The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a rise in demand for healthier public spaces and buildings, especially when it comes to hospitals, schools, offices, and other establishments. While legislation has been slow to act in many respects, indoor air quality solution providers are responding to new health concerns by launching new business models, accelerating digital transformation projects, and exploring new forms of technological innovation.

What You'll Find in this eBook

In this eBook, we explore the rising trends in the commercial indoor air market in 2022 and highlight key digital roadmap innovations we believe commercial air quality control companies must adopt to keep up with emerging market trends. 

These insights have been put together by BreezoMeter’s industry experts - in partnership with Itzhak Maor, an HVAC industry veteran, formerly of Johnson Controls, who joined ASHRAE in 1980 as a university student (Technion Institute of Technology) and remained an active member for 25+ years, contributing to energy code guidelines, HVAC handbooks, and ASHRAE’s COVID-19 task force.

By forcing a rush to reduce viral transmission and other respiratory threats in our indoor environments, COVID-19 has increased public pressure for air quality improvements in our buildings.

 

Governments around the world are setting their sights on new air quality infrastructure for public spaces: In 2020, the German government already invested €500m to improve ventilation systems in public buildings to reduce virus spread. In April 2022, the Federal Government in Belgium announced new “ventilation plans” for bars, restaurants, cinemas, theaters, and gyms. 

 

In March of 2022, White House officials announced the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge, calling on all building owners, operators, schools, colleges, universities, and different organizations to adopt key strategies for improving indoor air quality in their buildings. 

 

New Opportunities: Healthy Building Certification is On the Rise

 

While legislative change can be relatively slow to act, building managers are also seeking out building health and wellness certifiers to ensure healthy indoor environments in their facilities. Businesses now look to adopt climate resilience, ensure worker health, reduce sick days, and not only maintain but increase productivity as they return to normal with a newfound understanding of ‘healthy work and living spaces.

 

As a result, wellness building certifications from leading organizations more than doubled between 2019 and August of 2021, with the majority of properties belonging to office/commercial, hospitality, and retail spaces. Certifiers such as WELL, USGBC LEED, AirRated, UL, and the BREEAM system all look at a building’s indoor air quality and ventilation capabilities when determining the building’s rating, as well as a variety of additional factors such as humidity, temperature, soundproofing, and more.

 

For existing buildings, performing monthly or annual indoor air quality “investigations/surveys“ has also become a popular trend, helping to identify and correct IAQ deficiencies such as poor ventilation, inadequate filtration, and higher-than-usual indoor pollutant presence. 

 

Case Study: After performing a building health assessment of a refurbished workspace in London’s West End, AirRated certifiers recommended adding ongoing outdoor air quality monitoring to help occupants understand the state of the surrounding environment, notorious for seeing high PM2.5  and NO2 levels during rush hour traffic and high ozone in the summer. 

 

Many certifiers today are also recommending activated carbon filters be fitted to the outdoor air intakes to ensure ventilation doesn’t draw in high amounts of external pollution.

 

 office HVAC

 

The Science Behind The Drive for Healthier Buildings

 

Many research initiatives and studies demonstrate that going beyond the current minimum requirements for ventilation and air treatment equipment (such as more efficient filters) and other technologies, can serve to ensure healthier indoor spaces:

  • Better air purifiers minimize the impact on respiratory illnesses - Indoor air cleaners utilizing effective technologies such as HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filtration, UVGI(ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation), activated carbon filters, and electrostatic generators can reduce the presence of indoor pollutants, making them especially valuable for people with chronic respiratory diseases.

  • Higher-Efficiency filters reduce allergy & asthma symptoms - Researchers have found HEPA filters can reduce indoor PM2.5  pollution, a known asthma agitator, by 55% when outside conditions are unhealthy. In a controlled indoor environment test, researchers found correct usage of an indoor air cleaner greatly reduced allergic grass pollen symptoms.

  • IAQ optimization improves cognitive performance - In conjunction with parameters such as thermal comfort, lighting, and noise, indoor air quality management can improve productivity: a Harvard study found people in green environments with enhanced ventilation scored 101% higher in cognitive tests.

Advancements in technology, equipment, and building design mean the commercial indoor air quality management sector is evolving in a number of ways. Largely the trends appear to be in the areas of applying smart tech for measuring, tracking and controlling HVAC and other air treatment equipment, including in-room air cleaners through connected services and personalized analytics, optimizing performance to achieve the desired IAQ and energy efficiency levels.

