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Building Healthy is a monthly podcast centered around building healthy spaces, environments and lives through indoor air quality and sustainable building.

Building Healthy is hosted by Tim Wearing and powered by Oxygen8.

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Tim: Hi there and welcome to the very first episode of the Building Healthy Podcast, where we’ll be talking about building healthy spaces, environments and lives through indoor air quality and sustainable building. I’m your host, Tim Wearing, and I want to thank you for joining us as we figure out exactly what we’re doing here and what we and you want out of the podcast.

We’re going to have new episodes every single month. So please subscribe to wherever you listen to your podcasts as well as to YouTube, where you can watch highlights, notes, extras, and behind-the-scenes videos. You can also follow us on LinkedIn. And if you have any comments or suggestions, you can email us at Building, Okay, that’s oxygen and the number eight. Okay. So please enjoy our first episode, where I’ll be speaking to an old friend of mine about energy recovery, and ventilation.

Will: Hi, my name is Will Dean.
Thanks for having me, Tim. I’m really excited to be on the podcast. Yeah,

Tim: You’re welcome. You’re welcome. So, you and I worked at Core for a couple of years and then I left. And then you left. And you’re now with…

Will: I’m with Airia brands specifically working with a product called LifeBreath.

Tim: Okay. And you have a bit of an interesting background.

Will: Yeah.

Tim: Tell us a little bit about that.

Will: There’s a lot of unconventional backgrounds. In fact, industry. I got my start in the industry just after completing business school. Before that, I did two Olympics for Canada.

I had an English degree from university, so was thought I wasn’t necessarily going to do something in a mechanical space but have been in this industry now for seven years and really thoroughly, thoroughly enjoy it.

Tim: Excellent. Excellent. Okay, So, let’s talk about energy recovery, which is what we’re here for. Yeah. Yeah. So, when you started this, you didn’t know that much about energy recovery. But in the last seven years, I assume you’ve learned quite a bit.

Will: Yeah. Yeah, it’s been, it’s been a learning process. I spent a lot of time on YouTube in the early days, just trying to educate myself as much as possible.

And the more I’ve learned, the more I like about energy recovery. It’s the concept is really simple. You got to build tight and then ventilate right and it’s a spectacular way to save energy and provide indoor, healthy, fresh air.

Tim: Could you just give a just a brief description of what exactly it is and how it’s done for us?

Will: So, in the summertime, you’re using alternating channels and layers. This is the primary way that I’ve done this in my career is using cross-flow enthalpy plates. We also do some work with counterflow enthalpy plates.
You can use sensible plates as well. I should say enthalpy is when you recover both the heat and the moisture from the air and then the sensible is just recovering the heat from the air.

But what you’re doing is you’re using the outgoing air from building to pre-condition, the air coming into the building you’re saving, energy that you’re exhausting from the building and using that energy to warm up or cool down the air that’s coming into the building. So, the result is you get healthier indoor, fresh air in a way that’s really energy efficient.

Tim: This type of technology is fairly new. I mean, in the grand scheme of things. Yeah. What drove this initially, energy recovery in buildings.

Will: Yeah, it’s technology has been around for a while now, but it’s really becoming a lot more prevalent. But, you know, people, they started really increasing the insulation of buildings to increase the energy, energy efficiency of buildings and people started getting kind of sick and they weren’t all that healthy inside the air quality.

It wasn’t that good. So, they wanted a way to make the air quality a bit better, had the occupants feel a little bit healthier. But if you just exhaust that air and bring in fresh air without having any kind of exchange of energy, it’s really an inefficient process and kind of obviates all the benefits that you’re getting from increasing that insulation.

Tim: So, using an energy recovery device allows you to save a lot of energy while providing that indoor fresh air. So, you mentioned a couple of the technologies. Maybe you could give us a brief description of how it’s done.

Will: Yeah, there are a couple of different ways of doing energy recovery. One of the ways that we work with, and we see the most, especially in the residential space, is using cross-flow fixed plate exchangers.

You can also do counterflow, which is cross-flow as a square shape. Counterflow is a hexagon, and that’s just using alternating channels and layers with the outgoing air crossing through one layer and the supply air crossing over another air and through the alternating channels, there’s an exchange of energy. Another way you can do this is with a wheel.

That’s a technology that I’ve never sold, but that’s with a wheel that spins from the outside air through the supplier. There’s also, you can use a glycol loop and all these technologies have their place in different applications. Of course, I sell fixed plate exchangers, so my bias is towards that particular approach. But yeah, there are a few different ways you can do it.

So again, the most common ways we see are probably fixed plate wheels that are huge, particularly for larger CFM applications. And then you would want to use a glycol loop which uses, you know, a refrigerant cycle for thing applications where you can’t have any kind of crossover of air. So, you think of hospitals or potentially places where you have contaminants in the outdoor or indoor air, sorry.

Tim: Yeah. Okay. One of the things that’s driving this is the codes and things.

Will: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. That’s a really important key driver in the market. I would say the residential market in particular in Canada they’re using an approach for high-rise buildings, which has been a big driver for the market where every single suite has its own piece of ventilation equipment.

Instead of having one large ventilation equipment on the roof or doing it through a hallway and pressurizing the corridors. So, with this approach, each suite in a condo building gets its own dedicated supply of fresh air.

