Media Tips and Case Studies
Standard Offers Guidance on Improving Air Quality (IAQ) in Residences
Indoor Air Quality
Richard Rooley, current president of the American Society of Heating,
Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), discusses the work of
the organization to advance the arts and sciences of heating, ventilation, air
conditioning and refrigeration to serve the evolving needs of the public.
(Note: This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2004 issue of the ANSI
Are concerns about indoor air quality making it difficult for you to breathe
easy in your own home? Guidance to make the air in homes healthier and safer
without adding significant costs is provided in a recently published ASHRAE
standard. ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.2, Ventilation and Acceptable Indoor Air
Quality in Low-Rise Residential Buildings, is the only nationally recognized
indoor air quality standard developed solely for residences. It is intended for
use in building codes.
“The standard is just good, basic common sense,” Max Sherman, former chair of
the committee that wrote the standard, said. “People need fresh air. The
standard tells how to provide it and how to avoid other common problems.”
The standard, published in December 2003, was developed under ANSI’s consensus
requirements. It underwent four public reviews, resulting in 2,400 comments
from a variety of interested parties. It was approved by the ANSI Board of
Standards Review in March 2004.
“As ASHRAE strives to develop consensus standards, such as 62.2, there will be
some debate,” Sherman noted. “Indoor air quality impacts comfort and health in
residential buildings, just as it does in commercial and institutional ones.
With this standard, we hope to improve the quality of residential buildings by
providing minimum acceptable indoor air quality.”
Residential ventilation traditionally was not a major concern because it was
felt people were getting enough outdoor air by opening their windows and by air
leaking through the building’s walls.
As homes and duct systems are built tighter to save energy, trapping
contaminants indoors, concern has risen about indoor air quality, especially
now that people spend almost 90 percent of their day indoors — 65 percent of
that in their homes. Also, residents are less likely to open windows because of
energy costs, security issues, drafts, noise, and dirty air from outside.
Studies from the Environmental Protection Agency on human exposure to air
pollutants show that indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times,
sometimes more than 100 times, higher than outdoor levels. People in buildings
frequently report discomfort and building-related health symptoms, and
sometimes develop building-related illnesses.
“Publication of this standard does not immediately require changes to building
practice, but it does set the minimum level expected of HVAC professionals with
respect to residential ventilation, and it should hopefully lead to changes in
building codes,” Sherman said.
Some requirements in the standard that represent significant changes from
standard practice include use of sound rated fans (because disruptively noisy
fans are now commonly used) as well as use of mechanical, whole-house
ventilation, which only a small fraction of houses currently use.
The purpose of the standard is to provide the necessary building service of
providing minimum acceptable indoor air quality, according to Sherman. A
standard such as 62.2 benefits HVAC&R professionals and allied industries
because it defines a demonstrable set of criteria for acceptability, which can
be used to provide known value to the owner.
“Users can show clients or a court that they have done what the profession says
is needed and have met their professional responsibility,” Sherman said. “The
clients and occupants have some level of assurance that the building will
perform well and professionals have some level of protection by doing their due
The standard has been moved to the continuous maintenance process, meaning
anyone can make proposals to modify the standard at any time. Any proposed
changes would pass through the public review if the committee accepted the
proposals. In fact, the first proposed addendum to the standard recently was
opened for public review.
ASHRAE also is continuing its efforts to improve ventilation in commercial and
institutional buildings. The society expects to publish Standard 62-2004,
Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality as well. The standard, which sets
minimum ventilation rates and other requirements for commercial and
institutional buildings, will contain several new addenda.
In the area of aircraft cabin air quality, ASHRAE continues work on its proposed
standard, 161P, Air Quality Within Commercial Aircraft. Standards are needed to
ensure that cabin air is safe for crewmembers and passengers, minimizes the
potential for adverse health effects and is comfortable to occupants. ASHRAE
hopes to approve a first public review draft later this year.
Founded in 1894, ASHRAE is an international organization comprised of more than
55,000 persons. Mr. Rooley is ASHRAE president for the 2003-2004 term. For more
information, please visit www.ashrae.org.