Indoor Dew Point: Maintaining Thermal Comfort, Avoiding Building Damage

Condensation, moisture absorption and, subsequently, mold or organic growth are often a result of high indoor dew point combined with cool surface temperatures. For example, if a facility’s indoor dew point is above 60oF, it is possible that moisture will begin to condense on cool surfaces like ductwork, chilled water supply lines, windows, or refrigeration systems. This collection of moisture can cause damage to the building, as well as to merchandise. It can even promote organic growth over time.

In addition to the risk of moisture accumulation, ASHRAE recommends maintaining a dew point below 62 oF to meet thermal comfort for approximately 80% of occupants; a dew point of 45 oF is recommended to maintain summertime humidity comfort levels.

Monitoring Dew Point

Consider this: You are a kid in a candy store with a plethora of delicious options in front of you. You sort through the store and boil your decision down to two candy bars.

Option A: The tried and true milk chocolate bar. Nothing fancy but classically delicious.

Option B: Fluffy nougat topped with caramel and peanuts, coated in milk chocolate. An exciting snack bursting with flavor.

Did you choose Option A or Option B?

If I had to guess, you chose Option B as it gives you more variety with your purchase! Now, what if I told you that the decision you just made also can apply to thermal HVAC design and dew point monitoring principals?

Option A: A design principal of maintaining 60% relative humidity (RH).

Option B: A design principal of maintaining a 60oF dew point.

Both are similar and help maintain a healthy building, but maintaining a 60oF dew point (Option B) is inherently better and offers a more reliable risk indicator. Using 60% RH as an indicator (Option A) is unreliable as it creates needless concern when air temperature is cool. In the example below, you can see that the amount of water vapor in the air remains the same while relative humidity concentration varies depending on the temperature of the air.

Conversely, a facility manager or building owner may have a false sense of security when indoor air temperature is above normal levels because relative humidity will decrease as air temperature rises. These reasons are why dew point should be used as a threshold of concern. Dew point will not only factor in moisture content and temperature of the air but also provides a risk indicator for condensation and moisture absorption, which should be a facility manager’s primary concern.

Using Indoor Dew Point as a Risk Indicator

If you are already using indoor dew point as a risk indicator for indoor moisture activity, then continue to do so! Specifically, look to ensure that indoor dew point remains below 60 oF during cooling operations to reduce the risk of moisture absorption, condensation, and organic growth.

If you are not using indoor dew point as your risk indicator, now is the time to do so! You could be surprised to learn that measuring relative humidity alone may not be keeping your facility safe.

If you are already noticing signs of moisture accumulation, mold or organic growth, then ASHRAE recommends implementing the following HVAC factors to reduce your risk:

  • Ensure that ventilated air is dehumidified to a dew point below the indoor dew point when the building is in cooling mode.
  • Ensure that all condensation inside HVAC components is being properly drained.
  • Ensure that indoor surfaces are not cooled to temperatures below indoor dew point during occupied and unoccupied modes.
  • Keep indoor dew point low enough to ensure that condensation does not occur on cool surfaces of HVAC components, building materials, or building furnishings.
  • Ensure that humidifiers are sized, installed, and controlled properly to avoid the risk of overloading indoor air with humidity.
  • Ensure that cool HVAC and plumbing components are properly insulated to keep their surfaces about 10 oF above indoor dew point.

These simple steps — in addition to proper HVAC ventilation, indoor air monitoring, indoor air verification, and keeping an eye on seasonal changes — can help ensure that your facility is operating in a safe manner while reducing risk of mechanical damage, moisture accumulation, or organic growth.

If you would like to learn more about ways in which your indoor air environments can be improved, please reach out to us. Please complete our contact form or contact us by phone at (513) 965-7300.

