How dynamic thermal modelling can anticipate IAQ issues in future construction ?

Indoor air quality (IAQ) still receives too little public attention. Yet, it’s a major health issue : up to 8 times more polluted than outdoor air, it’s responsible for an estimated 3.2 million deaths worldwide each year. 

However, thanks to dynamic thermal modelling, it is now possible to anticipate IAQ problems in a building at the design or refurbishment stage. This proactive technology identifies and corrects potential IAQ-related problems before the building is constructed. This ensures a healthier and more comfortable environment for future occupants.  

Find out why it’s in your interest to integrate BIM technology into your design and construction practices!

Why indoor air quality is important...

From home to work to public transport, we spend an average of 85% of our time indoors. This exposes us to a wide range of air pollutants that can have serious effects on our health and well-being.

for well being...

Although air quality in the workplace is often overlooked, it has a significant impact on productivity.

A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory showed that improving IAQ can increase work performance by almost 10%. The same is true in schools: students in well-ventilated classrooms outperform others by up to 15%

And there’s more! Numerous studies have linked good air quality to lower absenteeism, reduced stress and improved mood and well-being. Good IAQ in offices and schools is therefore an excellent way to improve occupant performance.

...and health!

Throat and nose irritation, asthmatic reactions, headaches and dizziness are the most common symptoms of poor IAQ. However, prolonged exposure to particularly harmful air pollutants can cause far more serious illnesses.

It can cause strokes, ischaemic heart disease and lung cancer. According to the WHO, “11% of adult lung cancer deaths are attributable to exposure to carcinogens in indoor air”.

Improving IAQ is therefore an important health issue. It is now essential to rethink the way we ventilate our buildings in order to limit the health risks to occupants.

Factors affecting IAQ

The most effective way to guarantee good IAQ in a building is to address this issue from the conception or renovation phase. While indoor air pollution may be caused by occupiers’ activities or inadequate maintenance, it can also come from the building itself.

Choice of Materials

Some building materials emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This term covers a wide range of substances (benzene, formaldehyde, etc.) that are emitted in gaseous form and are generally harmful to health. The materials concerned include synthetic coatings, adhesives and glues, as well as certain finishing products (paints, varnishes, etc.).

It is therefore advisable to choose materials with low VOC emissions, such as mineral paints, wood (untreated) and, in general, bio-based materials. This will reduce the presence of air pollutants and limit any chemical reactions between them.

Ventilation management

Indoor air renewal is essential to ensure good IAQ. Since it’s promoted by ventilation, it’s essential to provide sufficient openings to the outside. 

While it is possible to promote air circulation by opening windows, this practice alone is generally insufficient. It also has its drawbacks, as it leads to heat loss, particularly in winter, and to the introduction of certain external pollutants (such as fine particles from road traffic) into the building. 

The use of mechanical ventilation is therefore the most effective way of maintaining good IAQ while maintaining thermal comfort.

Finally, ventilation requirements can vary considerably depending on the design of the building, its location or the activities of its occupants. It is therefore essential to choose a mode of operation adapted to the life of the building.

| NT : Beware of over-ventilation!  It can lead to higher energy costs and therefore higher bills. To adapt the performance of your systems to your real needs, we recommend that you choose a predictive control solution for your equipment (Discover our solution). 

Why use Building analysis software to simulate IAQ at the design stage?

It’s tempting to leave IAQ issues in your building for later. However, the earlier the issue is addressed during the design or refurbishment process, the greater the benefits!

Cost reduction

When IAQ is considered at the design stage of a building, it helps to reduce overall costs during the operational phase. In fact, it prevents the need to take corrective action in the event of IAQ-related problems after the building has been delivered. 

A well-designed ventilation strategy also means that equipment is easier to maintain and therefore more durable. Finally, a properly ventilated building is less susceptible to damp and mould, which can be costly and time-consuming to deal with.

Meet indoor air quality objectives (regulatory or certification)

The growing importance of IAQ has led to its recognition as a legal requirement in many countries. As these regulations are likely to become more stringent in the coming years, it’s vital that IAQ is considered at the design stage. By addressing this issue early on, you’ll be able to ensure compliance. 

In addition, many certifications focus on health-centred assets. For example, labels such as BREEAM or WELL Building Standard include IAQ-related requirements such as ensuring adequate air circulation or low VOC emissions.

Building Information Modelling software, a decision support tool

But how do you make the best decisions to ensure good indoor air quality in your future building? 

Building performance modelling involves the use of physic-based simulation to assess various aspects of building and system performance. It allows you to evaluate and select the optimum configuration for your building, whether in terms of heating, acoustics or ventilation.

Adapted to both design and renovation, the IES Virtual Environment Suite stands out as a dynamic thermal simulation software widely used in the world.

From solar analysis to hygrometry and fluid mechanics, it offers a wide range of interconnected tools to help you make the best possible design decisions. 

The Virtual Environment now includes the INDALO® solution and its INCA indoor air chemistry calculation engine. This makes it possible to combine IAQ data with dynamic building information to select the best scenario for maintaining the health and well-being of occupants.  

INDALO® can simulate the concentration of over a thousand air pollutants, integrating a wide range of parameters from building occupancy to outdoor pollution and occupant activities. 

It helps building designers make the best choices in terms of ventilation and construction materials to ensure good IAQ in the future building.