Yeah, this is a lot healthier for the occupants of the building. It’s a lot more energy efficient and it’s really a better building design. But we really see the market being code-driven with different jurisdictions around North America requiring different levels of energy recovery. And a few examples of this would be the step code in B.C. And what the step code does is set out a target for 2030 where it’s going to be net zero and you must meet different efficiency targets along that way.

So there’s step one, step two, step three, and step four. In Toronto, you have that Toronto Green building standard with I think it’s four different tiers. So, you see different kind of permutations of this around North America. But the trend overall is towards higher buildings, more energy efficiency. And we’re increasingly seeing this codified, you know, has driven the uptake for a lot of the market.

I think Canada has sort of led this approach and we’re increasingly seeing it more in the United States as well.

Tim: Yeah, because I guess Washington state has very stringent codes as well. Yeah. And then you’ve got places like Boston and a few other places.

Will: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Yeah. California is starting to acquire a bit more in Minnesota of a requirement for balanced ventilation. And yeah, overall, the trend is towards requiring more energy recovery.

In the US you have a really key piece of code as ASHRAE 90.1, which a lot of states have basically adopted that into their building code and that requires at least 50% energy recovery in some states for different versions of ASHRAE 90.1. The more the newer iterations of it, they’re actually requiring 60%. And then the scope of air flows that are covered under 90.1 has been steadily kind of increasing for some time now.

Tim: So, it makes sense not just for the energy recovery, but also the improved air quality. Obviously, with energy recovery, the first thing that people think of is the savings in energy, the reduction in energy costs, but also the healthy aspects of bringing in fresh air.

Will: Yeah, yeah, it’s huge. I mean, the benefit of having indoor fresh air is one of the best parts of coming in. This industry is gaining a bit more awareness around the benefits of having healthier indoor fresh air.

I definitely do a few things differently than I would have done before this, like my own personal home now. But you get definitely better indoor fresh air and you’re saving a lot of energy in that process. So it’s a win-win long-term for the occupants of the building. They’re more productive, they’re healthier, they’re happier, a lot of science is coming out around that as well and has been for some time. And then the energy savings are huge as well. So, the owner of the building is saving money as well.

Tim: So, I believe I read that something like 40% of energy used in North America is used for heating and cooling of buildings.

Will: Yeah, I don’t know if I’ve read that exact statistic. That sounds very right. Yeah.

Tim: So, it makes you think if we just reduce those costs by ten 20%, the savings would be huge.

Will: Huge. I think so. And I like the approach of the step code and the Toronto Green Building standard where you can kind of see where things are going so the building community can develop the appropriate technologies and solutions which you’re seeing every, you know, every year you see new manufacturers enter the space and get a lot of traction. I think that’s really great. And it speaks to the success of this approach, both as a way of saving energy, which is really saving money and again, providing a healthier indoor living space for people.

Tim: So lastly, we will be doing an episode about Passive Houses and Passive House standards.
Have you done any work with passive houses and how much do you know about that?

Will: Really the step code in Vancouver is really modeled after the Passive House approach and really Passive House is all about, again, adding more insulation and using energy recovery to ventilate your space.

Tim: Yeah, and it’s not, it’s not just passive house, because Passive House is obviously a particular standard like in Vancouver and elsewhere. It’s about getting down to net zero, about bringing those heating and cooling costs right down and bringing up the ventilation.

Will: And I think the important thing is whether we call it a passive house or not, using that approach that I think we can say the past fellows maybe pioneered is the is really the important thing is getting a greater level of efficiency.

The more you can kind of remove that need for heating and cooling by having more inflation I think the better and then getting more and more efficient ERVs and HRVs. I think it’s definitely the path forward for increasing again building into our argument comfort and increasing the energy efficiency in the building.

Tim: Okay so, that’s it for the podcast. Thanks again, and we’re going to have to play basketball again sometime soon…

Will: Let’s go, man! Lets go!

Tim: When we’re both healthy, which doesn’t seem to be very often.

Will: Yeah. When the stars align, we’ll get on the court!

Tim: Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for joining us, tune in for the next podcast, and we’ll see you next time. Thanks.

Will: Thank you. All right. Thank you.

Tim: Hi, and welcome to the second episode of the Building Healthy Podcast, powered by Oxygen8. I’m your host Tim Wearing, and we’ll be talking to Christian Weeks from enVerid Systems, and we’ll be discussing sorbent filtration indoor air quality procedure and some important updates to the ASHRAE standards. So, Christian thank you for coming. If you just want to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you and what you do.

Christian: Sure. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here. Nice to see your new facility.

Tim: Thank you.

Christian: So I’m the CEO of enVerid Systems. We’re a Boston based company that is also innovating in the HVAC space. And we are the developers of what we call sorbent ventilation technology, as you said, which is designed to help make heating and cooling and ventilating buildings much more energy efficient and cost effective.

Tim: Can you tell us a little bit about why you do that and history behind that?

Christian: Yeah, sure. Yeah. So we’ve been around for some time now, about 14 years. And we were founded by two individuals Udi Meirav and Israel Biran both PhDs in different fields, physics, and biotechnology. But they were interested in what was going on in buildings and they were looking at concepts around healthy buildings and building efficiency.

