Here’s why you should measure CO2 in your building

The following post is an excerpt from Daphic Scientific by Michael Forster PhD 

iStock_000057422952_LargeCO2 is a known indoor pollutant affecting performance in the workplace, at school, and even at the gym. Extreme levels of CO2 can lead to death, particularly in enclosed spaces such as laboratories, some hospital rooms, and breweries. CO2 can have a number of effects on home and workplace health and safety.

Controlling CO2 can also improve building energy efficiency, saving costs by up to 80%, and is even considered in the scoring of Green Star Ratings in building design.

Here, we outline 7 reasons why you should be measuring carbon dioxide levels inside buildings.

1.  CO2 can kill you

Outside air has a CO2 concentration around 400 ppm and each human breath contains around 30,000ppm.  As CO2 concentration around you increases, symptoms begin by causing panting, followed by tremors and loss of consciousness, and finally death.

CO2 can be hazardous in one of two ways: by displacing oxygen in the blood or as acting as a toxin.

2.  CO2 can decrease productivity

In the office and classroom, elevated levels of CO2, in the range between 1,000 ppm and 2,500 ppm, have been found to decrease concentration, increase headaches, decrease performance, and increase rates of absenteeism.  Generally, CO2 concentrations as low as 1,000ppm can lead to poor decision-making performance.

Although CO2 is not the only factor, elevated levels can lead to that feeling of lethargy and tiredness often associated with office workers.  Studies have shown that lethargy induced by elevated CO2 can decrease performance by up to 10% for adults and over 20% for school children.

3.  CO2 can increase rapidly in poorly ventilated rooms

Figure 1. An example of increasing CO2 concentration in a poorly ventilated office with a single occupant.

Figure 1. An example of increasing CO2 concentration in a poorly ventilated office with a single occupant.

In surveys of school classrooms in California and Texas, average CO2 concentrations were above 1,000 ppm, many exceeded 2,000 ppm, and in 21% of Texas classrooms peak CO2 concentration exceeded 3,000 ppm. Such high levels of CO2 could have a particularly adverse effect on concentration during exam periods.

Generally, where large numbers of people gather then CO2 will increase rapidly and lead to poor indoor air quality and pollution. In offices, this could be meeting rooms where a number of staff gather for extended periods in confined spaces.

Other places, such as gyms, shopping centers, cafes with soft drink vending machines, or libraries, are increasingly being recognized as indoor environments with elevated CO2 leading to poorer performance.

4.  Some locations have naturally high CO2 levels and need to be monitored

Figure 2. The ESRAD-102 CO2 Storage Safety Alarm can save lives in locations where extreme levels of CO2 occur.

Figure 2. The ESRAD-102 CO2 Storage Safety Alarm can save lives in locations where extreme levels of CO2 occur.

There are certain locations where indoor CO2 in an enclosed room or area can potentially reach extreme and life threatening levels.

Laboratories and hospitals may have enclosed or poorly ventilated locations where CO2 cylinders are stored or used and may potentially have harmful levels of atmospheric CO2.

In manufacturing, spaces where CO2 is regularly used are also potential areas of harmful levels of CO2.  Breweries can be extremely hazardous.  Pockets of high CO2 can form in tanks and cellars and can quickly lead to death.  Even bars, clubs and pubs, where CO2 cylinders are stored in a room, are increasingly required to monitor CO2 levels for workplace safety.

Using CO2 sensors for ventilation control can assist in these cases.  However, other systems with audible and visual alarms may warn workers and occupants of dangerous levels of CO2.

5.  Monitoring CO2 for energy efficiency

Facility managers are increasingly turning towards monitoring CO2 for Demand Controlled Ventilation (DVC). Ventilation units can automatically set air intake based on maximum occupancy rate of a room, office or classroom.  However, occupancy is often intermittent and unpredictable and may lead to over-ventilation and energy inefficiencies.  Monitoring CO2 levels and automating ventilation to intake air at pre-defined CO2 levels, such as 800ppm, will increase ventilation when it is actually needed.

One study found that monitoring CO2 for DVC saved between 5 and 80% on energy costs compared with a fixed ventilation strategy.

Other technologies to monitor occupancy level may not be as efficient as monitoring CO2 levels.  For example, humidity set points, which can vary widely, change slowly and not directly reflect occupancy.  Another method is to use a presence detector sensor, or PIR.  This method is used widely to automatically turn on lights when a person enters a room, but this method does not detect how many occupants there are in a room.  Measuring CO2, on the other hand, can determine the presence of an occupant and the number of occupants as the rate of change in CO2 levels will be higher with more occupants.

6.  Improving your green building score

The Green Building Council of Australia scores up to 2 points if CO2 levels are maintained below 800ppm or 700ppm respectively.  This move recognizes the relevance of optimal CO2 level for occupancy comfort and productivity.

The United States Green Building Council scores up to 2 points for indoor air quality assessment.