Prevent Sick Buildings: Why Positive Building Pressure Matters

Can a building get sick? I’ll give you the answer up front: Yes, sure, most definitely — a building can get “sick.” You may ponder… “But how can a building become sick? It is an inanimate object. It doesn’t live and breathe like humans!” On the contrary, your building is a living object. The main factor making your building come alive is its people: your customers, employees, and outside partners (think mail delivery or an overnight cleaning crew). Let’s dive into what factors can make a building sick and why maintaining positive building pressure is so important in prevention.

What Makes a Building Come Alive?

First, consider what may make your building come alive (or ultimately “infect” it):

  • Supplies
    The products you bring in (from any point of origin) may have outside contaminants or be perishable. As you know, perishables may emanate odors or fumes.
  • Chemicals
    You must account for chemicals or cleaning supplies in their controlled rooms (where exhaust is extremely important). 
  • Restrooms
    Consider the restroom facilities. Restrooms, especially those open to the general public (i.e. in a lobby area) can encounter high volumes of traffic and behaviors that may not meet sanitary standards. 
  • HVAC System(s)
    Your HVAC system is a key element bringing your building to life. With proper cleaning and maintenance, they are designed to provide comfort on demand. Heating and cooling are crucial amenities that have grown to be a must-have and are mandated by federal and local guidelines. 

When you take all these factors into account, it’s easier to understand how a building can become “sick.”

Sick Building Syndrome symptoms

Facility Managers: How to Prevent Sick Buildings

So how can a facility manager or building owner help to prevent sickness in a facility? As a professional in the HVAC industry, my primary goal is to earn your trust to maintain the wellness of your building’s HVAC system. Think about it — you can’t control others’ actions. There is no way to determine someone’s state of health as they are in your establishment. But you can control the HVAC system and make sure it is properly maintained to be a healthy system!

A little-known fact about HVAC systems that I will stress the importance: FRESH OUTSIDE AIR IS NEEDED TO MAINTAIN A POSITIVE BUILDING PRESSURE AT ALL TIMES. What does this mean, and why is it important?

  1.  Your restaurant, retail store or office building, has many moving parts to bring it alive, has to breathe. Like any living thing, it requires oxygen to replace the carbon dioxide. The equation should result in bringing in a greater amount of fresh air than the carbon dioxide, chemicals, fumes/odors, and cooking effluents that the building creates. When this happens, there should be a slight positive pressure from the inside of your establishment that pushes outward at your doors and drive-thru windows.  A proper HVAC test and balance (TAB) by an NEBB-Certified firm like Melink can help you achieve this goal.  

  2. A common oversight that people make is assuming, “My building is positive. We’re in good shape.” But how sure are they that the lungs of the HVAC system are clean and free of operational damages? Many times, I have encountered damaged and clogged filtration components within an HVAC system that may lead to costly repairs to your equipment and structural damages:
  • Clogged or missing outside air intake filters
  • Clogged, missing or inadequate air filters
  • Clogged evaporator and condenser coils
  • Clogged and inadequate fan blower wheels
  • Mold and mildew
  • Trapped small animals that lead to contaminations
  • Contaminated duct work that eventually shows up on the supply, return and exhaust grilles throughout the establishment 
Checking HVAC ductwork for positive building pressure

All these issues work together to create a sick building.  The opposite of positive pressure is that dreaded negative pressure. Every time your facility’s doors open, all of the outside air conditions are sucked into the building.  These elements can be hot or cold air, humidity, airborne pathogens, and odors. The humidity attaches to the chilled supply diffusers and grilles, creating moisture buildup that drips onto your floors, tables, customers, and clients.

Checking HVAC filters for positive building pressure

Of course, it’s not feasible for a facility manager to know the ins and outs of every HVAC system of every facility he/she manages. So let us do the work for you! Melink Corporation’s T&B technicians can be your eyes and ears to help your facilities maintain positive building pressure. We are an army of application engineers with skilled LEED and NEBB certifications. Our company is nationwide and has more than 30 years of experience. Along with services that will help you on your way to a healthy building, we offer a monitoring system and demand ventilation systems that will alert you when problems or concerns arise.  These services, along with reliable routine maintenance will minimize uninterrupted service to your most important people. We can help you protect your customers, employees, and outside partners from sick buildings.