And what they learned being outsiders is that buildings spent a lot of energy conditioning outside air, which is brought into buildings to maintain indoor air quality. And they thought, well, that’s an interesting way to maintain indoor air quality. Why can’t we just clean the air that’s already in the buildings so we could use it again and again? And this is interesting because buildings, if we think about the climate change buildings, are significant contributors to global carbon emissions about 40%. And a big chunk of that is in the operational side of buildings, not just the construction of buildings, but the operation of buildings and within the operation of buildings, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, which we see as one of the biggest energy users, particularly in climates. We have hot summers and cold winters, a lot of humidity. But across the board, it’s major, in most cases, the largest energy user in buildings is the HVAC system.

And so, Udi was looking at this, you know, what was going on in buildings, How do we make buildings healthy? How do we maintain indoor air quality and realizing that the way we’re doing that is by essentially flushing the building multiple times a day? The building standards, if you follow the ASHRAE standard, it essentially requires you to replace the full volume of the air in a commercial office building about 20 times a day with outside air to maintain indoor air quality.

So, his whole question was, why can’t we accomplish that by cleaning the air already in the building? So, in the cold wintertime, we don’t have to heat up all this outdoor air in the hot summer. We must cool down all this outside air and dehumidify it. So that was the challenge that he set out to solve.

Why can’t we clean the air in the buildings already for inspiration he said, well, how do we do this in submarines? How do we do this in spaceships? You can’t bring in outside air in space. You can’t bring an outsider when you’re underwater. And what he learned is that they use a sorbent media-based technology, a sorbent media technology to clean the air that’s already in the building, and reuse it.

So we said, well, let’s figure out how to do that in commercial buildings. And that was really the, if you will, the eureka moment for enVerid, or sort of why enVerid came about. It was trying to solve this problem. How can we design ventilation systems with air cleaning that allows us to clean and reuse the air already in the building, so we don’t have to spend all this energy conditioning and moving outside air to maintain indoor air quality?

Tim: Well, that’s very cool. Actually. Now, obviously enVerid filters use this technology. Can you tell us a little bit about how that works?

Christian: Yeah. So, what’s actually interesting is that the concept of using sorbent media to capture gaseous contaminants, we’re talking about the VOCs that come from paints, from glues, from furniture, from cleaning supplies, these volatile organic compounds or VOCs exist in all our buildings.

I mean, they come from the things that make up our buildings. And sorbents have been used for a long time, and other media have been used for a long time to scrub the air, to remove these contaminants. But often it’s been industrial applications, or it’s been in spaceships and submarines. And so, building on these technologies, what work Udi and the team early on tried to solve for was how can we take a technology that has been around for a while to clean these gases from the air stream, but how do we make it cost effective for a commercial building application, so it doesn’t require a NASA or Navy budget?

How can we make it mechanically integrate in a simple way with the rest of the HVAC system? And so, there were some key technical challenges. Ultimately, we developed our own media that was specifically designed to address the wide range of different VOCs that are found in buildings and to do it in a very efficient manner with a long lifetime.

Because another challenge in building is not just how do we integrate it mechanically, how do we make it cost effective, but also maintenance. In many places, especially, we look at public schools and other sectors of the vertical markets. Maintenance can be a challenge, so we can have a filter need to be replaced every few months. And there are other ways to remove these gases from indoor air using carbon filter activated carbon, these sort of things.

But typically, they require replacement very regularly, monthly, of most of the gases because we need to be able control all the gases in the building and the ability to do it cost effectively for a long time before needing to replace the filters.

Tim: Now changing tack a little bit, there apparently is a bit of an issue. Basically, the difference between ventilation rate procedure and indoor air quality procedure. If you want to get into that and maybe explain what those are and why one should be used over the other.

Christian: Yeah, well, Buildings is, as many of your listeners probably know, are a very it’s a very co driven industry. So, understanding the code how it dictates the way we think about ventilating buildings is important.

And you’ve touched on the two key procedures in the ASHRAE ventilation and indoor air quality standard. This is ASHRAE standard 62.1. It applies to commercial buildings. There’s another standard called 60.2 for residential. There’s another one for medical facilities for hospitals. But most commercial buildings fall under ASHRAE standard 62.1 and in ASHRAE standard 62.1. There are two different ways design engineers can determine how much outside air they will need to maintain indoor air quality.

And that’s really the purpose of that whole standard, is to ensure we have enough ventilation air clean to assure healthy indoor environments. So, you’ve got the ventilation rate procedure, the VRP and the IAQ procedure, the IQAP, both have been the standard since the eighties. So, they’re not new. However, most buildings, most designers use the ventilation rate procedure because it’s a very simple, prescriptive approach.

Essentially, you determine how much outside air you need to maintain air quality as a function of the type of building we’re designing, the size of the building, the area we’re designing, and the occupancy, the number of people we’re designing, the building to accommodate. And there’s some simple math you can do accounting for those three different variables. And you get I mean, so much outside air to maintain indoor air quality per the ASHRAE standard.

And that’s fine. That works well. That’s what people have been doing for a long time.

