Problems with air quality are growing exponentially around the world. In Finland alone, an estimated maintenance backlog cost of tens of billions of Euros has been caused by issues with moisture and mould. In addition, there are individual health issues that will emerge at a later point. Can some of these problems be attributed to incorrect measures taken in the name of savings in energy?
In recent years, I have encountered a growing number of energy-related measures taken in relation to ventilation. I am sad to say that most of them are totally incomprehensible. Sometimes mechanical ventilation is completely turned off outside office hours during weekdays and for whole weekends. At the same time it is generally known that humidity residing in the ventilation ducts will start forming harmful spores in a matter of hours. Getting rid of these spores is a significantly larger problem, especially after they have already spread to other structures via ventilation. With no exchange air coming in, exhaust air equipment in wetrooms etc. will also extract harmful spores from drains and structures, spreading them in the indoor air. In addition to unpleasant odours, dangerous spores spread onto otherwise healthy surfaces and structures. I have witnessed countless situations where some energy-efficiency wizard has paid the home a quick visit only to leave a five-item to-do list for a low price.
Everyone has the right to high-quality air
Good and healthy air is the result of high-quality structures, correctly controlled ventilation, and adhering to environmental requirements. In normal conditions, ventilation is meant to transport an adequate amount of fresh outside air indoors and to remove moisture and impurities. Its purpose is not to kill all bacteria or viruses that normally reside in outdoor air. Something like that can even be extremely harmful. People and the environment need bacteria also. The used air must be removed properly. No odours or chemicals contained therein must be returned to the indoor air. In modern construction technology, regular tracking of structures and ventilation ducts is a must. Repairing or replacing spoiled structures must be done without delay. Otherwise the damage will only spread further. When selecting structures and ventilation systems, the requirements set by outside air and the environment should be considered. The technical solutions and the required level of automation are dictated by the number and scope of changes. The solutions should be user-friendly so that their features can also be utilised in different situations.
Energy efficiency comes from correctly implemented production
Energy efficiency can also bring good results and increased productivity. However, planning the operations must be based on defining the bigger picture. By taking into account all the factors and their interdependencies we can arrive at energy-efficient ventilation. No checklists or certificates alone can achieve this. Energy-efficient ventilation will then produce the right amount of high-quality fresh air at the right time, and simultaneously protect structures from moisture and mould. It will also efficiently utilise the energy in the extracted air.
The best practical energy optimisation of mechanical ventilation comes from modelling the target home or building. Then we can take into account all the air quality -related regulations, use of the space(s), and technology in planning for energy efficiency. In applications developed for construction planning, the accuracy is at the level required by building regulations (+/- 10-20%). However, this is not sufficient for achieving energy efficiency. Using a good tool for energy balance modelling, we achieve better accuracy and can also note the interactions of the various energy flows. With a tool like this different usage scenarios and technical solutions can also be easily simulated. This will ensure all the more energy-efficient ventilation implementations. Continuous operational design and tracking, as well as result assessment, are crucial for maintaining a good level and for achieving continuous development. Energy efficiency requires mastering all the components and factors, top-level expertise, and the best available modelling application.
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