COVID-19 Closures: Mitigating Damage to Unoccupied Buildings

As states across the U.S. are working to flatten the curve, many businesses are impacted by COVID-19 closures as a result of “stay at home” or “shelter in place” orders to limit human interaction and prevent the virus’s spread. Additionally, many companies across the country have opted to temporarily close facilities to prevent employees from contracting the disease. With these shutdowns, it can become increasingly difficult to determine the condition of a facility and repair any issues that could be developing while the facility is unoccupied.

COVID-19 closures of restaurants

Damage to Unoccupied Buildings

Consider these scenarios that could arise in an unoccupied facility…

  • A building in the coastal region may experience high humidity that is going unnoticed, which can in turn lead to mold growth. Imagine if the facility is a retail store; the end-result might mean thousands of dollars of damaged, unsalvageable clothing merchandise.
  • If indoor moisture levels drop too low — perhaps in a cooler climate that is shifting from winter to spring temps — it could lead to wood warping. For instance, the frames of wood windows can shrink in size, making them more difficult to open and potentially creating gaps that let in more cold, dry air.
  • Low indoor moisture can also lead to peeling or separated wallpaper, or cracked paint on plaster walls. What would you do if you come back to your facility, only to realize you need to bring in professional painting or remodeling services?
  • Think about a restaurant or bar. There may be hundreds (or thousands) of dollars of liquor or wine in stock, going untouched through the COVID-19 crisis. Corked bottles of wine are not exempt from the effects of dry indoor air. Extremely low humidity levels can slowly chip away at a cork, leaving room for air to get into the bottle and ruin the flavor. The ideal humidity level for wine storage is 60%.
  • Another thought for a restaurant facility: A humid environment allows mold growth to fester. The COVID-19 shutdowns came on suddenly for many facilities. Did kitchen staff have adequate time to scrub walk-ins, pots, and pans? Were grease traps thoroughly degreased? These are potential breeding grounds for mold during non-occupation.
  • Contemplate multi-purpose facilities, such as an apartment complex with retail or dining space on the first floor. Completely shutting down HVAC airflow to the unoccupied businesses could lead to uneven air flow and temperature throughout the larger building.

The bottom line: Scenarios like the ones above will go unnoticed and unrepaired until employees return to the facility to find the damage caused by an unoccupied month.

Preventing Facility Damage During COVID-19 Closures

While these issues may seem frightful, thankfully many state governments have kept issues like this in mind when mandating shelter-in-place orders. Seeing the value and necessity of essential services, many states are allowing skilled trades such as HVAC technicians to continue working. During quarantine, let these technicians be the eyes and ears at the facility to ensure that, when business returns, critical issues didn’t develop, delaying reopening.

In addition, this downtime can also be the ideal occasion to have technicians visit the facility to address any known issues or to perform preventive maintenance. Maybe there is a repair the facility manager has been putting off because its fix requires closing a typically busy corridor or lobby area. By addressing this work now while the facility is shut down, managers can limit future downtime, employee inconvenience, and lost profit.

And as a preventative measure for the duration of this closure or in preparation of future closures, consider installing sensors to remotely monitor a facility’s indoor air quality levels through relative humidity, temperature, building pressure, and CO2 checks. A system like Melink Corporation’s PositiV® building health monitor can remotely track and trend building health, plus send alerts to the facility owner or manager when the system detects measurements outside its set parameters. While a facility may not have this in place to combat the current COVID-19 closures, it can be installed now to prepare for future unplanned closures or even a vacation (Facility managers need a break at some point, right?!). 

How Do Seasonal Changes Affect Building Health?

As we transition from dry, cool winter months to hot, humid summer months, you may be saying to yourself, “Woohoo! Bring on the heat!” However, seasonal changes can affect building health. Specifically, the summer season can present major problems for facility managers and building owners as their buildings’ HVAC systems struggle to keep up with increasing cooling loads and extremely humid outdoor air.