But as I said before, the challenge is that just relying on outside air ventilation to maintain indoor air quality, especially in extreme climates with rising energy costs, with more focus on climate change, is a challenge and it’s actually made even more challenging when you are in situations where you’re dealing with wildfires or you’re have a school maybe, or a a building constructed near an industrial center or an inner city where you’ve got polluted outdoor air.

In those cases, relying on outside to deliver clean indoor air when the outside was not fresh, as we often refer to it, that can also create complications. So the other approach that ASHRAE has had in the standard since the eighties is called the Indoor Air Quality Procedure, and it’s a performance based approach. It basically says we don’t care how you achieve good indoor air quality, but if you can demonstrate you’re delivering good indoor air quality, you’re good.

As long as far as the code is concerned, the standards concern. And so, what the IAQ procedure allows you to do that’s different from the ventilation rate procedure is utilize air cleaning technologies like ours to directly control the contaminants that are generated by our buildings through this filtration technology we’ve developed. And if we can demonstrate that we’re achieving the same air quality as if we were just relying on outside air, but do it more energy efficiently, do it more cost effective, that becomes very attractive.

So, the benefit of the IAQ procedure is it’s a performance-based approach. It’s all about can we show we’re delivering the same air quality, and it doesn’t matter how we get there. The challenge has been it asked a lot of engineers to make decisions about which contaminants for the school I’m working on, should I be worried about and what are the appropriate levels and how do I know if the systems really working, and these are things that require expertise that many engineers probably don’t have around indoor air quality.

These are things that industrial hygienist might know about, but most engineers probably don’t, don’t study or know well, and they don’t want to take the risk to say, well, it’s these three contaminants and these limits. And so, for these reasons, the IAQP has not been widely adopted. But in the last 24 months, ASHRAE has recognized that these deficiencies in the IAQ procedure and has introduced three key addendums or updates to the IAQ procedure that have made it much more prescriptive, like the ventilation rate procedure, much simpler for engineers to apply.

So, we’re now seeing much more adoption being driven by a much more straightforward approach that allows you to take the credit or the benefits of applying air cleaning. And it’s particularly relevant now because there’s a big focus on how we make our buildings more efficient, how do we take that 40% global emissions from buildings and reduce it by installing more efficient systems, by reducing the load on these systems, making it easier to electrify these buildings.

So, there’s a good market push. And ASHRAE has responded by really helping with the IAQ procedure, which is a more efficient way to design most ventilation systems, easier to apply for the designer.

Tim: That makes a lot of sense. Are there still requirements for the ventilation rate procedure?

Christian: So, they’ve made some updates to the ventilation rate procedures, Well, I would say more incremental just to sort of make sure it’s keeping up with the times. But really where the heavy lifting on his part has been around this IAQ procedure.

But both are still there. Frankly, today, most people are still using the ventilation rate procedure because not everybody has heard yet about these recent updates. And so a big part of what we’re doing, it is at enVerid in order to help get our technology adopted by the market is educating the sales engineers.

We work with IT rep firms as well as the designers, the mechanical engineers about the updates that ASHRAE has made and then, you know, the ease with which now the IAQP can be applied and the benefits to deliver in a more efficient and optimized design and better results, better outcomes for owners of buildings. So that’s a big part of what we’re doing and we appreciate the work ASHRAE has done in it just now needs to be communicated to the marketplace.

So, we’re spending a lot of time on that.

Tim: Well, hopefully this will help.

Christian: Yeah, we appreciate you giving us a chance to talk about it.

Tim: So, you mentioned decarbonization. What are the benefits of now getting on a more broad scale, the benefits of decarbonization and building, utilizing the indoor air quality procedure related to that.

Christian: Well, it’s interesting because we’ve you know, we’ve been these last few years through a pandemic and then we’ve had the wildfires. I’m based in the East Coast, and I had never had my life to record impacted by the wildfires. When I come out here occasionally, I’ve experienced that. But for the first-time last summer, maybe somebody before it really started impacting us in a way that made it much more real, you know, the impact of these wildfires.

Christian: And –

Tim: We apologize for that.

Christian: Well, yeah, it was Canadian wildfires, but the other side of Canada, I guess. So all these sort of the environment around our buildings is changing. And how we use buildings is changing as well. But I think everybody is recognizing that if we’re going to slow climate change, we need to think differently about how we’re doing many things in our lives, how we get places, but also, you know, how we design and operate these buildings.

And so, there’s a big benefit, I mean, a big motivator for us being a somewhat of a mission driven company is to sort of do well and do good at the same time. And so, we see this adoption of our technology with the IAQ procedure to further this mission of addressing the climate impact that buildings have and making them more efficient. But there are also many more, I guess, immediate benefits that, many people care a lot about as well, which is we’re saving money. You know, the nice thing about our solution is that not only are we making buildings more energy efficient, which helps with the climate mission, we’re also making the more resilient because if we’re less reliant on outside air when it is polluted outdoors, the buildings are more resilient to that. But what we talk to the most about is we’re just saving money because we’re optimizing systems. If you can reduce the outside air requirement by more efficiently cleaning the indoor air, a benefit of reducing outside errors, you can then take a big HVAC system and make a little bit smaller. Smaller systems are usually not only more efficient than bigger systems, but also, they cost less.

