Recent outdoor air pollution events, including wildfire smoke, have prompted health officials to advise people to stay indoors. This is because exposure to fine particle pollution can cause respiratory and cardiovascular health issues, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)1. However, indoor air pollutants can be two to five times worse than outdoor air2, which is often offset by bringing in outdoor air. When fresh outdoor air ventilation is not available to improve indoor air quality (IAQ), facility managers should take extra precautions.
With this in mind, Honeywell has shared three strategies to keep IAQ in buildings safer when the outdoor air index reaches unhealthy levels.
“When the outdoor air index reaches unhealthy levels, it is advisable to avoid introducing external air indoors. The main concern then becomes ensuring the maintenance of healthy indoor air when the option to bring in fresh air is not available,” said Manish Sharma, vice president and chief product officer of Honeywell Connected Buildings. “To promote better air quality in situations like these, buildings should consider utilizing automated and sophisticated sensing, filtration, air purification and air circulation solutions. The question then arises: how many buildings can presently claim to possess such important capabilities? At times like this, intelligent and advanced technology becomes critical.”
The following tips from Honeywell can help keep IAQ safer for your facility’s occupants:
Tip #1: Continually Assess & Communicate IAQ
Facility managers should utilize IAQ sensors to monitor CO2, TVOC, temperature, relative humidity and PM2.53, an extremely dangerous, fine particulate matter that can travel deeply into the respiratory tract. Sensors help analyze data, track trends, and alert building managers when indoor air is not safe.
Once a baseline for a building’s health is established, facility managers can integrate their building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system with the IAQ sensors to continually monitor air quality, detect contaminants, and clean the air automatically.
Facility managers should also consider communicating to occupants the building’s IAQ levels. According to the 2023 Honeywell Healthy Buildings Survey4 data, 82% of office workers want to be informed about their building’s IAQ often or sometimes.
Tip #2: Rethink Ventilation
Ventilation is an important factor in maintaining healthy IAQ levels and thermal comfort as it freshens up the air inside buildings and dilutes the concentration of harmful particles. While the simplest, cheapest and most traditional way to improve ventilation is to open a window, that is not always a viable option, especially if the air outside is more polluted than that inside.
To keep air clean, facility managers can use mechanical ventilation devices, such as fans that vent to the outdoors or portable air cleaners, which may be particularly helpful when ventilation with outdoor, polluted air is not possible without compromising indoor comfort or health. Buildings can also tap into the facility’s HVAC system to help maintain safer IAQ levels through adequate ventilation.
Tip #3: Improve Filtration & Purification
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One of the most effective ways to improve IAQ is to clean existing indoor air, especially when outdoor air ventilation is limited. Facility managers can use filtration and purification technologies to eliminate the contaminants from a building’s air supply. For example, HEPA, or high efficiency particulate air, filters can capture particulates of 0.01 micron and greater5 with an extraordinary efficiency by diffusion and interception mechanisms.
Pressurization technologies control the movement of air contaminants within a building and lead to improved IAQ. Control of air pressure, both positive and negative, inside a building is key to providing comfort and preventing outdoor contaminants from entering a space. A slight positive pressure will prevent hot outside air from penetrating into the building during the summer, and negative pressure during the winter can maintain humidity by allowing outside air into the building.
1 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Disease Basics [Accessed July 10, 2023]
2 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Why Indoor Air Quality is Important to Schools [Accessed July 10, 2023]
3 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate Matter (PM) Basics [Accessed July 10, 2023]
4 Honeywell, Honeywell Survey Reveals Increased Expectations For Healthier Workplaces, February 22, 2023 [Accessed July 10, 2023]
5 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, What is a HEPA filter? [Accessed July 10, 2023]