  1. An increased use of outdoor air for ventilation has become a strong trend that goes beyond ASHRAE standards or local codes for minimum outdoor airflow per person requirements. To do this well, the HVAC OEM needs to consider the quality of outdoor air being ventilated inside to prevent intake of dirty air.

  2. To prevent introducing higher levels of pollutants indoors, higher efficiency filters have become common in HVAC design guidelines. ASHRAE recommends MERV-13 filters or higher for reducing virus transmission risk. Naturally, higher efficiency filters lead to a new hurdle for buildings: reducing energy consumption.

  3. To address energy efficiency concerns and comply with energy codes and new green building trends, HVAC OEMs are now integrating energy-efficient solutions for increased ventilation and higher efficiency filtering.

    • Air to Air energy recovery devices that can recover energy from the building's exhaust air stream and transfer it to the incoming outdoor air stream.

    • Hybrid ventilation (natural & low energy fan-powered airflow), with consideration for outdoor air quality.

    • Demand Control Ventilation (DCV), a feedback control method that helps automate indoor air management by adjusting ventilation in response to changes in occupancy or rising indoor pollutant levels. 

    • Air Side Economizers, already required by many energy codes, distribute colder outdoor air throughout the building without requiring cooling within the system. An energy-efficient solution for high-maintenance spaces such as server rooms that require 24/7 cooling. 

    • Dedicated Outdoor Air Systems (DOAS) that supply buildings with pre-conditioned cooled/heated/dehumidified outdoor air according to the seasonal temperatures and humidity. These systems normally utilize Air to Air energy recovery.

      These solutions include proper application of lower pressure drop filters and use of additional systems and methodologies, such as:
    • Applying smart air ventilation technologies for more energy-efficient delivery of air over time at reduced utility costs.

    Office air purifier
    e. For high-efficiency air treatment against microbial contaminants, ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) air purifiers have become the preferred solution. These UV devices combat the spread of viruses, fungi, and bacteria, especially for upper room air disinfection as well as for in-duct and Air Handling Unit (AHU) implementations.

  4. Using in-room air cleaner solutions in commercial settings is becoming more popular in general, with the global industrial air purifiers market expected to reach $4.1 billion in 2027, while the commercial segment of the global air purifier market, accounting for over 55% of the total market revenue in 2021, is now predicted to reach a total of $25.97 billion by 2030.

  5. The practice of combining air treatment methods is also gaining in popularity, whether due to a lack of existing ventilation capabilities, limited clean outdoor air supply, or ineffective HVAC filtration. ASHRAE and other experts recommend combining ventilation, filtration, UVGI, and in-room air cleaners to achieve MERV 13 or better level of performance.

  6. The use of indoor sensors to measure IAQ parameters such as CO2, VOCs, PM10, PM2.5, Radon, and other common indoor pollutants has become a staple of indoor environment health tracking & management, a concept that continues gaining rapid momentum. In this respect, combining IAQ sensor data with outdoor environmental analytics enables better building health and energy management via optimized ventilation and air purifier performance.

  7. In addition to ASHRAE recommendations regarding energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, air treatment system OEMs also focus on climate resilience, designing products to accommodate operational modification and preventive action. The idea is to enable buildings to be prepared for future outbreaks and extreme climate events through hardware improvements and connected digital solutions that leverage environmental insights for optimized and proactive handling.

A growing number of IAQ brands now prioritize the use of new technologies in commercial spaces, emphasizing enhanced solutions for the impact of poor indoor air quality on health and productivity.

  1. Moving from Temperature & Air to Holistic Environment Management


    Providers are looking beyond traditional aspects of ‘air quality’ and ‘temperature’ parameters to develop more holistic solutions that consider the environment’s health and level of comfort as a whole: This new Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) approach can include aspects of IAQ, thermal comfort, acoustics, humidity control, pollen Filtration, wildfire detection, and more

     

    Example: The AirThings For Business connected platform enables remotely monitoring indoor environmental health in office spaces, school classrooms, and other commercial facilities by integrating different indoor sensors for common indoor air pollutants, radon, temperature, humidity, and more within a single hub that helps make buildings sustainable and reduce operating costs.