And so, in many cases, really what we lead with is we’re just going to save you money on the first cost of your new equipment. We’re going to help reduce your operating costs, cause you’re going to use less energy conditioning, less outside air. And so that’s the beauty of it, is that sits there isn’t a green premium here, right?

We want to help make buildings more efficient. We want to do our part to support the climate change mission. But at the same time, we can do it by saving people money and reducing their operating expenses.

Tim: I find that a lot of the pushback from the, you know, these green technologies is they’re more expensive. Take a passive house they say, I think it’s 15% of the original cost of the house. If you can show them, not only is the initial cost not going to be much more or the same, but you’re going to end up saving money. I mean, that will end up going in huge, huge way.

So where do you see not just the technology, but industry in general, say 10 to 15 years from now?

Christian: I think what’s happening now is, and it’s happening more maybe on the coasts that are a little more tuned or more progressive, perhaps in some respects with the building codes or, you know, Massachusetts, has the stretch code. And I was learning earlier today about the the equivalent of that you have here.

There are some very progressive building codes in Vancouver, in British Columbia. So maybe that’s where it starts. But ultimately what’s happening is.

You know, we’re talking to engineers who are trying to figure out how to integrate geothermal or heat pumps or more solar on the roof. And it’s requiring them to, you know, maybe get out of that rinse, and repeat playbook they’ve been running for some time, which is just kind of cut and paste the last job.

Here’s how we’re doing the school. And so, I think we’re going to see over the next decade or so is new approaches, sort of new basis of design being developed around these, you know, to comply with these more stringent codes that the states and the local municipalities are adopting. They’re ever increasing the targets on energy use intensity around energy efficiency, around the carbon emissions from buildings.

So, I think there’s a it’s a great time to be in this industry because engineers and those working in buildings are trying to figure out how can we do this, you know, to comply with these more stringent codes, but do it in a way that’s cost effective, it’s energy efficient. And as we think about to, you know, introducing new technologies like heat pumps and other technologies, it creates an opening to have a conversation about, well, here’s how we can help you make that electrification project more cost effective if you’re doing geothermal.

Well, if we can reduce the load by cleaning and recycling from an indoor air, maybe we don’t need 60 well holes. Maybe we can do it with 40. And what’s that going to save you? And has it help the economics of this energy transition we’re trying to get through. So I think there’s going to be more than I think we’ve seen maybe the last ten years.

A lot more people saying, okay, we need to try some things a little bit differently. Maybe we should look at this indoor air-cooled procedure. Maybe we should look at the updates ASHRAE’s made and maybe will help us with some the other objectives. We must introduce other technologies where there’s some synergies or some complementary benefits to integrating them together in a package.

And that’s we’re doing a lot with Oxygen8 which is really exciting. I know. If you might take another minute on that. Yeah, no, that’s the end of that a little bit. But I mean what is we’re excited about with Oxygen8 is you all developed these super efficient energy recovery systems, these dedicated outside air systems and it’s a great example where you could first look at it and say, well, isn’t that a little bit competitive?

Right? We’re trying to reduce the outset air. You guys are making the use of outside today more efficient but it’s not working. I mean, in some cases maybe it’s somewhat competitive. But what we’ve realized is if we put the two together, it’s a one plus one equals three scenario, and that’s what we need to be thinking more and more of these next ten years is how can we take things that maybe at first blush look like they’re overlapping or they’re competitive?

How can we see if we can create win-win scenarios and integrate them? So, we really are excited about the opportunity to work with Oxygen8 to show the market how your super efficient systems with our efficient systems and design approaches together can unlock even more not only savings but energy benefits as well.

Tim: Well, I think unless you have anything else to add…

Christian: Well, if I might, if we’re going have engineers watching this, I’d love to talk quickly about what the updates to the standard were.

Tim: That would be great.

Christian: I mentioned before that ASHRAE made three big updates to the IAQ procedural the last three of last two years, last 24 months, ASHRAE has made three key updates that have really simplified for engineers how they can apply the IAQ procedure.

And so maybe I’ll just briefly mention what they are and then if any of your listeners are curious about and want to learn more, they’re certainly welcome to come to our website or be chat with Oxygen8 or enVerid and we’d be happy to provide more information. But as I said before, one of the big challenges with the IQ procedure for engineers was that they had to come up with the list of contaminants and the limits.

One of the first updates ASHRAE made in February of 2022 was an addendum AA It was called to the 2019 version of Standard 62.1 That essentially gave us the list. It said, okay, engineer it, don’t worry about it anymore. Here’s the list. And here the design limits. That’s a huge help to the industry, to engineers who are worried about picking the right contaminant in right limits.

So that’s a big deal later in 2022, ASHRAE published addendum N to the 2022 version of 62.1, and then addendum N did something also very helpful. It essentially said for all these cool air, clean technologies that are out in the marketplace, how do we know how efficient they really are? So, we know how effective they are mitigating those contaminants that we’re not worried about on that list.

So, then addendum N give us standard test procedures that all the air cleaning companies need to follow to basically demonstrate how efficient they are against that list of contaminants. So it adds rigor. It adds legitimacy, if you will, to this approach, because it basically says we have to have standard ways to understand, like for like how effective these different technologies are.

And we appreciate that it creates more transparency, it creates more legitimacy for this approach.