Just as spring plant life sprouts, HVAC mechanical issues can pop up with warmer temperatures. Poor indoor conditions such as high indoor relative humidity, negative building pressure, CO2 buildup, or drastic temperature fluctuations are just a few examples.

Staying ahead of these issues before they become noticeable, costly problems is crucial when considering the overall health of your building and its HVAC systems.

Humidity: A Common Seasonal Issue

At various facilities, a common issue that comes with changing seasons is humidity. Specifically, humidity can be difficult to maintain at a comfortable level.

Condensation on building window, a seasonal building health issue.
Condensation in office building

In the winter, the heating mode on air handling equipment can heat or evaporate the existing moisture in the air to reduce the overall relative humidity as outdoor air is brought into the building. However, in the summer, the opposite occurs: the air handling equipment cools the building space and doesn’t heat or evaporate the moisture out of incoming air. This combination of high relative humidity and indoor dew point ultimately creates conditions that promote condensation or organic growth within the facility.

A Year-Round Solution for Indoor Building Health

The most cost-effective solution to verifying and ensuring long-term indoor building health is with a sensor capable of measuring key building health metrics like differential pressure, relative humidity, dew point, temperature, and CO2.

Components of building health

By gathering data on these building health metrics, the facility manager, operator, and/or building owner can quickly verify on-site conditions in real-time, while also gaining peace of mind in knowing their buildings are meeting engineering specifications per design as seasons change. In addition to these benefits, sensors’ data gathering gives users the ability to track and trend building health over a long-term period.

Using Data to Plan for Seasonal Building Health Changes

Getting and staying ahead of maintenance doesn’t need to start with expensive truck rolls and frequent site visits. Instead, sensor solutions provide an inexpensive, effective avenue to implement a proactive mindset. The collected data can be aggregated to an easy-to-use online portal capable of summarizing, visualizing, and diagnosing issues on site, while also granting users the ability to trend and predict HVAC performance for a lasting solution.

Get ahead of the changing seasons by verifying your building is healthy today!

How Indoor Air Quality Influences Wellness

Indoor air quality (IAQ) can influence the cold/flu season. According to the American Medical Association, 50% of illnesses are caused or aggravated by polluted indoor air. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes this is because indoor air contains two to five times more pollutants compared to typical outside air.

While the average person spends 90% of their time indoors, many groups of people considered to be “high risk” spend even more time indoors. These populations include but are not limited to babies, the elderly, and those with health conditions. So when you consider the ample amount of time people are spending indoors with potentially polluted air, it is easy to understand how IAQ can be linked to sickness. In fact, IAQ poses such a large risk to human health globally that the EPA recognizes it as one of its top 5 health hazards.

Sick building showing indoor air quality

While most people think that poor IAQ is easily noticeable because they can sense it through vision or smell, this is not normally the case. Many times, the IAQ in a facility may be poor because the CO2 level is far higher than recommended. Typically, a “safe” level of CO2 is between 400-1,000ppm, but levels can reach as high as 2,000ppm. At this high level, occupants can experience headaches, sleepiness, decreased cognitive function, and increased heart rates.

To ensure that CO2 levels are kept in check, it is best to have a building health monitor (such as PositiV) installed to examine these levels. If the CO2 level is above the 1,000ppm mark, it is best to examine the outside air intake on the air conditioning equipment to ensure the facility is receiving the proper air changes per hour and enough fresh air is entering the facility.

The Future of the 2020s: Healthy Buildings

As we enter the Roaring 20s and continue the “What’s next?” conversation surrounding societal, technological, planetary, and human behavioral changes, I think it’s important for us to consider the role of buildings in all these arenas — ideally, healthy buildings.

