason, BOMA has developed an innovation points program. This program rewards building managers and owners who have invested in innovative technologies which go beyond the standards set out in the BOMA BEST Assessment.
Indoor air quality is one area where there is potential for innovation points. If building managers can show that measures are in place to improve the air quality in their buildings, then eligibility will be granted for additional points. This can help to offset the cost of implementing the technologies, and it will also encourage other building managers to invest in similar technologies.
There are buildings with various air quality readings in different areas of the same building or even on the same floor. Indoor air quality can affect the health and comfort of people who work in these buildings. It is important to ensure there is quality indoor air throughout all areas of the buildings.
Sustainability is Important to BOMA
Preferred products are those which decrease environmental impact. This includes installing more efficient air filters. BOMA calls for “Purchasing policies that lead to reduced waste, reduction in packaging at source, or longer life products.” Changing air filters too often using multi-stage filtration would be an example of creating more waste and using a product that has a shorter life. Many companies change pre-filters every three months and final filters every year. They also do not use gauges to measure pressure drop. Using a primary filter that does not require prefiltration saves significant energy and significantly reduces waste.
One way to improve our environment is to reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills. This can be accomplished by establishing take-back clauses in supplier contracts that require taking back consumed supplies and diverting at least 70% of those products from landfills. While this target may be difficult to achieve, it is important to remember that even a small reduction in waste can have an impact. In addition, transparency and documentation are vital in ensuring suppliers are held accountable for their waste diversion practices or lack thereof.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind some types of waste, such as HVAC air filters, are not easily diverted from landfills. However, by working with suppliers and other stakeholders, businesses can make strides in improving their waste diversion practices and ensuring a healthy indoor environment for their employees and customers. One of the best ways to positively impact the environment is to reduce consumption. Longer lasting air filters reduce consumption, reduce carbon emissions from more frequent delivery, and reduce waste going into landfills, etc. —
BOMA is provides good guidelines regarding air filtration for property managers and facilities managers in Canada.
WELL is managed and administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), a public benefit corporation whose mission is “to improve human health and wellbeing through the built environment.” WELL Building Standard “is a roadmap for creating and certifying spaces that advance human health and well-being. It is backed by the latest scientific research, WELL sets pathways for accomplishing health-first factors.”
Indoor air quality is impacted by the level of fine particulate matter introduced from the outside. WELL states this fine particulate matter “has been associated with increases in lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and mortality.” WELL recommends activated carbon filters for volatile organic compound removal and media filtration for particulate matter removal.
WELL states if recirculated air is used, “the following requirements are met in ventilation assemblies in the main air ducts for recirculated air: that rack space is available and rack location identified for future implementation of carbon filters or combination particle/carbon filters.” WELL also requires, “MERV-13 (or higher) media filters are used in the ventilation system to filter outdoor air.”
Air Filtration Maintenance and Verification
Indoor air quality is important for the health and well-being of building occupants. To ensure the air filtration system is operating as designed, records of air filtration maintenance must be provided to IWBI annually. These records should include evidence that filters have been properly maintained as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Maintaining the air filtration system can help to ensure indoor air quality is maintained at a high level. This, in turn, will lead to healthier and more productive building occupants.
USGBC’s LEED v4 EQ Credit: Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies requires ventilation systems for outdoor air with particle filters to have a MERV of 13 or higher (CEN Standard EN 779-2002) particle air filters.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is an international association that is concerned with lowering carbon emissions, conserving resources, and implementing sustainability practices for buildings. Canada is one of the top territories in the world for LEED certification, ranking number two worldwide in LEED designation, a process by which a building can obtain the designation showing it is committed to environmental protection and energy efficiency. An important area of focus for LEED is indoor air quality. LEED designation in Canada is handled by the Canada Green Building Council, CAGBC.
LEED requires in its standards (#1a. Ventilation) “When the building is occupied (any occupants including cleaning and facility personnel), provide required minimum amounts of outdoor air for ventilation per ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2016 or later.”
LEED requires in its standards (#1b. Filtration) that a building “Use filters for recirculated air that perform at MERV-13 or above. Review ASHRAE Standard 52.2 test data supplied by the filter manufacturer to understand pressure drop and efficiency.”
The standards allow for an alternative if #1b cannot be met (for example, central filtration is not available or not able to be upgraded), “use in-room air cleaners based on mechanical filters to achieve an equivalent or higher air change to MERV-13.” It adds if none of the above-mentioned conditions can be met, “use air cleaning with HEPA filtration to achieve at least five air changes per hour in each occupied space.” Portable air cleaners can be used, but it recommends that “If portable air cleaners are used, noise levels must be below 55 dBA.”
Indoor air quality is a major environmental issue. Poor ventilation, crowding, and high levels of carbon dioxide can all contribute to indoor air quality problems. Inadequate ventilation can lead to a build-up of pollutants and pathogens, which can cause respiratory problems, allergies, and other health problems. Crowding can also contribute to poor indoor air quality, as it reduces the amount of brought-in outdoor air that circulates through the space.