And then the final and perhaps most significant update was just published in October of 2023. And with this update addendum C that the 2022 version again of 62.1 ASHRAE has published a calculator, an Excel based calculator to basically do all the math for the designer in a very simple way.

So, you can take the same inputs you might have used for the ventilation re procedure, plug them into the calculator that actually is now providing, and it will do the calculations according to the IAQ procedure. Once you add in the efficiencies that you’ve used the standard test to determine into the sheet. So, we have a list of contaminants we have design limits, we have how do we know how good the air cleaning solutions are?

And we’ve got the calculator that makes applying it super simple. So, we think these updates are going to make a huge difference in terms of getting engineers excited about applying the IAQ procedure to all these benefits we talked about for owners and just optimizing HVAC system design as a whole.

Tim: That sounds fantastic. Making it easier is always best. If anybody has any questions you contact enVerid or us at Oxygen8 and we’ll be happy to explain it more. Thank you again, we appreciate you telling us all about this!

Thanks for tuning in and don’t forget to subscribe and follow Oxygen8 on LinkedIn to learn more about this topic and others. You can also follow us on YouTube to watch clips and extras.

Tim: Next month, we’ll be talking to Heather Burpee from Integrated Design Labs and the University of Washington and will be discussing designing decoupled systems.

Tim: Hi and welcome to the Building Healthy Podcast powered by Oxygen8, my name is Tim Wearing. And today we’re talking to Heather Burpee from the University of Washington’s Integrated Design Lab. We’ll be discussing the topic of designing decoupled systems, living buildings and what Integrated Design Lab does. Thanks for joining us, Heather.

Heather: Hi. Thank you for having me. My name is Heather Burpee, and I’m with the University of Washington Integrated Design Lab. In that role, I’m faculty in the Department of Architecture. And I also co-direct this lab, the Integrated Design Lab, where we focus on high-performance buildings. We call them high-performance buildings, not necessarily just sustainable buildings because we want to look at their performance and how they’re actually operating and performing for the people that inhabit them. I think about high performance in terms of energy-efficient buildings, decarbonized buildings, but also buildings that support healthy and productive environments for the people that inhabit them.

So it’s not just one part of sustainability. It encompasses a larger umbrella.

Tim: Well, that sounds great. The main topic we’re going to be discussing here is decoupled systems. If you could give us a little bit of a background of what that is, why it’s better, and some of the advantages and disadvantages of it.

Heather: Yeah, great. So decoupled systems at a high level are systems that decouple or separate heating and cooling from ventilation. So in a traditional system, those things are all mixed together. So you’re getting your comfort system. So the temperature of the air so either heated or cooled from the same mechanism that you’re getting fresh air to breathe. And in a decoupled system, we take those two things apart and they’re separate functions. And there are several advantages to that from an energy perspective and from the quality of the air that you’re getting and the way that the systems get integrated into the building as a whole.

Tim: So you mentioned let’s just touch on the air quality because that’s one of the things we talk about here. How does it help the air quality?

Heather: Yeah. So in a decoupled system, typically they’re called DOAS systems, which are dedicated outdoor air systems. And in those systems, you’re bringing in 100% fresh air into the spaces. And that means that all of the air that’s coming in that you’re breathing is fresh. It’s the first time it’s been taken from the outside to the inside of the building. We know that indoor air quality is really important for one physical health, and two, our cognition and decision making and how we perform in the building.

So generally, our comfort and our well-being and health is impacted by indoor air quality. And so the higher quality air we have inside, the better it is for people.

Tim: So could you tell us a little bit more about how indoor air quality affects people’s health?

Heather: Yeah, absolutely. So we think about, you know, indoor contaminants or things that are in the air that might impact people. And so one of those is just our breathing air. So when we breathe, we use oxygen and we expel carbon dioxide. So if we have lots of people in a room, the carbon dioxide levels go up in a room. If we don’t ventilate, that gets overwhelming and it gets to levels that are too high. There are also things like in our building materials that off-gas different chemicals that can contaminate the air that need to be expelled because they can have negative effects on health. We also can experience things like particulates in the air. So that happens with cooking or wildfire smoke when we’re in a smoky season.

So these are all indoor air contaminants. I should also add, of course, we also have things like viruses. So we’ve been starting to really focus more on indoor air quality after COVID because we started thinking about how can we make environments healthier for people in relationship to COVID. And so we look at all those factors. One of the factors, especially CO2, is an indication of indoor air quality.

So the higher the CO2 level generally, the lower the air quality in the space. And there are codes and standards that regulate the indoor air quality of spaces. The regulations are somewhat different depending on building typology, but generally, a general rule of thumb is an ASHRAE standard where it dictates a level of CO2 at 1000 parts per million or less in spaces, and something we know is that buildings are generally under-ventilated even compared to that standard.

So we find that many buildings, if we go out into the field and measure them, have CO2 levels above that 1000 parts per million threshold. One of the things that are really important to think about with that is that threshold above that, there are serious negative health consequences of too high of CO2 above 1000. So we have this threshold of 1000 parts per million that above that threshold you can have really negative physical health consequences. And that’s why there’s a code and a standard around it.

