Only by breathing or wearing deodorant will you have more impact on your office than you might think, as evidenced by a growing body of evidence. But could these basic acts of existence also pollute the air in the office space in which you work?
To find out, a team of Purdue University engineers conducted one of the largest studies of its kind in the offices of a building equipped with thousands of sensors. The aim is to identify all types of indoor air pollutants and to recommend ways to control them by designing and operating a building.
"If we want to provide office workers with better air quality to improve their productivity, it's important to first understand what's in the air and what factors are affecting emissions and the removal of pollutants," said Brandon Boor, an assistant professor for civil engineering with kind permission for environmental and eco-technology.
The data shows that people and ventilation systems have a major impact on the chemistry of indoor air ̵
"Indoor air chemistry is dynamic, changing during the day depending on outdoor conditions, how the ventilation system works, and the occupancy pattern in the office," Boor said.
The building, referred to as Living Labs at Purdue's Ray W. Herrick Laboratories, uses a series of sensors to precisely monitor four open-plan offices and track the flow of indoor and outdoor air through the ventilation system. The team developed a new technique to track occupancy by embedding temperature sensors in each desk chair.
Using the Living Labs, the Boor team has begun to identify previously unknown behaviors of chemicals called volatile organic compounds, as they are transformed into aeration systems and removed by filters.
"We wanted to highlight the role of behind-the-scenes ventilation systems in the air," Boor said.
Boor collaborated with researchers from the RJ Lee Group to deploy a highly sensitive "nose" – an instrument that scientists call proton transfer reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometers. The instrument, which is typically used to measure outdoor air quality, has helped sniff compounds in human breath like isoprene in real time. The Boor team found that Isoprene and many other volatile compounds remain in the office after leaving the room.
A larger number of people in a room also means a higher emission of these compounds.
"Our preliminary results suggest that people in a modern office environment are the main source of volatile organic compounds," Boor said. "We found that the concentrations of many indoor compounds are 10 to 20 times higher than outdoors, and if an office space is not properly ventilated, these volatile compounds can affect workers' health and productivity."
The team also found that pollutants enter the interior From the outside, ozone disappears inside. This is because ozone interacts with other indoor connections and the large areas of a furnished office. The researchers found that ozone and compounds released when peeling an orange, called monoterpenes, mix and form new, tiny particles that are only one billionth of a meter in size. The newly formed particles can be toxic because they are small enough to enter a person's deepest lung regions.
The effect of volatile compounds released in the office may not be limited to indoor use only. The researchers believe that chemicals released from care products such as deodorant, make-up and hair spray can increase outdoor levels when vented to the outside through the ventilation system.
When cleaning with bleach, room air pollutants can be produced
Dynamics of volatile organic compounds in a living laboratory and in an HVAC system. Tianren Wu, Jinglin Jiang, Heinz Huber, Philip Stevens, Brandon E. Boor, Purdue University
Time and size resolved particle removal efficiency of an HVAC filter bank in an office building. Jinglin Jiang, Tianren Wu, Brandon E. Boor, Purdue University
Measurements of nanocluster aerosols and the formation of new particles in interiors. Tianren Wu, Philip Stevens, Antonios Tasoglou, Heinz Huber, Brandon E. Boor, Purdue University
Coverage Measurement with Thermocouples Embedded in a Chair: Applications for Evaluating Human-Associated Bioaerosol and VOC Emission Factors. Danielle Wagner, Aayush Mathur, Brandon E. Boor, Purdue University
Size distribution and emissions of fluorescent biological aerosol particles in an office. Tianren Wu, Brandon E. Boor, Purdue University
Spatiotemporal mapping of ultrafine particles in buildings using low-cost sensor networks. Danielle Wagner, Brandon E. Boor, Purdue University
Spatiotemporal trends in concentrations of ozone and ozone-skin oil oxidation products in an occupied office and HVAC system. Jinglin Jiang, Tianren Wu, Danielle Wagner, Philip Stevens, Heinz Huber, Antonios Tasoglou, Brandon E. Boor, Purdue University
How much do you pollute your office air only through existing ones? (2019, 4th October)
retrieved on 4 October 2019
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