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A Healthier Warehouse Starts with Better Indoor Air Quality

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A Healthier Warehouse Starts with Better Indoor Air Quality

While the “new normal” is still evolving, one thing is certain: We need to continue to focus on how we design and maintain indoor environments. Businesses need to keep occupant well-being and productivity top of mind while minimizing potential risks.

Improving indoor air quality (IAQ) has always been a priority for building operators but until recently many occupants were unaware or less concerned about how IAQ impacted their experience. The World Green Building Council notes IAQ is just one of “a range of tools and strategies” that should be employed to make buildings safer, but adds, “It is clear that an effective approach should…encompass an increased focus on the monitoring and management of air quality.” To this end, warehouses and distribution centers across the globe have taken steps to review current systems and implement new in-building technologies that improve ventilation, air quality, humidity, pressure, and safety.

While every building has some level of these functions, they may not be optimized for occupant comfort and wellbeing. With the holiday season, many warehouses and distribution centers schedule a higher-than-normal volume of employees to stay on track during the busiest time of the year. Air quality is essential to a healthy building, and it is especially important when there is an increase in the number of building occupants. IAQ can impact occupant wellbeing and productivity, energy efficiency, and potentially even real estate value.

As building owners and operators look to provide safer and healthier work environments for their employees, a good place to start is with a building audit. An audit will reveal whether installed systems are operating properly and confirm the facility is meeting ASHRAE standards for a healthier environment based on the type of building and its existing systems.

Aligning with ASHRAE Building Readiness recommendations, building operators should consider the following tips to improve IAQ:

-Increase outdoor air ventilation (use caution in highly polluted areas)

-Disable demand-controlled ventilation (DCV)

-Open minimum outdoor air dampers — as much as 100% — to eliminate recirculation

-Consider portable room air cleaners with HEPA filters

-Consider UVGI (ultraviolet germicidal irradiation) to protect occupants from radiation, particularly in high-risk spaces (e.g., break rooms or locker rooms)

-Consider altering equipment operating schedules to flush buildings with fresh air for two hours before and after occupancy

Following the audit, building operators should assess areas throughout the building to implement improvements or adjustments. Some improvement options include:

Electronic air cleaners (EACs): An electronic air cleaner is a device that uses an electric charge to remove impurities — either solid particles or liquid droplets — from the air. The EAC functions by applying energy only to the particulate matter to be collected, without significantly impeding the flow of air. They are installed at the point of air intake in an HVAC system, and maintenance of commercial EACs is often tool-free and relatively simple, due to components like removable grills for prefilter and electronic cell cleaning and replacement.

Ventilation controls: Proper air exchange can help dispel odors, chemicals, and carbon dioxide while balancing energy use and reducing disease transmission Building control products like actuators and economizers can bring in the right amount of fresh air based on environmental conditions, as well as meet building regulations. Newer economizers offer onboard fault detection and diagnostics to reduce service and commissioning time for maintenance professionals.

Humidity sensors: Humidity sensors can help gain real-time measurements and keep humidity at optimized levels. Humidity control is not just about occupant comfort. High humidity can promote bacteria and mold growth as well as conditions for dust mites, while low humidity can cause dry, itchy skin and upper respiratory irritations. ASHRAE research found that keeping relative humidity in the 40% to 60% range is optimal to decreasing occupant exposure to infectious particles and reducing virus transmission.

Pressurization controls: Maintaining proper pressurization in critical spaces, including restrooms, can help reduce pathogens, bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that can be present in indoor air. Pressurization can also be used to contain air in a quarantined space or isolate and protect clean spaces. Pressure sensors provide low-maintenance measurement and control.

UV systems: UV systems use ultraviolet light to damage the DNA structure of microorganisms at the cellular level and has been shown in laboratory tests to inactivate certain viral, bacterial and fungal organisms, making them less likely to replicate and potentially cause disease. UV systems can be installed at HVAC coils or with an EAC to deactivate biological contaminants growing on cooling coils, preventing pathogens from spreading to building occupants.

According to the World Green Building Council, while buildings themselves cannot solve all of our current challenges, they play a crucial role in employee wellbeing. Warehouse and distribution center owners and operators must make IAQ a priority — now and in the future — to ensure healthier indoor environments for employees and keep business moving.

‘Electric Highway’ Planned at Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach

Los Angeles, CA – Next summer, Southern California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) will begin a pilot ‘e-Highway’ system near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The first of its kind in the US, the $13.5 million highway project to be built starting in early 2015 will consist of a two-way, 1-mile overhead electric catenary system along a major thoroughfare that runs between both mega-ports.

A catenary system consists of overhead wires that vehicles pass under to receive electrical charges using a pantograph, a contraption mounted on the roof of the vehicle to collect the electrical charges. They are most commonly used by trolleys and streetcars.

The e-Highway concept applies the catenary system to trucks, allowing them to collect electrical power with a pantograph that unfolds from the roof of a truck. After passing under the catenary system, trucks can switch to diesel, compressed natural gas, battery or another on-board energy source.

Up to four demonstration trucks — both battery-electric and hybrid types — will reportedly be used. Trucks on the ‘e-Highway’ will be able to travel at speeds up to 60 mph.

Germany-based global engineering company Siemens will build the catenary system as well as the “current collectors,” which would allow trucks at any speed to link and unlink from the ‘e-Highway.’

According to the AQMD, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach “are an optimal location for this kind of system because of the high concentration of diesel-powered trucks traveling relatively short distances between the ports and intermodal transfer facilities or distribution warehouses.

AQMD officials hope the demonstration “will lead to a reduction of fossil fuel and toxic air emissions, as well as save on transportation costs.”