Reaching the right indoor air quality requirements requires focus and input from many different parties, including design, construction, interiors and beyond. Plus, the performance of the project has to be tracked afterwards to determine if the collaboration was successful and perhaps set benchmarks for the future.
Design professionals know the impact indoor air quality can have on the cognitive and physical health of building occupants, yet design and engineering disciplines often work in silos to try to achieve healthy indoor air quality. A collaborative approach can result in sustainable buildings and healthier indoor air quality that can meet or exceed design benchmarks.
Collaborative Design Process
Utilizing an integrated approach that brings all team members to the table at the start of the planning and design process, design teams can better define project goals, share knowledge, and strategize. Owner expectations and requirements of indoor air quality can be determined, guiding the team in material selection and ventilation control design. While ASHRAE, LEED, and WELL share some goals, they have unique requirements that may conflict with each other, emphasizing the importance of communication across disciplines to coordinate standards and develop strategies that achieve the targeted benchmarks.
Through this collaboration, materials, furniture and finishes selection, and installation can work in tandem with the design of mechanical and air-filtration systems to reduce off-gassing and other airborne contaminants. Products declared Red List–free by the International Living Future Institute establish a good starting point for healthy materials and finishes. Beyond the Red List, material selection will depend on project type, from hospitals to commercial properties, community centers to workplaces.
The best mechanical systems for a space also vary depending on use, and mechanical engineers and interior designers can work together to determine a comprehensive approach. In a high-activity space like a gym, outdoor-air ventilation may be increased beyond typical levels to ensure occupant comfort and offset smells from rubber athletic flooring. A daycare center will require durable, low-maintenance materials and an air-filtration system to reduce airborne containments and odors that could impact children’s health.