According to a Navigant Research study in 2018, the global building stock is expected to increase 13% by 2028, and other research estimates the total global building stock will double by 2060. Should these estimates be correct, that’s the equivalent of building an entire New York City every month…for the next 40 years! Consider that growth, combined with research that contributes 40% of greenhouse gas emissions to buildings, and we have a big opportunity in front of us.

On a recent visit to Melink, President and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council Mahesh Ramanujam highlighted his mission to transform buildings by first focusing on the people inside of them. Considering people spend 90% of their lives inside buildings, the more people associate buildings with human health and personal well-being, the more the conversation for smarter and more efficient buildings can be accelerated.  While Mahesh is a great influence on the advocacy front, Melink is in a great position to offer building owners tangible solutions for tackling these challenges. 

How Melink Innovates Healthy Buildings

Innovation is a core principle at Melink, and 2020 brings about exciting opportunities across all of our products and services to make an impact in the world:

  • Melink PositiV®  is a building health monitor that provides trend data for the key metrics of building pressure, CO2, temperature, and humidity. Negative pressure can lead to a multitude of “Sick Building” syndromes that ultimately lead to decreased employee performance, increased sick days, and unhappy occupants.
  • Melink’s core Test & Balance services ensure that buildings are performing as they were designed to support and protect the occupants.
  • Intelli-Hood® measures the cooking activity at the kitchen hood level to ensure the operator is using only the energy required to exhaust cooking effluent based on the demand, in addition to ensuring enough replacement fresh air is delivered to occupants.
  • Our Solar & Geothermal division is busy working to rapidly scale the adoption of these core building technologies and innovate around barriers to entry. The price of solar continues to decline as efficiencies increase, leading to a transformative time in the solar industry as we go beyond grid parody. In most cases, we offer our solar customers the ability to lock in their kWh rate for the next 30 years at prices below $0.025 / kWh. With the rapid rate of innovation in the battery storage sector, I’m confident new technologies will emerge that mitigate net-metering laws and allow building owners to more efficiently install power plants on their roof via solar.
  • Plus, our geothermal team continues to push the boundaries of hybrid thermal loop systems in an effort to remove significant bore-field cost in geothermal projects. Our new HQ2 is a living laboratory to drive the innovation necessary to responsibly heat, cool and power the buildings of the future.   

So, “What’s next” for Melink? Changing the world, one healthy building at a time. Sound familiar?

Get A Pulse On Your Building

In today’s world, we are surrounded by smart phones, watches, cars, and other devices that are becoming further integrated into our lives. These smart sensors and technologies are helping day-to-day tasks become more efficient. To improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings and restaurants, these smart sensors and technologies can be applied in a similar manner.

Like a Fitbit that monitors and trends personal health metrics, sensors within a building can monitor and trend overall building health. With these smart sensors, important building health metrics, like relative humidity, CO2 levels, temperature, and pressure, can be measured to paint a picture of building health and HVAC performance. With data from the sensors, facility managers can identify improvements regarding building health, energy efficiency, and occupant safety and wellness within their building. PositiV, Melink’s exciting innovation in the world of building health, equips facility managers and building owners with a tool they need to verify building health and HVAC performance.

There are a variety of tell-tale signs of an unhealthy building like wet, dripping diffusers from high humidity, lower occupant cognitive ability from excessive CO2 levels, or a strong incoming draft at an open door caused by improper pressure or HVAC balance. These problematic unhealthy building signs can be addressed before becoming a costly, major issue. With building performance data, a facility manager or building owner will easier understand when building health begins to decline and identify corrective actions for the issues before they cause further problems.

A Fitbit won’t directly prevent a heart attack or make someone healthy, but it does arm its wearers with knowledge that is needed to live a healthier lifestyle. Similarly, building sensors won’t make a healthy building space, but they will equip its users with the information needed to create and sustain a healthy building space. It’s up to the manager or owner to take necessary corrective actions, but providing the data to help them make the proper decisions is the first step to improving overall building health.