7.  The novelty factor

Most people would not have a clue what the CO2 levels in their room are, what they should be, and how they change throughout the day with various factors.  Monitoring CO2 levels with a data logger showing real-time CO2 levels is interesting. Informing your guests that you are controlling the ventilation in your building with a CO2 detector will certainly raise a few eyebrows!

CO2 technology, installation, and maintenance

Figure 3. A simplified diagram of the NDIR principle of CO2 measurement.

Figure 3. A simplified diagram of the NDIR principle of CO2 measurement.

There are two types of CO2 sensors.

The first is a simple detector that has either voltage or 4.20mA output that can run back to a BMS. These detectors are ideal where multiple units need to be installed and operated by a single BMS.

The second type is a transmitter. These detectors can connect directly into an HVAC unit to control ventilation. This type is ideal where only one sensor is needed.

Other types can additionally measure temperature and humidity providing a complete monitoring solution.

For more information on CO2 measurement devices, check out the Daphic Scientific Environmental Research & Monitoring Equipment site. http://www.edaphic.com.au/why-you-need-to-measure-co2-inside-buildings/

A work or learning place designed for optimal productivity leads to better performance and, ultimately, is better for the bottom line.  Monitoring and controlling CO2 levels is one approach to a healthier workplace environment.

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Here’s how to build a vertical garden

The following post is an excerpt from Mainland Aggregates Blog

The_Ultimate_Guide_to_Building_a_Vertical_GardenAt first glance, one might not think that small spaces and gardening are much of a match, but the revolutionary idea of vertical gardens is quickly changing that perception.

Urban gardens or apartments have limited space available, but you can still grow flowers, herbs and vegetables, if you decide to set up a vertical garden.

Setting up a vertical garden may take a lot of work, but don’t get discouraged.  The fruits and veggies of your labor will be well worth the effort.

You have two options when deciding to build a vertical garden:

  1. You can call in a specialist, like a botanist, an urban greening specialist or a bio wall designer, which will make your job very, very easy. He will do all the planning and the work and you will just have to take care of the wall afterwards.
  2. Or you can do it yourself. A successful garden is earned through a trial and error process. There are books that can teach you, but experience will be your best professor.

Here is a list of books that will help you through the whole process: Books to Check Out
vertical garden book collage

Things to consider:

  1. What do you want to grow?
    Flower, vegetable, herb, or fruit?
    For more information on what grows best in vertical gardens, check out What Should You Grow?
  2. How much time, money and labor will this take?
    Tending a vertical garden may require a lot of time from you.  Harvest amounts depend on the square footage of your garden.One grower in California produced 500lbs worth of greens in one year from a 5 by 20 foot section. She grew vegetables and herbs such as tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchinis, basil and lettuce.This grower spent 8 hours initially to prepare her growing space.  Another 30 minutes of daily hand watering for a few weeks, until her plants were large enough to use the irrigation system.  And for the rest of the season, she spent 1-1/2 hours each week tying, tending and finally harvesting her vegetables.
  3. Where will you set it up?
    – Determine whether the vertical garden will be inside your house, or outside on the garden, lawn, terrace, or balcony.
    – How long does the sun shine on your location? Plants need as much sunlight as possible, so if your terrace doesn’t get much direct sunlight, you might not have the results you hoped for.
    – If you choose a location near a window, you may want to consider pest control.
    You will be building racks to support the plants, which will lean or attach to the wall.
    – Think about the irrigation system you need to put in place and how you can set that up in relation to the water pipes inside the house. Make sure not to flood your neighbors.
  4. How much will it cost? Most vertical gardens are inexpensive. There are several types you can try, such as PVC, wood, metal or plastic, but none of them are pricy.An outside vertical garden can cost somewhere between $50 and $300.  Inside gardens will be more expensive because you’ll need to waterproof the area.A DIY garden will always be cheaper than one designed and erected by a specialist. Don’t be afraid to do it yourself. It’s not too difficult.
nybotanical

Patrick Blanc’s Waterfall at the New York Botanical Gardens

Building your Vertical Garden:

