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Fresh air delivered: Technology answers the call to improve indoor air quality (IAQ)

By: Mario Kahlert, Head of Building Products, Siemens Smart Infrastructure USA

As we celebrate Climate Week 2022, we cannot ignore the fact that we spend much more time indoors than we do outside. Environmental scientists and HVAC industry researchers have long focused the importance of indoor air quality (IAQ) for better health and productivity everywhere we live, learn, and work.

And since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of and need for IAQ has only accelerated. We must now capitalize on new digital technologies that enable building operators and engineers to be more capable of managing occupant health, safety, and comfort.

Of course, indoor air quality is not about COVID-19 or viruses exclusively. Other indoor air pollutants like PM2.5 fine dust particles and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) have a fundamental impact on occupant health and well-being. The transmission and impact of allergens is also highly dependent on indoor humidity. Scientific research shows that CO2 levels often found in meeting rooms, offices, and educational facilities can reduce cognitive skills by more than 50 percent.

The obvious remedy is that we simply must create easier, more efficient ways for fresh air to get into and circulate through any kind of building, anywhere. This is also exactly the type of problem, both time-consuming and difficult, that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are intended to solve.

We must create easier, more efficient ways for fresh air to get into and circulate through any kind of building, anywhere. This is also exactly the type of problem, both time-consuming and difficult, that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are intended to solve.

This is where Siemens technology comes in—and how we can help address the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Air in Buildings Challenge. The Challenge establishes a set of recommendations and best practices for improving IAQ and for helping building operators and owners reduce airborne contaminants. It also outlines how to create an indoor air action plan designed to enhance air filtration and optimize fresh air ventilation and promote community engagement and learning.

A key goal of the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge is to make the complex process of improving IAQ more user friendly, a key matter for pursuing equitable outcomes for all communities.

Siemens has the technology to improve indoor air quality while also improving energy efficiency. This includes sensors, rooftop unit (RTU) optimization, room automation controls, and building management software, which all play a direct role in helping Challenge participants create and carry out their action plan.

Sensors are necessary to accurately measure the required environmental variables to help ensure a healthy and productive indoor climate. Our sensors are engineered to be easily installed and configured to provide years of reliable performance in any building automation system.

Buildings with rooftop units of any age can be optimized with our Climatix RTU solution to eliminate or minimize indoor air re-circulation and maximize the input of fresh outdoor air, while managing fresh air levels based on the needs of building occupants.

Siemens Total Room Automation solutions provide an integrated system for controlling HVAC, lights, and shades, maximizing performance and energy savings throughout the life of a building.

Combining these technologies with our building management software solutions such as Desigo Optic, Desigo CC, or cloud-based Building X gives options for visualizing and controlling building automation systems. These solutions use dashboards to provide real-time data insights to continuously improve IAQ and occupant well-being.

Siemens also offers Dynamic VAV Optimization (DVO). This approach uses AI that takes in sensor data about temperature and humidity to determine correct, cost-effective heating and cooling levels, continually optimizing HVAC performance.

With the increasing acknowledgement of the need to improve indoor climate in aging buildings as well as for new construction, initiatives like the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge help guide how to implement scalable approaches and act intelligently on data. Putting the right technology in place can improve human life to such a degree that our human performance accelerates—and we then bring greater intelligence to bear on improving our immediate work and living environment, making our lives better.

Published: September 14, 2022