There are also more subtle consequences below 1000 parts per million. They are fairly recent studies by the Harvard School of Public Health that look at cognitive function as it relates to indoor CO2 levels. And what they see is even as low as 600 parts per million cognitive function and decision-making has deteriorated. And so when we’re thinking about designing buildings for people and some of these buildings, people are making really important decisions in and our CO2 level is high is at this threshold where we’re not making good decisions.

We just are thinking about how do we provide better, fresher air to those rooms and the solution isn’t always just put as much air in as possible because, that would create a solution space. However, that is a very energy intensive proposition in many cases, because the air that’s used for ventilation needs to be heated and cooled and moved around by fans. And that takes a lot of energy. So when we’re introducing 100% outside air in a more efficient system, we’re not just improving indoor air quality for the people, but we’re using less energy as well to get to that end.

Tim: Well, you did cover quite a bit there. Well, no, that’s great. Let’s get more into your background and the Integrated Design Lab and also how it’s funded. If you could just guide us a little bit into that.

Heather” Yeah, So my background is I was trained as an architect and now I am research faculty at the university. And so my primary function is to do research on buildings. So the Integrated Design Lab as a lab is a self-funded research group where we work on projects that help the profession move forward to build, better buildings. We do that in a three-part approach where we develop research, and most of it is applied research where we’re developing roadmaps and knowledge for practitioners

The second prong is we serve on design teams and provide technical assistance and project-based education through being a consultant on projects. So we’re brought in as experts in the field to help move those projects forward. And there’s a really nice synergy between those two ends where we’re what I like to think of is we have the luxury of time to think about how to solve these really difficult problems to solve in the built environment, and then we can take those into practice and see them through in real building projects, and in real building projects, there really isn’t that luxury of time.

They move so quickly. And so we need to be able to just apply that knowledge right away. But there are always more questions I’m sure that can’t be answered within the scope of a single project. And so we take those ideas back into the research realm, do research, and then we can come back on future projects and apply those new ideas. So there’s really a synergy that over time we’re elevating the architecture and the built environment and then bridging that those two aims is our education and outreach team. And so we take that knowledge and bring it out into the world to stakeholders, mostly in the design and construction industry, to help them improve their practices and make the built environment a better place for both the environment and for people.

And all of that is funded by external funders. And so we work for lots of different funders, including NEEA, and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, and through their Better Bricks program, they bring technologies and ideas to the profession to help elevate energy efficiency, and their goal is to try to get energy efficiency into every project and reduce the amount of energy that’s used overall. They are funded by regional utilities who are looking to implement energy-efficient technology and practices throughout the Northwest. And so we’re one of the mechanisms in which NEEA and Better Bricks get those ideas out to the market and bring ideas back to NEEA and Better Bricks to try to understand what the market needs.

Tim: Now, one thing, this is a very famous building, I gather, and an interesting building, and we are going to do a little tour, so please check out our YouTube channel to see what that’s going to be like. But if you could tell us a little bit about this building.

Heather: Yeah, so my office is in the Bullitt Center, which is a living building. Living building is a designation that is a performance-based standard for sustainability, where it is net zero energy. Net zero water utilizes materials very wisely and from local sustainable sources and implements health equity beauty and uses the site well. There are seven imperatives is a living building challenge. And so this building has been called the greenest office building in the world.

It was opened in 2013. And so we’ve had our ten-year anniversary here at this building, and it was built as a proof of principle that it’s possible to build a building that gives back as much to the environment as it takes. So the Living Building is structured around the metaphor of a flower and it has seven petals and so they’re energy, water and materials, health, beauty, equity and site.

And so this building thinks about all of those things and has implemented them in practice. And one of the things that really differentiates the living building challenge is you don’t just say you do those things, you must meet them in performance. And so there’s a performance period after the building is occupied that then you prove that the building is operating, for example, on an annual basis using less energy than it’s producing over the course of the year.

Tim: So what other kind of measurements do they do to make sure that you’re up to the different standards?

Heather: Yeah. So the the architect and the design team have to submit documentation to the International Living Futures Institute to quantify their performance on these different petals and the metrics. So for each of those metrics, they vary what you have to submit, but each one has to be shown in a performance period that is met. So the net zero energy goal, how is that achieved here

Yeah, so great question. So it is measured by the performance of energy over the course of the year. And so you must generate as much energy as you use over the course of that year. And at the time of the Living Building Challenge when the Bullitt Center was built, you had to generate all that electricity on the site itself.

And so the first measure to do that isn’t to generate the electricity. The first measure is energy efficiency. And to do that, this building first, the envelope is very, very high performance.

I talk to architects about the first piece of energy efficiency in your core to create and design a really good envelope. And then the mechanical systems can support the needs of the heating, cooling and ventilation in a much more energy-efficient way. So here the way that is employed is there is a radiant system that provides heating and cooling, and it’s either in heating mode or cooling mode.

So the thing, the thing that’s interesting about the living building challenge is that they don’t dictate how you get to the end goal. They just say what the end goal needs to be. And so it’s actually pretty general as a standard, so you could get there in all kinds of different ways.

You could design a passive house that met the net zero energy goal by being very energy efficient and then needing a smaller generation system. In this case, it’s not a passive house standard envelope, but it’s a very high-performance envelope.