PositiV and Test and Balance: A one-two punch to sick building syndrome

Sick building syndrome is a condition that affects a building’s occupant due to unhealthy factors in the work environment primarily associated with poor ventilation and airflow in the facility. Per the EPA, symptoms of Sick Building syndrome include acute discomfort such as headaches, dry skin, coughing, dizziness, and nausea. Despite all these symptoms Sick Building syndrome can go undetected for years as the symptoms are all relatively minor and occur over multiple years.

With the release of Melink PositiV™ earlier this year, facility managers can now remotely diagnose and asses 4 of the key building metrics that contribute to building health. These include CO2, relative humidity, building pressure, and temperature. By ensuring these 4-building metrics are within acceptable ranges facility managers can sleep well knowing that they will be able to monitor and track if their facility is showing early signs of sick building syndrome. This can empower the end user to act and stop the early patterns that can lead to numerous issues down the road.

You know it is time to act when one of the 4 measurements are outside of the recommended limits. A primary way of attempting to correct any of these issues in a facility is to have a test and balance to reset airflow to the engineered design plans. During a test and balance, existing issues are identified and corrected to allow for proper airflow into the space. Through this process the technician should be examining and resetting the outside air dampers at the facility to allow the building to receive the correct amount of fresh air. The combination of monitoring and acting on the data allows end-users to ensure comfortable, healthy and energy efficient facilities.

Healthy Buildings by Staying PositiV

This week my team and I had the unique pleasure of attending the Restaurant Facility Management Association’s annual conference, RFMA, in Austin, Texas. Having a chance to reconnect with our customers and focusing on helping them solve problems is always an incredibly rewarding and satisfying experience.

In talking with so many of the customers with whom we work on a regular basis, we noticed some consistencies regarding their challenges. First, many of these Facility Managers are managing an incredibly large portfolio of stores; most folks citing somewhere between 50 and 100 under their management, offering precious little time on a per site basis. Additionally, operating budgets are incredibly thin, leaving marginal room to proactively manage facilities, and often only being able to respond to urgent matters re-actively.

As the industry leader in HVAC Testing, Balancing, and Commissioning, Melink is uniquely positioned to help Facility Managers ensure comfortable, healthy and efficient buildings. And for years we’ve been taking note of the challenges this industry faces. So, we are incredibly excited to be launching our new product, PositiV!

PositiV is a standalone, self-powered, system that monitor’s building pressure and remotely tracks building health. Think of it like a fitness tracker for commercial buildings. We believe this proprietary technology will revolutionize the commercial building industry; it’s unlike anything else you’ll find in the market.  

So what makes this tech so revolutionary? First and foremost it was designed with Facility Managers in mind, empowering them to monitor the health of their portfolio with meaningful information… not just more data and alerts. It’s entirely stand-alone; meaning there are no wires or difficult connections with your local network. Our technology is powered by solar energy (yes, even the indoor unit!) and connected to the cloud wireless via 4G. And installation can be done in less than 15 minutes. One unit is installed on the roof and another unit is installed inside. From here, PositiV tracks four key building health indicators: building pressure, relative humidity, temperature, and CO2. But we want do more than just empower Facility Managers with information – we want to help them work smarter! For example, this technology enables our users to proactively manage problems by customizing intelligent alerts and trending this information over time, which provides valuable context, as opposed to a limited snapshot in time. 

This week we heard countless real-world problems cause by sick buildings. Here are a few examples, and where we believe PositiV can help.

