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Create a Healthier Building with These Emerging Technologies in Indoor Air Quality

How Adding UV-C Lighting And Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization To Your Building’s HVAC System Can Help Your Tenants Breathe A Sigh Of Relief When Returning To The Workplace
MEP HVAC image

As more of the country returns to the office, safety and sanitary concerns related to the spread of infectious disease are top of mind for many. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has amplified interest in the role that indoor environments play in our health. Even before the pandemic hit, there were numerous reasons to be interested in ventilation and air quality in the buildings where we spend the majority of our time.

With the healthy building movement continuing to gain momentum, more developers, building owners and businesses are looking for ways to invest in improvements that are both cost effective and beneficial to their occupants.

One government entity in Austin, Texas is already jumping on the healthy building bandwagon and capitalizing on some new indoor air quality improvements for their offices. WGI’s MEP team recently helped design some cutting edge upgrades for Travis County’s HVAC system at their new North Campus location.

WGI worked with Southwest Strategies Group, the building owner, to understand their indoor air quality goals, then teamed up with Heat Transfer Solutions (HTS), to specify some solutions that aligned with the owner’s goals, budget and the constraints of the existing system.

Travis County North Campus
Travis County’s new North Campus is part of a mixed-use development that consists of an office component, mixed-income housing and a shared parking garage. This property was designed to meet the Austin Energy Green Building (AEGB) 3-star rating, as well as the City of Austin S.M.A.R.T. housing requirements.

Modular Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization

One of the items WGI specified to be integrated into Travis County’s HVAC system was a GPS-iMOD modular needlepoint bipolar ionization (NPBI) system. The basic idea of this technology is to generate ions that allow harmful air particles containing dust, pollen, smoke, and even viruses and bacteria, to be more easily filtered out of the air. Ions are created and then released into the airstream using the HVAC system as the delivery method.

When these ions disperse, they seek out and form bonds with the particles in the air through a process called agglomeration. This causes the particles to clump together, creating large clusters that are easier to catch in the filters. It also breaks down odor and VOC’s into their component parts (nitrogen, hydrogen and water vapor), which are harmless.

Bipolar Ionization - Travis County North Campus
The GPS-iMOD (the blue strip attached to the filter), comes in 6-inch increments and can be field assembled to any length up to 240 inches.

The units are low profile and are mounted using rare earth magnets, which makes them simple to retrofit into nearly any existing rooftop unit, air handling unit, or fan coil unit.  No real maintenance is required and the units do not need to be replaced like filters do. To be clear, this system is not a filter itself, so normal filters will still be required; it’s purpose is to increase the filters’ effectiveness. This can result in reduced pathogen transmission and an overall healthier indoor environment.

Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI)

Another one of the upgrades WGI’s MEP team specified for Travis County was the addition of UltraViolet Devices V-MAX Grid to their current HVAC system.

Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation is the use of ultraviolet (UV-C) energy to deactivate the DNA or RNA of microorganisms and pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and molds. This process prevents them from reproducing and causes them to become non-pathogenic, i.e. incapable of causing disease.

UV lights - edited
HVAC filters are only designed to capture particles but not destroy the DNA of the microorganisms. UV light is the most effective way to destroy bacteria, viruses, and mold, which can grow and thrive on filter material once captured.

As a result, the coils are cleaned to their core and the air is cleaned as it passes through the coils, which provides continual cleaning. Keeping the coils and drain pans clean can dramatically reduce mold and bacteria growth on the often wet surfaces, and cut down on the number of mold particles being shed into the air. Hospitals have been using this technology for years to help stop the transmission of viruses and keep patients safe.

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The Triple Bottom Line

The link between people, planet, & profit, sometimes referred to as the “triple bottom line”, has become the new trend for numerous businesses and investors looking to maximize their impact. Indoor air quality can have substantial effects on people’s alertness, productivity and absenteeism. Not only does fresh air prevent the spread of viruses, studies have shown it also improves attention and cognitive function.

If we can tailor our building designs to keep the health and sustainability of the planet in mind, why not design systems that keep the health and well being of the building inhabitants in mind too?

Contact us today and let’s chat about how we can help you decrease your energy costs and improve the air quality in your building!

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