How to become a Clean Air Facility

Clean air has extensive benefits, such as improving productivity and reducing absences due to sick building syndrome (SBS).

But clean air is now even more critical for buildings seeking to help protect occupants as they resume onsite operations following the COVID-19 pandemic and face the ongoing health and productivity challenges of indoor air pollution in the office environment. 

Global air pollution, especially PM2.5, remains a major threat to health. In 2022, air pollution accounted for six million deaths and had an estimated economic cost of $8 trillion dollars.

In 2022, air pollution accounted for six million deaths and had an estimated economic cost of $8 trillion dollars.

High-efficiency air filtration in the workplace has become more than just a workplace benefit – it’s a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining high-performing employees concerned about their health and safety in shared facilities. 

High-efficiency air filtration is a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining high-performing employees concerned about their health and safety in shared facilities.

A facility can pose unique air quality challenges that might make air filtration difficult and costly to implement as public health guidelines and air quality problems change.

With the Clean Air Facility program, air quality experts design customized air filtration solutions for your facility, leveraging HVAC systems and stand-alone filtration to improve indoor air quality in your entire facility.

Perfect 16 Infographic

How to become a Clean Air Facility

To become a designated Clean Air Facility, the following process is used to identify and implement clean air solutions while demonstrating the long-term benefits of clean air:

  • on-site air quality assessment
  • air quality verification and monitoring
  • publish your facility’s air quality in Clean Air Facility directory (optional)
  • maintenance and renewal of Clean Air Facility status

On-site air quality assessment

First, a thorough air quality assessment (either onsite or virtual) is performed to discern the exact air quality solutions your building will need to meet Clean Air Facility requirements.

The following factors are considered as Clean Air Facility staff assess a building’s needs.

Local air pollution sources

Localized air pollution sources and air pollution concentrations over time can vary dramatically from building to building based on location and operating hours.

For example, office buildings near busy streets or highways may experience their highest levels of air pollution during morning and afternoon vehicle traffic. Vehicle exhaust is a major source of PM2.5, ultrafine particles (UFPs), chemicals, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).1,2

Air filtration must be designed not only to help reduce outdoor air pollution that can seep indoors but also remove indoor air pollutants from furnishings, construction materials, and personal hygiene products that can impact employee health and productivity.

Building age and existing HVAC design

The average commercial building in the United States is 53 years old, with only 12 percent of buildings built after 2003 and the majority built before 1946.3,4,5

The average commercial building in the United States is 53 years old, with only 12 percent of buildings built after 2003 and the majority built before 1946.

Despite the age of a building, our Solutions Engineers can design filtration solutions that can be retrofitted into existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems or customize stand-alone solutions for any facility.

Expert consultation

Evaluations (onsite or virtual) by subject matter experts in commercial air quality and air filtration systems can help simplify this process through the following steps:

  1. Building walkthrough: Facility construction, HVAC systems, and existing air filtration (if applicable) are documented.
  2. Spot measurements of ambient air quality: Major sources of air pollution, both indoors and outdoors, are documented using high-accuracy air quality monitoring tools.
  3. Inspection of air handlers and air distribution: Current facility HVAC and air filtration technology, including outstanding maintenance and upgrades, are noted.
  4. Detailed analysis: A written report is shared with facility stakeholders, describing air quality issues and suggesting customized air filtration solutions to help the building meet Clean Air Facility requirements.

Based on evaluation results, one or more of the following solutions may be proposed:

  • HVAC air filtration: For many buildings, HVAC air filtration is the most logical choice for air pollution mitigation. This type of air quality solution uses centralized airflow and filtration mechanisms to help deliver clean air to the entire building through facility ductwork. 
  • Localized air filtration solutions: Stand-alone air purifiers or room air purifiers can provide clean air to workspaces that may not have access to a centralized HVAC system or may be required depending on the day to day activities that take place within the facility. A high-performance system can provide several air changes per hour (ACH) and filter up to 99.5% of airborne particles in any given workspace.
  • Individualized air purification: Personal air purifiers can help shield employees at individual workstations from air pollutants and airborne infections, delivering clean air filtered from up to 99% of airborne particles directly to a person’s breathing zone.

Many buildings have traditionally relied on HVAC air filters rated MERV 13 or lower according to the MERV efficiency system based on the ASHRAE 52.2 standard.6

However, MERV 13 is tested to capture up to 50% of airborne particles ranging from 0.3-1.0 microns in size. This can leave up to half of the most dangerous airborne particles unfiltered, including airborne infections and ultrafine particles (UFPs). 

MERV 13 filters also require extensive mechanical ventilation to effectively dilute indoor concentrations of airborne particles. This can negatively affect a building in two ways:

  • increased penetration of outdoor air can reduce building energy efficiency by disrupting indoor climate control and requiring increased HVAC operation hours for thermal comfort
  • ventilation with outdoor air can bring in outdoor air pollutants that can cause poor indoor air quality, reducing the efficiency of air filtration systems

IQAir filtration technology provides high-efficiency HVAC panel filters with ultralow pressure drop. In fact, NanoMax filtration technology exceeds MERV 16 standards with only the pressure drop of an average MERV 8 filter. NanoMax filters are suggested as an alternative to counter these potential downsides of traditional MERV 13 air filters. 

