Penn State Researches IAQ in Government Buildings

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff April 28, 2005

Research to improve indoor air quality in government buildings, among other projects has recently been funded by ASHRAE.

Twelve students have been approved to receive a total of $100,000 through ASHRAE’s grants-in-aid program, which is designed to encourage students to continue their education in preparation for service in the HVAC industry.

The recipients were chosen by the Society’s Research Administration Committee at the 2005 Winter Meeting held Feb. 5-9. The grants are awarded to fulltime graduate students of ASHRAE-related technologies. Fifty-five applications were received.

Results from the projects may be incorporated in the ASHRAE Handbook. One of the projects funded was for study of county and state government buildings, which present a moderate safety risk in case of bio-contaminant dispersion. While most buildings have plans for evacuation and bomb detonation, they do not have capabilities for ventilation for air recirculation cutoff in case of an air-system safety hazard, according to Tracey Nawrocki of Penn State University (PSU).

“To keep occupants safe, air systems need to be upgraded just as surveillance and weapon detection systems have been upgraded in the past few years,” says Nawrocki, whose research will focus on Investigation of new sensoring technology and guidelines for preparing existing variable-air-volume (VAV) systems for response to contaminant dispersion in moderate-risk office buildings.

An environmental chamber at PSU will be used to simulate and test specific office zones with actual VAV system settings and the effectiveness of sensor equipment in the zones. Using those measurements, computational fluid dynamics simulation of the entire building comparing different sensoring equipment configurations will be used to produce information that shows how existing VAV systems can be modified to prepare buildings for response to bio-contaminant dispersion.

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