  1. High Humidity. A negative building pressure draws in unwanted moisture from the outside causing costly damage and potentially even organic growth (i.e., mold).  Two Facility Managers I spoke with talked about having to replace tens of thousands of dollars of woodwork as a result of high humidity warping and destroying it. Having the ability to remotely monitor building pressure will enable the industry to eliminate costly issues such as this. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  2. Pest Control. One facility manager spoke of a facility whose operations were being threatened by an insect infestation brought on by negative air pressure. Again, having meaningful data enabling operators to respond in real-time will eradicate issues such as this. Restaurant operators have far more important things to worry about.
  3. Increased Store Comfort, Customer and Employee Satisfaction. Keeping buildings healthy will prevent air from feeling stuffy & stale, eliminate offensive odors from grease & sewage, prevent hot & cold spots in the dining room, keep smoke out of the kitchen and dining room through ensuring adequate hood capture, and will prevent the cook line from getting too hot. Any one of these issues could become a big problem. A sick building will often yield many, if not all, of these symptoms. Make operations thepriority through preventing the building from getting sick.
  4. Increasing Safety and Reducing Risk. Nobody wants to deal with the liability from a harmful “slip & fall” brought on by moisture pooling on a floor from dripping condensation. Again, the meaningful and real-time information PositiV provides will help make facilities safer and reduce these very costly risks. 
  5. Reduced Energy Costs. A sick building often has unnecessarily high energy costs due to equipment running inefficient. Frequently, this may have a chain effect causing other equipment to work harder or improperly as a result. Keeping a building healthy will keep the overall cost of energy low, thus improving store profitability.

These issues can be mitigated with the use of PositiV. By consolidating multiple buildings’ health in a single, easy-to-use dashboard, users can triage problem sites and get ahead of issues caused by negative pressure. Ultimately, PositiV will give Facility Managers peace of mind in knowing their buildings are healthy and performing effectively.

If you’re interested in getting a unit for your facilities, let us know. We’re currently finalizing our Beta testing and will be going into full production in Q2. At Melink, It’s our mission to change the world, one building at a time. I hope we can do so, together.

by Craig Davis, President and Alex Falck, Product Engineer

Healthy Buildings & Employee Performance: The Next Revolution ?

Do you want to optimize your employees performance by 299%?  Increase cognitive ability in strategy development by 288%?

Yes! Of course, we all would love to fully optimize ourselves and those around us to maximize our potential and impact on the world.  What if the answer was all around us, literally allowing us to live, and also invisible.  According to new research focused on indoor air quality in the work place, there is a tremendous opportunity to move beyond “green” buildings and ensure we work in “healthy” buildings. 

Source: Natural Leader: The Cogfx Study

The COGfx Study, while limited to 24 participants, demonstrated that improved indoor environmental quality doubled cognitive testing results in buildings with enhanced ventilation versus conventional buildings.  The study distinguished between three building types; Conventional, Green, and Enhanced Green.  Within these building types the focus benchmarks were Carbon Dioxide levels in parts per million (ppm), ventilation rates expressed in cubic feet per minute (CFM) per person, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) in micrograms per cubic meter. It’s also worth noting that building used was already a LEED Platinum certified facility, thus there’s likely more room for increased scores when comparing older existing buildings.

Source: Natural Leader: The Cogfx Study

The study explores the decrease in energy efficiency, which could be viewed as a negative, however relative to the increase in employee productivity and lost time due to sickness the savings can be dwarfed.  The noted increased cost per occupant in energy consumption is $400/year, however the study suggest a 6 x return in sick leave reductions alone relative to the increased energy cost.  Factor in the potential for increased productivity for one of the biggest operational cost for any company, the people, and the energy penalty is worth the investment.

While Melink is focused on energy efficiency, we’re also not blind to the impacts of IAQ and built our corporate HQ as a LEED Gold facility, later upgraded to Platinum.  In addition to the LEED standards, we also monitor in door CO2 levels via sensors and increase ventilation rates via a HVAC purge sequence once the room exceeds 800 ppm in CO2.  On average, the general office area CO2 levels hover around 600 ppm and are aided by the addition of live plants which produced an average drop of 100 ppm in CO2.

This focus on IAQ has led us to the development of a new product, Melink PositiV, to help ensure proper positive building pressure and CO2 levels in commercial buildings. The aim is to provide a simple solution for one of the biggest problems in all buildings, restaurants and retail locations; negative building pressure.  The standalone device will monitor pressure, temperature, relative humidity, and CO2 levels and provide a picture of building health and trends.