NanoMax filters are tested to capture up to 96 percent of airborne particles between 0.3-1.0 microns and at least 90% of UFPs less than 0.1 microns.7 Their high efficiency eliminates the need for additional mechanical ventilation beyond building code requirements.

The high efficiency of NanoMax filters reduces the need for additional mechanical ventilation beyond building code requirements.

Refer to the table below for a side-by-side comparison of filtration efficiencies for MERV 13 air filters and NanoMax air filters.

  MERV 13 NanoMax Improvement in Efficiency with NanoMax
3-10 microns up to 90% up to 100% ~11%
1-3 microns 80-85% up to 99%  Up to 24%
0.3-1 micron ≤ 50% up to 96% Up to 174%
< 0.1 micron Not tested 90% Substantial

 

Fewer HVAC filter changes

NanoMax filters require fewer filter replacements over time. This can significantly reduce the costs associated with filter purchases and labor involved in filter replacements. 

Refer to the table below for an example of cost savings with NanoMax in comparison to MERV 13 filters for a facility using 50 NanoMax filters. 
 

  Filter Replacement Intervals* Yearly Maintenance Hours (15 min./filter) Yearly Filter Costs
MERV 13  4 times per year 50 hours $2,000-$8,000
NanoMax
(exceed MERV 16 performance
1 time per year 12.5 hours   $5,000

* based on 8 hours of HVAC operation per day (2,920 hours).

Energy management

Unlike many traditional MERV 13 air filtration systems, NanoMax HVAC air filters used as part of the Clean Air Facility program do not require additional mechanical ventilation beyond what is required per building code. 

As a result, buildings can only operate HVAC air filtration systems as needed to reduce energy usage. This helps minimize a building’s carbon footprint while maintaining 90 to 100 percent air filtration efficiency for particles while the building is occupied and HVAC systems are operating. 

Air quality monitoring and smart technology

Smart indoor climate systems and other building control systems can also be paired with indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring to automate HVAC air filtration systems using preset protocols:

  • HVAC Systems: Program smart thermostats to maintain energy-efficient “Fan On” mode and deliver clean air even in the absence of heating or cooling operations. 
  • High-Capacity Stand-Alone Systems: Pair air purifiers with occupancy sensors, timers, or air quality monitors so that systems operate when indoor spaces are occupied or indoor air pollution concentrations surpass pre-programmed thresholds.

Air quality verification and monitoring

The impact of PM2.5 and indoor gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) on employee health, productivity, and cognitive performance has long been documented.8,9,10,11

Air quality monitoring can provide crucial data to help ensure that HVAC systems supplies sufficient levels of clean and oxygenated air to occupants and reduce the health impacts of air pollution and airborne infections. You will receive an air quality report every month for your facility. You will be contacted within 4 business hours if there is an issue with your facility’s air quality.

Public air quality data displays can also demonstrate to building inhabitants the immediate benefits of indoor clean air, especially when outdoor air pollution is heavy. This data can be displayed on publicly visible TV monitors or on company websites using customizable air quality data widgets (see Figure 1 for an example).

AirVisual Widget

Figure 1: Customized air quality widget for websites, comparing current indoor air quality with outdoor air quality.

Long-term air quality data can also illustrate the returns of investment in air filtration alongside other workforce data, such as work absences due to illness and productivity metrics. 

Further benefits of indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring include:

  • Live indoor air quality data feed to demonstrate real-time air quality improvements resulting from air filtration.
  • Mobile air quality apps for facility inhabitants to view real-time workplace air quality data anywhere.
  • Email notifications for specified air quality thresholds, alerting facility stakeholders about potential air pollution threats.
  • Documentation of indoor air quality improvements to track the long-term efficacy of air filtration and air quality improvement programs.
  • Air quality reports featuring long-term data that can illustrate the relationship between air quality improvements and workplace metrics.
  • Lookup your facility here (bottom of this page https://www.iqair.com/us/commercial-applications/clean-air-facilities):

Clean Air Facility look up widget

Maintenance and renewal

Clean Air Facility status is active for 12 months after successful designation. Facilities with active Clean Air Facility designations are listed on the public, searchable IQAir Clean Air Facility database.

Buildings that meet Clean Air Facility requirements can publicly display a customized placard, window decal, or countertop trophy indicating that the facility meets strict indoor air quality and infection control requirements (see Figure 2 for an example).

Clean Air Facility Sticker

Figure 2: Example of Clean Air Facility window decal displayed in public view.

The takeaway

The Clean Air Facility program helps reduce the challenges of implementing office air filtration by customizing solutions to the exact specifications of any facility.

Clean air at work is more than just an added bonus – it’s essential for many employees to feel safer and more secure against the new realities facing shared workspaces. 

Some commercial facilities are eligible for grants earmarked to help meet air filtration compliance requirements related to local air pollution or federal emergency declarations. 

For more information about Clean Air Facilities or assistance on possible funding sources, call 866-500-4090 to speak with a Solutions Engineer or complete this form.

The number one air cleaning solution for your home.

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