This Case Study is about good building ventilation and particularly refers to residential strata buildings.
Do you have good quality ventilation in your building? Does the air seem clean to you or does it have a bit of an odour?
We’ve discovered there are many people currently living or working in buildings with poor ventilation. This not only means unpleasantly-scented environments; it also means your health could be at risk.
What is Building Ventilation?
To keep it simple, ventilation is essentially the movement of air.
There are multiple scenarios where mechanical ventilation is required throughout a building.
Some examples include:
- Bathrooms – For shower steam or toilet odours
- Carparks – For vehicle omissions
- Kitchens – For smoke and steam
- Paint Rooms – For chemical fumes
It’s also important to allow natural airflow into a building via the appropriate amount and placement of windows.
Obvious building ventilation problems are indicated by smelling stale or chemical-ridden air. Additionally, your building or certain rooms might not be properly ventilated if you find yourself feeling tired or sick all the time. However, in some situations, it can be an invisible problem that you only discover much later.
So if you haven’t had your building ventilation levels checked lately, now is a good time to do so!
What are the Australian Building Ventilation Requirements?
All Australian buildings must meet the requirements under the Australian Standards 1668.
There is also the Building Code of Australia (BCA) which states:
A space within a building used by occupants must be provided with means of ventilation with outdoor air which will maintain adequate air quality.
A mechanical air-handling system installed in a building must control:
- The circulation of objectionable odours; and
- The accumulation of harmful contamination by micro-organisms, pathogens and toxins.
Contaminated air must be disposed of in a manner which does not unduly create a nuisance or hazard to people in the building or other properties.
The Federal Government’s Concern About Mould-Related Illness and Moisture in Buildings
Although Australia has codes in place, Architectural scientist Dr Tim Law says they “are decades behind international best practices in managing and responding to condensation problems”. He referred to Canada and Ireland as leaders in this area and said the UK, the US, and New Zealand are also way ahead of Australia.
As highlighted in the HVAC&R News, these opinions were released as part of the parliamentary inquiry in August and September 2018. Experts in health, biology and building physics provided evidence about mould-related illnesses and moisture in buildings. The committee received information about Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) and a wide range of debilitating and difficult to diagnose and treat symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, “brain fog”, unexplained weight gain, numbness, and tingling.
Building practices put forward to the inquiry as potentially increasing dampness and/or mould levels include:
- Exposing building materials to moisture during construction
- Inadequate ventilation (such as buildings that are air-conditioned at all times)
- Practices that enable a build-up of condensation (such as the use of foil to wrap buildings)
- The use of timber framing and/or gypsum board that may encourage mould growth.
- Inadequate and/or incorrectly installed waterproofing.
How Can Building’s Mechnanical Ventilation be Improved?
Firstly, you need to test the air to find out what the underlying problems are. There could be poor airflow, bad smells, or non-compliant systems. And this is where Trackie comes in!
The next step is to match a solution with the problem. Sometimes it’s just a matter of cleaning the ventilation or replacing rusted air ducts and old fans. There have also been instances where people have accidentally turned off the ventilation.
With ventilation, there’s an opportunity to claim a rebate under the NSW Energy Saving Scheme (ESS). And the savings can be quite substantial!
Case Study: Ventilation in 40-year-old Apartment Block in Sydney’s Inner West
Recently, Trackie Industries was called out to inspect and provide recommendations for a 40-year-old apartment block that had been experiencing mould and ventilation issues. Another company had previously installed larger fans in an attempt to overcome the issues, however, this only caused high-velocity whistling issues within the apartments and fan noise outside.
Through our investigations, we found that over the years the grilles inside had become blocked with lint and dust. Some grilles had been removed or changed with renovations and the fans were well beyond the end of life with fan blades rusted away etc.
So we recommended recording all the grilles, ductwork, and fans onsite and then use that information to design the requirements for a better ventilation system.
We recorded each grille location, size, current air flow and design airflow required. Then we designed a mechanical ventilation system that would deliver the correct airflow levels, using energy efficient Electronically Commutated (EC) fans. EC fans have variable speeds that can be adjusted as required.
After receiving the approval to proceed, we replaced all 12 fans with EC fans and cleaned every grille and balancing damper. We then set out to balance the system and set the fan speeds appropriately.
There were 54 apartments that all had to be accessed over a two day period. Not an easy feat – but we did it! Everything went to plan and we’ve received numerous phone calls to compliment us on how smooth and efficient our service was.
After the replacement, the apartment building was left with a quiet and efficient ventilation system that will be reliable for years to come. Our tracking equipment indicated an instant energy saving of over 60%.
Plus – the Strata Manager was thrilled!
If you think the building ventilation system in your Sydney office or apartment building needs a review, contact us today!
This article has been republished with permission from the author and first appeared on the Trackie Industries website.
This post appears in Strata News #262.
Have a question about good building ventilation or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.
Looking for strata information concerning your state? For state-specific strata information, take a look here.