The current global energy crisis is worrying for us all. With bills rising and the cost of living extortionate, cutting down outgoings where possible is a priority for most, if not all.
The energy efficiency of our buildings is something that will play a vital role in the current economic climate, so avoiding using air conditioning, heating, and ventilation systems where possible may become the ‘norm’.
In doing so, more efforts may be put into monitoring energy efficiency and will in turn sacrifice monitoring air quality, reducing healthy air as a result. This is something that medical practices and dentists need to consider, ensuring they still meet industry standards for health and safety.
Here, Dr Chunli Cao, Managing Director of air purification designer Healthy Air Technology, a Fellow of CIBSE and an expert in energy saving with a certificate in EPC, discusses the link between energy efficiency in buildings and indoor air quality, and how they can in fact complement each other.
Achieving energy efficiency in an energy crisis
With energy prices on the rise since 2021, businesses could face paying energy bills five times higher than what they would normally expect to pay.
It is likely, then, that cutting costs where possible may become a priority for lots of businesses around the UK, and medical centres that must prioritise air quality may struggle balancing this alongside energy efficiency.
For example, ensuring the building is air-tight to ensure heating or air conditioning is not being wasted and is acting as efficiently as possible can sacrifice levels of indoor air quality, and considering that heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are responsible for the most energy consumption in commercial buildings, it may raise further issues.
However, good quality HVAC systems are able to achieve better building energy efficiency, as well as some able to achieve good standards of indoor air quality.
It may be difficult for medical practices, such as dentists, that have older buildings and are leasing the premises, meaning they cannot change the structure to adjust air quality to the required industry standards.
Thus, looking into the solutions available and discovering which will best suit your building structure is necessary for optimum building energy efficiency.
How does air quality affect our health?
Air quality has a massive impact on our health. It can impact our respiratory capabilities, provoking strokes, cardiovascular problems, and even lung cancer.
Ensuring our indoor air quality is monitored and is of a certain standard is important for our health, particularly in buildings we spend a lot of time in, or facilities that are required to maintain a high standard of air quality - this would involve households, offices, and of course medical practices.
However, without the appropriate elements in place to monitor air quality in these areas, levels may fall to standards that don’t meet requirements, or expectations.
In fact, hospitals, medical centres and care homes in London are all in an area that exceeds World Health Organisation air pollution guidelines, meaning buildings in cities must pay particular attention to their air quality levels.
There is data that shows how levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5) - both harmful to our health - for hospitals and medical centres exceed the WHO strict guidelines of air quality.
Therefore, making the push to prioritise air quality, particularly for medical practices, is vital.
How to manage both energy efficiency and air quality
It may seem that in order accomplish either building energy efficiency or indoor air quality, one must be sacrificed – but this is not the case.
Building Energy Management Systems (BeMS) are solutions that businesses can consider for their buildings to control HVAC systems, ensuring the energy performance is functioning to a suitable standard – as well as being monitored from just one platform.
Air purifiers can also act as the ideal solution to monitor air quality whilst ensuring your building energy efficiency is not lost as a result. Through limiting the amount of energy used in the building with less outside air needing to be brought in for cooling, heating and ventilation systems, your carbon footprint can be reduced - with costs as much as £718 on heating and £1309 on cooling being saved each year*.
The benefits can surpass monetary value, with sick days able to be reduced by 20%* per year as a result of installing air purifiers. This demonstrates that building energy efficiency can be linked to workforce efficiency, with positive results for both your business and your staff.
In battling through the tough times ahead, businesses that put such measures in place to protect their staff and their customers can reap the rewards, with a new structure that improves the balance of energy efficiency and air quality.