Bill Fisk – What Can We Learn from the IAQ Scientific Findings Resource Bank

Air Date: 10-28-2016| Episode: 435


This week we welcome William “Bill” Fisk to IAQ Radio. This is an interview we have been trying to line up for quite some time and its exciting to have this research giant join us live for the hour…

Full Description:

This week we welcome William “Bill” Fisk to IAQ Radio. This is an interview we have been trying to line up for quite some time and its exciting to have this research giant join us live for the hour. Few have contributed as much to our knowledge of IAQ as Bill and his group at LBL. We look forward to discussing how that research can be better used in practice with the Leader of the LBL Indoor Environment Group.

Mr. Fisk is a Sr. Scientist (mechanical engineer) and is the leader of the Indoor Environment Group. He has more than 30 years of experience in research on the interrelated issues of building energy performance, ventilation, indoor environmental quality (IEQ), and occupant health and performance. His research focuses primarily on energy efficient methods of maintaining and improving ventilation and IEQ in commercial buildings and on quantifying the impacts of building ventilation and IEQ on health and performance. He is a fellow of ASHRAE, a member of the Academy of Indoor Air Sciences, and he serves on the editorial board for Indoor Air Journal. He is an author of approximately 100 refereed archival journal articles or book chapters. He has BS and MS degrees in Mechanical Engineering.

Z-Man’s Blog:

What Can We Learn from the IAQ Scientific Findings Resource Bank   

This week on IAQ Radio we welcomed William “Bill” Fisk. Bill has been researching the interrelated issues of building energy performance, ventilation, IEQ, and occupant health and performance for over 30 years. He is the former group leader of the Indoor Environment Group at Lawrence Berkeley Labs.

Nuggets mined from today’s episode:

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is located in the San Francisco Bay area an attractive location for staff including grad students and post docs. IEQ research program began there in the late 1970’s with the work of chemist and scientist Craig Hollowell. Documents were published in Journals.

The Resource Bank Website is sponsored by the EPA’s Indoor Environments Division. The site focuses on how indoor environmental factors affect human health and performance, and discusses the implications for practice.

Health and economic impacts of building ventilation

Recognition that pollutants in buildings from indoor sources were higher than the levels outdoors was the stimulus for research.

Building owners and managers takeaways on IEQ

Understand the benefits of additional ventilation for occupants: decreases Sick Building Syndrome, improves human performance, reduces school absence rate and can reduce risks of chronic health effects such as cancer. The benefit of higher ventilation rates outweighs the cost. Low hanging fruit: economizer control system uses outside air to lower cooling costs and improve ventilation and improve ventilation rates.

Ventilation in schools

Many school classrooms have ventilation rates that are 50% of minimum standards. Low ventilation rates in schools are linked to increased student absence and decreases in student performance, including performance on academic achievement tests. School districts don’t have qualified building operation staff. School districts have tight budgets. Many classrooms rely on natural ventilation via openable windows, but windows are insufficiently opened. Many schools have noisy HVAC systems which are shut off to improve listening. A more systematic research is needed to determine causes of low ventilation rate problems and find solutions.

Energy retrofits in buildings can have positive effects, negative effects or both. Implementations should include packages of measures to both improve energy efficiency and improve and/or, at least, not worsen IEQ. Recommendations: improve equipment efficiency, improve insulation, install better windows, increase ventilation, envelope sealing holds indoor source pollution indoors and reduces introduction of external pollutants. Make buildings less prone to dampness. Apply the knowledge.

Health effects of dampness

Understanding has grown enormously. An exhaustive body of high quality research has been done. Dampness and mold is clearly associated with increases in respiratory and asthma symptoms and may be linked to increased respiratory infections. We don’t know for sure what the exact causative agents are, dampness in buildings is the underlying cause. We need to improve dampness prevention and remediation.

Ventilation can be a double edge sword.

Increasing ventilation can increase particulate and moisture indoors. We should do a better job of filtration. Low efficiency filter are commonly specified. Better filters can handle additional particulate from increased ventilation. Particulate in outdoor air is associated with premature death and hospital admissions. We need to improve both filtration and ventilation.

CO2 as contaminate versus surrogate for inadequate ventilation.

For years CO2 was considered only as a proxy for other indoor pollutants. New research with CO2 has demonstrated, in three of four studies, that excessive CO2 adversely effects high cognitive human performance. CO2 appears to have  less of an effect on humans performing simple tasks than complex tasks. Data to date is based on short terms studies, effects of persistent long term exposure to high CO2 are unknown. CO2 is an interesting area for future research.

VOCs and Health

Architects, designers and suppliers are focused on VOCs. The public isn’t as focused on VOCs. Big improvements have been made in reducing VOC emissions from building materials and furnishings. Less improvement has been made in cleaning products and other indoor emitters. Building occupants also emit VOCs. Countries like China haven’t dealt with VOC sources as well as U.S. and Europe and, because their outdoor air is often highly polluted, increased ventilation is not an attractive option.

Formaldehyde and Lumber Liquidators? 

Some building products emit formaldehyde for years. Higher ventilation and avoiding high temperature and humidity can help. In some cases removal of offending material may be needed. Has the level of formaldehyde been quantified prior to material removal? Formaldehyde air cleaning has not been demonstrated as a cost effective practical option.

Photocatalytic oxidation?

Titanium dioxide irradiated with UV light creates hydroxyl radicals which react with pollutants, is not a ready for prime time solution because they may incompletely break breakdown VOCs and create undesirable chemical byproducts. Additionally, in practice, some of these photocatalytic oxidation systems  can become quickly deactivated by certain types of indoor air pollutants.

The impact of indoor environment on productivity is really important.

There is evidence that IEQ affects performance and has economic consequences. Temperature also affects human performance, overheating in winter has negative impact and wastes energy. Improving IEQ: increases occupant satisfaction, reduces acute symptoms, decreases absences and improves performance.

Air cleaning effects.

Some filters have charged fibers that attract particles. The charged fibers increase initial particle removal efficiency but after collection of some types of particles, filter performance can diminish.

Pollutant generation by air cleaners.

Avoid devices that emit significant amounts of ozone or other chemically reactive molecules. They can pose risks to health.

Climate change.

Will have a substantial effect unless corrective measures are taken. Symptoms of climate change: overheating indoors, thermal discomfort, increased premature death due to heat, more O³ outside when hot, more O³ drawn into buildings, more severe storms, rising sea levels, more dampness, more wildfires, more wildfire related health effects indoor & rising building energy costs. Reduce climate change and deal with the consequences.

Emerging IEQ issues.

  • Effects of CO2 on cognitive performance.
  • Health consequences of SVOCs that mimic hormones.
  • The relationship of the human microbiome and the microbiome of the building, and the implications for human health.
  • Probiotics for buildings are not ready for prime time.

Tips for investigators:

Apply a portfolio of investigative methods, talk to people, avoid excessive and costly airborne mold sampling, beware of over reliance on snapshots because IEQ conditions change over time.

Remediation Tips:

While there is some information on the efficacy of water damage restoration and mold remediation, the effectiveness of remediation is insufficiently studied. Evaluate the success of performance.

Bill Fisk’s Final thoughts:

  1. Building design, operation and maintenance is important, presents opportunities to improve health and performance with large economic benefits.
  2. Thank the EPA for support of the website.

Today’s Music:

American Dad-Doing Research (so much freaking research) Montage – YouTube

Z-Man signing off

Trivia: 

What is the atomic number pf the element named after Livermore Lab?

Answer:

Livermorium #116

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