In preparing to write this column, I researched the main reasons building owners upgrade the mechanical systems in their commercial buildings. I was dismayed to see that the goal of almost all projects was to decrease operating costs through energy savings. While this is clearly important, as a physician I was hoping to find that more retrofits were being done to improve IAQ for the health of building occupants.
I then remembered an excellent study presented at the Indoor Air 2016 conference in Ghent, Belgium last summer which shed light on this lack of focus on occupant health in commercial buildings. Adams Rackes and his colleagues at Drexel University conducted a survey to see if recommendations on indoor air management to optimize people’s productivity and health were being followed in the U.S. These recommendations were based on years of good research on the relationship between air filtration and ventilation rates and occupant health metrics such as high productivity and low absenteeism from illness. The survey asked over 100 building users, owners, managers, and architectural and mechanical designers about their awareness of and opinions on the health benefits, retrofit costs, and willingness to pay for mechanical systems which would deliver the recommended air treatment.