Maintaining a relative humidity level in buildings of between 40% and 60% is quickly becoming the accepted norm for optimal indoor air quality. “A level of 40 to 60 percent is right in the sweet spot for humidity benefits without the drawbacks of too much (too much humidity can lead to mold and mildew problems).” “First, it influences our body’s ability to fight off infection…second, Coronavirus (according to studies) decays faster at close to 60%RH…third, the lower the relative humidity, the faster larger droplets evaporate. The result is many of the larger droplets that would have settled out of the air turn into the peskier smaller ones that travel farther and penetrate deeper into the lungs.” So to ensure healthier indoor air quality, the effect of humidity must not be neglected. Washington Post editorial by public health and building health specialists J. Allen, A. Iwasaki, and L. Marr. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/11/18/winter-covid-19-humidity/
CO2 Concentration Indoors
High CO2 concentration (high levels of carbon dioxide), can also contribute to poor indoor air quality and they can reduce cognitive performance and alertness. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, “standards such as ASHRAE 62 and EN 16798-1, have consistently sought to encourage greater ventilation to dilute indoor pollutants and pathogens.” However, Indoor air quality remains a major environmental issue that needs to be addressed.
Particulate Matter Concentration
The particulate matter concentration in a building is an important factor to consider when it comes to the health of the building occupants. High levels of ambient particulate matter concentrations have been linked to increased incidence of chronic respiratory diseases, such as COPD and asthma, and a host of other health issues. These conditions may in turn exacerbate the susceptibility to, and impact of, the Coronavirus on individuals. It is therefore important to ensure particulate levels in buildings are kept within safe limits. This can be done through effective ventilation and filtration systems. By taking these measures, the health of building occupants is more protected and the spread of respiratory illnesses is reduced.
According to LEED guidance, inherently non-emitting sources, products that do not release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere are preferred. These products (stone, ceramic, powder-coated metals, plated or anodized metal, glass, concrete, clay brick, and unfinished or untreated solid wood) are considered fully compliant without any VOC emissions testing if they do not include integral organic-based surface coatings, binders, or sealants.
If a product is made of inherently non-emitting materials and does not have any added VOCs, it does not need to be further tested for VOC emissions. This is good news for companies who want to create products that are environmentally friendly and compliant with regulations. It is important to note inherently non-emitting sources can still release VOCs if they are improperly used or handled (for example, if they are heated too much or come into contact with certain chemicals). Therefore, it is still important to follow proper safety procedures when working with these materials.
What is the Best Air Filter for Your Building?
BOMA, WELL, and LEED all recommend a MERV-13 air filter at a minimum. But it is important to note not every MERV-13 filter is equal. Some MERV-13 filters have a huge downward spike in efficiency not long after installation. Such filters, when tested, would soon receive a rating of only MERV-8, nowhere near the original spec of MERV-13. This means more unwanted particles are passing through the filter media. This decreases air quality and the life of any filter downstream, e.g. a secondary filter. It also requires filter changes more often, resulting in higher costs to property managers, facilities managers, or building owners.
Using a MERV-13A will ensure that you won’t experience an efficiency drop after installation. An easy way to remember the distinction between MERV and MERV-A is to think of the “A” as standing for “actual,” so a filter’s MERV-A rating represents its “actual” efficiency.
If a prefilter starts discharging it results in more frequent secondary filter changes. This leads to more waste and higher costs. It also results in much more energy usage and again, more costs.
The best way to ensure quality indoor air in a building, is to install filters that last longer, are more efficient and don’t cause the air filtration system to work harder. All of this will save your company money in the long run.
If you are concerned with VOCs and the intention is to reduce the levels for a healthier environment, coupling MERV-13A filters with activated carbon filters is a good solution. When paired with molecular filtration solutions, such as those with activated carbon, air purification systems can be effective at removing both particles and VOCs. Read more here
To ensure there is clean air in all building areas, it is helpful to install air quality monitors or test the air quality in various building spaces. If it’s difficult to get good readings in specific areas due to poor airflow, a portable air cleaner is a recommended alternative or supplemental solution. For more information, click here
For an air filter that is the longest lasting, has the lowest average pressure drop, lowest energy cost in the industry, requires less changes and therefore less landfill waste, Camfil recommends the Hi-Flo ES bag filter designed to work without a prefilter and is performance guaranteed. Read more here
The best way to ensure you have the highest quality, sustainable, longest lasting filters is to contact Camfil and speak to an air filtration specialist. You can also find out more about guidelines for air filtration for property managers in Canada by speaking with us. Contact us here.
To read more about indoor air quality in Canada see our recent blog post here
About Camfil Canada Clean Air Solutions
For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, Camfil is a global provider of commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. Camfil firmly believes the best solutions for customers are the best solutions for the planet, too.
For more information or to learn more about our air filtration solutions, visit us at www.camfil.com/en-ca/.
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