A breath of fresh air for buildings

A breath of fresh air for buildings: An in-situ sensor experiment to improve the measurement and management of air quality, and improve communication with users

Veolia Headquarters in La Courneuve. C Hertha-Hurnaus

Developing environmentally friendly buildings that provide a high standard of living creates a twofold challenge: reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions (by making buildings better insulated and limiting losses due to ventilation) while maintaining good indoor air quality.

We spend on average 80% of our time inside buildings. Indoor air quality just as big an issue as the quality of the air outdoors. It is a growing cause for concern among residents. The boom in individual sensors accessible to the general public has created a new need: for leaders and decision-makers to be able to objectify the data gathered from these new individual sensors and provide users with reliable information.

There are two main principles for ensuring good indoor air quality: limit the emission of pollutants and make sure air is processed and renewed effectively.

The questions to address are as follows:

Are there sensors that allow us to monitor air quality in a building in a reliable and cost efficient way?

What tools are there to manage these in order to optimise air quality and energy efficiency?

How can we interact with residents so they improve their indoor environment and extend the lifespan of the building?



Low cost gas and particulate matter sensors are appearing on the market, with a range of new potential uses.

These sensors provide continuous relative values (quantitative or semi-quantitative), allowing a building to be monitored in space and in time. They are less costly and less intrusive than traditional air measurement tools for managing ventilation systems. Their low cost means a building can be monitored in several locations, for each of the various parts of the building (different orientation, use, materials, ventilation, occupation time).

For now the limiting factor is the reliability of the measurements (precision, deviation, molecules measured and/or interfering). It may not be necessary to have a true value, but rather one that can be interpreted in relation to set thresholds by using the sensors alongside standardized measures. The positioning strategy for the sensors is key, to give a good cross-section of air quality within a building.

These air quality monitoring sensors allow us to supplement and not replace traditional, standardized air quality measurements.

The monitoring systems in a building require a great deal of technical equipment: heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, fire detection and security systems. For now, none of these really look at air quality.

But how reliable are the measurements provided by these sensors? How reliable is the data processing, and the ventilation alerts? How can these sensors be adapted to improve the management and maintenance of installations, via continuous air quality measurements?



To be able to assess and use various air quality sensors in order to establish dialogue and trust on indoor air quality between:

The residents of a building, who have a legitimate claim to information on air quality,

Environmental Compliance Officers who want to ensure a good level of air quality in the premises they are responsible for

And the companies responsible for managing ventilation according to indoor and outdoor air quality.

The demo will consist of equipping the buildings with efficient, low-cost continuous sensors (CO2, COV, T°, humidity, gas pollutants, particulate matter) that allow ventilation to be managed and the sources of pollutants to be identified, as well as for residents to be given information, while giving us a better understanding of the relationship between IAQ and OAQ. An open database will also be created. Via touchscreens and/or mobile applications, residents will have the opportunity to give feedback. This information will supplement the sensors when it comes to evaluation and assessing improvement.

Published on 2017-10-20

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