So the heating, cooling and ventilation systems here are decoupled. So the heating and cooling are from a radiant source that radiant tubes that are in the floor slabs and they provide either heating or cooling to one or the other. And that heating and cooling is created by a ground-coupled heat pump plant. And so there are 26 400-foot wells that were dug under the building before the building was constructed. And those go to four heat pumps that generate heat that makes the water hotter or that make the water cooler. And uses the delta T or the temperature differential that’s in the ground to help boost that heat or cool or reduce it.

The ventilation system is separate. So the ventilation system is kind of a two-part system when the weather is right and as determined by a building management system, the windows open and the spaces are naturally ventilated. So it’s using the climate as a resource to provide free ventilation to the spaces. In months where the outside temperature is not preferable for that. So, you know, mostly in the winter or really in the summer when it’s quite hot, there is a 100% outside air ventilation system that provides fresh air.

That system is also tied to a demand control system. So, for example, in our conference rooms and things like that, it has a CO2 sensor that if the CO2 gets above a certain amount, the ventilation system kicks up on or up.

Tim: So in particular rooms it does that.

Heather: Yes, in rooms that might be throughout the building, but in rooms that are more highly occupied, it’s more likely for it to come on where, you know, if you have ten people in a conference room and you’re breathing for quite a long time, the CO2 will raise. And so the ventilation system kicks up. If it doesn’t, if people aren’t in there, it kicks down. And so you get 100% fresh air where and when you need it. And so the Bullitt Center is, employing that decoupled systems concept where the heating and cooling is from one place, the ventilation is from another. And then the third component to that is an energy recovery system.

And so when the fresh air is being exhausted, it’s not just being thrown out like garbage. Right. We’re recovering that heat from the air that is being exhausted so we can reuse it. So that’s brought back to the heat pumps and used in the heating and cooling system to boost the lift on those heat pumps. One of the advantages of decoupling heating and cooling ventilation systems that we see here at the Bullitt Center in practice is that the ventilation system and the ducts are smaller, the duct sizes are smaller. When you move heat and cool through water-based sources, it’s much more efficient at holding the heat. When you move all that around with air, you have to move a lot of air around and so the ducts get very, very big. So what we see here is actually really small ventilation ducts compared to what you might imagine for the relationship to the size of the spaces that they’re serving.

And that’s a benefit on a couple of different scales. One you’re buying less sheet metal, but two, the space that they take is a space that needs to be created. So for architects, you can have lower floor-to-floor height, for example, or you can get ducts in in places that normally might not be able to and it might be more difficult. So that’s an advantage from a space planning and building cost perspective.

Tim: So were there any ideas that came into the Integrated Design Lab that you implemented and have become standard out in the industry?

Heather: Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting question where, maybe more broadly and generally, we’ve been thinking about how to crack the code or the net of how to make buildings really energy efficient. And we’ve been doing that for a long time and now, you know, we know there are methods and technologies where we can make buildings very, very energy efficient.

Heather: And so our work in energy efficiency and the trajectory of how, for example, the Bullitt Center was put together with the parts and pieces for efficiency.

So I walked through as a high-performance envelope. It has decoupled heating and cooling and ventilation the heating and cooling are served by heat pumps with really good energy recovery. And then we produce electricity to serve the needs of that much, much lower energy-efficient building. That’s the kind of formula that we’ve been talking about for a long time and working on developing in partnership with our research, developing roadmaps around that.

For example, I’ve developed a roadmap for hospitals that follow that kind of path and logic that’s called targeting 100. We’ve brought that into different design teams, and design teams are thinking about this too. So I can’t say that it’s just my idea that’s going into these designs. It’s it’s the state of practice and where we’re where we’re working toward in trying to make higher-performance buildings that are better for people on the planet.

But now we’re in the space in Washington State and then the city of Seattle, where codes and standards have started to dictate that formula. So in the city of Seattle, we really can’t connect systems that use a lot of natural gas. And so we have to put in heat pump technology. And so that starts changing the formula about how buildings and systems are put together. When we introduce heat pumps, radiant heating and cooling decoupled systems and the kinds of envelopes and buildings that can support those kinds of systems. And so we’ve seen our work come full circle where we’re developing roadmaps for how we could get to this really energy-efficient decarbonized building. And now we have to do it because our code says we do, and every building needs to follow that standard. And so, you know, that’s an example of how our work over the long run can influence the market and working with professionals in that space proves that it can be done in practice before it has to be done in practice.

Tim: Thank you very much. I do appreciate all the information that you’ve given. And if anybody wants to learn more, you can go to the Integrated Design Lab website or the NEEA website. You can also follow them on LinkedIn, follow us on LinkedIn and check out our YouTube channel. So thank you very much. Don’t forget to subscribe and join us for next month’s podcast. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Heather: Thanks for having me.


Meet The Host

Tim Wearing

Tim is the Creative Producer at Oxygen8, responsible for all media creation. While Tim has been in the HVAC industry for over 7 years, he brings experience from numerous fields and different positions. In previous roles, Tim has worked in marketing, video production, photography, web and graphic design, film distribution marketing, video game development and even banking.

Tim is an avid hiker, taking full advantage of the mountains around British Columbia, Canada, where he lives, and passes on his love and knowledge of the game of basketball by coaching a local high school team. He’s passionate about health and sustainable building, bringing those passions together in our monthly podcast, Building Healthy.


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