Pursuing (or considering) LEED or BOMA BEST certification? Here are 7 things you should consider about Indoor Air Quality

Muskan Sharma & Naomi Pitcher | April 2024

Maintaining indoor environmental quality (IEQ) is essential for the health and wellbeing of workers who are spending more time than ever indoors.  LEED and BOMA BEST are certifications that guide building owners and managers towards best practices in IEQ, sustainability and green building systems. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a crucial component of IEQ and is impacted by a large array of factors. This blog outlines 7 key components of IAQ to consider when pursuing green building certifications such as LEED and BOMA BEST.

Table of Contents

What is Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor air quality is the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of air which can affect the comfort and health of the occupants inside a facility. Indoor air quality depends both on thermal comfort factors and the presence of contaminants in the air.

LEED and BOMA BEST

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and BOMA BEST, are green building certification systems that demonstrate building owners and managers’ commitments to sustainability and the health and wellbeing of occupants. While administered by different governing bodies with varying emphases on diverse parameters, both systems highlight the importance of indoor air quality.

Many factors impact the quality of the indoor air that is breathed by building occupants. Most of these factors are controllable, and with proper design and maintenance, good IAQ can be easily achieved.

7 Considerations for Indoor Air Quality:

 1.      Controlling Sources:

Think critically about the materials being used to construct, finish, and furnish interior spaces. Prioritizing low or non-emitting materials can help reduce the introduction of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, and other air pollutants. Materials such as stone, ceramic, glass, and concrete are inherently non-emitting. LEED points can be earned by using low-emitting paints, adhesives, flooring, ceiling treatments, insulation, and furniture. Choosing materials that are tested and labeled through low chemical emission certification programs is another way to control some sources of indoor air pollutants. It is much easier to control potential sources of IAQ pollutants than remediate an already contaminated space.

2.      Ventilation Efficiency:

IAQ is optimised through designing and maintaining building ventilation systems to filter circulated air and introduce an adequate amount of fresh air to indoor environments. Fresh air is necessary for occupant health and wellbeing and dilutes airborne contaminants, flushing out pollutants and built-up carbon dioxide. Specific parameters are referenced by LEED and BOMA BEST that outline best practices for ventilation, often quantified as air changes per hour (ACH).

3.      Air Filtration:

Various filter types can be used in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) filters are rated according to their ability to remove particles in different size ranges from the air on a scale of 1 to 16, with 16 being the highest efficiency.

Using appropriate air filters on your building HVAC systems is important for LEED and BOMA BEST certification and will help to capture harmful particulate contaminants and ensure a healthier indoor air quality for your building occupants. Before changing to higher efficiency filters, it is important to ensure that your HVAC system can handle them.   It is also necessary to adhere to recommended schedules for filter replacement.

4.      Moisture Control:

Managing the moisture content in the air (humidity) and preventing water infiltration into indoor environments is a crucial component of good air quality. Dehumidification, building envelope assessments and prompt management of water leaks are all methods to control moisture in the indoor environment. These strategies, among others, can help prevent mould growth and the proliferation of other biological contaminants that may negatively impact the quality of indoor air.

5.      Indoor Pollutant Monitoring:

While not required for green building certification, additional points or credits are provided for the installation and use of air monitoring systems. Such systems can continuously measure the levels of a diverse array of parameters, including:

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Particulate matter (PM5, PM10)
  • Temperature
  • Humidity

Installing and proactively using the information provided by air monitoring systems can improve indoor air quality management.

6.      Green Cleaning Practices:

Many harmful chemicals are hidden in common cleaning products, and these can negatively impact the air quality of indoor environments. Switching to ‘green’ cleaning products and practices can help minimise occupant and worker exposure to airborne pollutants. Both BOMA BEST and LEED contain program requirements for green cleaning products and practices that prioritise the health of workers and occupants.

 7.      Occupant Well-being and Comfort:

Engaging with building occupants through surveys and other feedback mechanisms can help you understand perceptions of indoor air quality and comfort. This information can be a valuable source to guide ongoing improvements in buildings.

These are seven of the main components relating to Indoor Air Quality requirements when pursuing green building certification such as LEED or BOMA BEST. Taking such factors into account when designing, operating or maintaining indoor environments can significantly enhance IAQ and occupant health and well-being.

Where To from Here?

ECOH experts are familiar with and certified by LEED to guide you through your submission and certification process. In addition to LEED, our team is experienced in assessing buildings according to various other green building certification programs including BOMA BEST and Fitwel.

 

Reach out to us at info@ecoh.ca to find out how we can help you achieve LEED or BOMA BEST certification!

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