     

    airthings platform

    (Image originally featured on AirThings.com)


  2. Hardware-only Brands Developing ‘Air as a Service’ Offerings

    The drive for 24/7 health and wellness creates new opportunities for commercial indoor air treatment OEMs to transition from ‘hardware-only’ suppliers to more subscription-focused and service-oriented digital offerings. Providers are now offering premium subscription packages at different tiers, leveraging environmental and usage analytics to offer customers better, more actionable insights (when to replace filters, etc), and even process automation.


    Example: Second Nature enables businesses to streamline air filter procurement for a variety of commercial HVAC needs through a customized portal, reducing the need to stockpile units, and improving HVAC life expectancy and energy efficiency through optimized filter maintenance.

    second nature filter systems

    (Image originally featured on secondnature.com)


  3. Making Sense of Data with Visualization

    Displaying connected IAQ dashboards and heatmaps with brand attribution on large screens in halls and lobbies of different facilities enables translating data into indoor environmental health representation for entire floors and even specific rooms. Connected IAQ apps and platforms enable employees and other building occupants to ‘see the air’ from anywhere, with some providers already adopting outdoor environmental analytics for a more holistic image.


    Example: Awair enables office spaces to continuously show indoor air quality, based on a number of different parameters, to visitors and employees through large screens, and even make the dashboard accessible remotely via a URL link.

    Awair office air quality display

    (Image originally featured on Getawair.com)


  4. Increased Value with Intelligent IAQ Controls & Connectivity

Personalized IAQ monitoring & diagnostics and automatic optimization of HVAC and air purifier performance have become the foremost digital solution enabling facility managers to ensure the health and wellness of indoor environments. Large HVAC hardware brands provide smart IAQ management solutions with their physical equipment:

 

Example: Johnson Controls, which discovered 60% of its customers actively invest in IAQ monitoring and management measures, now provides a turnkey indoor air control solution, the OpenBlue Indoor Air Quality as a Service, which offers a full range of connected solutions that enable healthier, more sustainable indoor experiences through tailored, AI-powered diagnostics, maintenance, risk assessment, and more. 

 

OpenBlue Johnson Controls

(Image originally featured on johnsoncontrols.com)

 

Example: Trane, in partnership with Synexis, provides customers with the Wellsphere™ indoor environmental quality management services that complement the company’s physical equipment. Wellsphere™ offers holistic solutions for building health management through remote IAQ monitoring, integrated controls and sensors, air cleaning, diagnostics, and automatic HVAC performance adjustment based on real-time indoor environmental parameters.

Trane system

(Image originally featured on trane.com)

 

For smaller hardware-only HVAC OEMs that don’t want to spend considerable time and funds on developing new digital tools to complement their physical products, some IAQ control companies offer their connected digital services as a way for OEMs to expand their offerings:

 

Example: Siemens offers HVAC OEMs the Climatix IC platform, a cloud-connected monitoring and diagnostics solution that enables integrating indoor sensors and creating digital subscription services. The platform also provides external environmental insights that can contextualize indoor data with outdoor conditions and enable leveraging environmental intelligence for system automation.

 

Siemens Platform

(Image originally featured on breezometer.com)

The global HVAC systems market is projected to reach $252.7 Billion by 2026, driven by rising indoor air quality concerns and the pursuit of climate resilience that prioritize better HVAC efficacy and more comprehensive environmental management systems for commercial use.

 

“[Building health] is definitely higher on the agenda of building managers and landlords,” says Andre Bothma, Growth Lead, EMEA, at JLL Spark, a global venture fund that invests in startups transforming commercial real estate through technology.

 

Understand the Opportunity

 

By upgrading air cleaning, ventilation, and environmental management capabilities, commercial IAQ solution providers can distinguish their offerings and help business customers reduce operational costs, protect building health, and reach new sustainability and climate resilience goals: 

  • Prioritize Connectivity & Efficiency- The growing popularity of IoT-enabled systems, along with rising demand for better energy efficiency in the face of rising energy penalties, also drive considerable growth in the commercial sector of the HVAC controls market, estimated to total $24.4 billion by 2025.

  • Commercial Buyers Want Personalization Too - Better IAQ management plays a big factor in the growing demand for personalized health, projected to see the global personalized medicine market reach $796.8 billion by 2028, driven by the rapid adoption of companion diagnostics, telemedicine solutions, contactless check-ins & payments, and more.

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