  1. Build the Frame
    A vertical garden is made of three layers, closely attached together – the frame, the plastic sheeting, and the fabric.  You will want to build the structure before you hang it, which will make it easier for you take down.The frame can be built with PVC pipes which are sturdier, lighter and less expensive than metal.  You can build the frame yourself, using ¾ inch PVC pipes, elbows and four-way joints.  Tools and kits may be available at your hardware store.Alternately, you could use a system of wooden stacked vertical garden planters.  But wood may not be the best choice because it requires pressure treating for water protection and may still rot.
  2. Add the Plastic Sheeting
    Use expanded PVC sheets, which will act a back-up for the layer of fabric, and which is easy to attach. If you are installing on wood wall instead of a PVC, you will need to ventilate behind the wall.
  3. Add the Fabric
    Carefully attach the fabric firmly to the frame, as this is the actual layer in which your plants will be seeded and grow and which will hold the water they need.We recommend felt carpet padding, but you can use any material that holds water and doesn’t rot.To build it:
    – You will need two layers of fabric.
    – Attach the layers directly to the frame with galvanized screws of stainless-steel staples.
    – Make sure the layers are pulled so they don’t have any wrinkles or creases.
    – Attach it firmly so that it can hold the weight of vegetables and water.
  4. Add the Irrigation System
    It’s not possible to water vertical gardens manually like with horizontal gardens. You will need an irrigation system that will keep the fabric and the plants moist at all times.We recommend calling in a plumber or specialist for this step.  Even if you’ve chosen to do this project yourself, we recommend bringing in an expert so that you don’t parch your plants or flood your house.Some water will leak at the bottom of the vertical wall. You can add more plants below the structure to capture the excess water.
  5. Add a fertilizer injector
    A fertilizer injector will sprinkler liquid fertilizer on your plants all year long. It will make this process more time-efficient and spare you some manual labor.
  6. Work on the design
    You’ll want to think about the appearance of your wall before you start planting.  Here you have endless possibilities.  If you are growing decorative plants or flowers, it will be easy to give your vertical garden any shape you want, just keep in mind vegetables are heavy.
  7. Plant your plants
    With a sharp knife, make a small horizontal cut in the fabric of the installation.
    Thoroughly clean the plants root of any soil or debris in order to keep the roots from rotting.  Insert the plant into the slit you just made.
    With staples, attach the fabric to the plastic back, in a not too tight, but close semi-circle, in order to create a stable and protective envelope around the plant.

And that’s it!

Pick your own red ripe tomatoes from the vine for salad, make a strawberry pie with your own fresh fruit, or read a book in the shade of your flowery, natural wall.  A vertical garden is a rewarding return to nature in the middle of the crowded city.

Check out this DIY video from PopScreen on How to build a Patrick Blanc style vertical garden:

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Take look at the “world’s greenest office tower”

tower-pnc-plaza5

 

Tom Paladino’s company was on the design team for the Tower at PNC in Pittsburgh and he says the project changed his life.

The Tower at PNC in Pittsburgh is being billed as the greenest office tower in the world. It has a skin that breaths, a solar chimney, a park in the sky, wood-clad porch doors, indicators that tell you what the weather is outside, and something called The Beacon – an interactive light sculpture that broadcasts data about how much energy the building is using.

The tower is shifted on the podium and street grid for maximum sun exposure.  A double-walled “breathable” facade provides a thermal buffer while allowing air to pass through.

Operable Skin, The Tower at PNC

Operable Skin, PNC Tower

So what’s a solar chimney? It’s a vertical shaft with a rooftop solar collection panel that creates an updraft that draws cool outside air through the skin, across the floors, and up and out of the building, without requiring fans, for almost half the year.

A “living room” space links every two floors of the building, and a five-story indoor park offers views of downtown Pittsburgh.

The Park at The Tower at PNC

The Park at PNC Tower

Paladino acted as owner’s representative on sustainability and LEED management issues.  The 800,000-square-foot, 33-story building was designed by Gensler to reflect PNC’s commitment to green building, energy efficiency and innovation.

The design and systems will help reduce energy consumption by 50 percent and reduce water use by 77 percent compared with a typical office building, Paladino said.

“It was ridiculously simple, and at the same time,  a challenge in its aspiration,” said Tom Paladino in his blog post on the tower.

“LEED shifted from being the purpose of the green building program to being one of the desired results. We moved to a higher purpose, creating a headquarters that would serve PNC as another tool of the business.”

The building was designed to be “the most progressive workplace ever and to attract a highly social, digitally native, and an environmentally conscious work force,” Paladino said.

The Tower at PNC is built green for future generations to enjoy.

The tower cost $400 million.

ESI Design's Beacon at PNC Tower

ESI Design’s Beacon at PNC Tower

Outdoor space at PNC Tower

Outdoor space at PNC Tower

The Tower at PNC

The Tower at PNC

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2 Passive Houses in Seattle opened for tours

Two high-performance Washington homes opened their doors to the general public on Friday as part of International Passive House Days, a worldwide open house event from Friday, November 13 through Sunday, November 15.

image001Project Name: Palatine Passive
Type: Single-family home
Location: 8713 Palatine Ave N in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood
Open: Today, Friday, Nov. 13, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Note: Visitors are asked to remove shoes at the door.
Contact: Tiffany Bowie, Malboeuf Bowie Architecture, tiffany@mb-architecture.com

image003
Project Name: Park Passive
Type: Single-family home
Open: today, Friday, Nov. 13, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: 4211 E Lee Street in Seattle’s Madison Park neighborhood
Contact: Sloan Ritchie, Cascade Built, sloan@cascadebuilt.com
Note: Visitors are asked to remove shoes at the door.


Affordable, comfortable, environmentally friendly—the Passive House embodies the best in sustainable construction. Typically, buildings meeting the Passive House Standard use 80 to 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling, savings far greater than any other building standard delivers. For details on the schedule for each home, consult the listings below. All tours are free. Visitors may come anytime during the listed hours unless otherwise noted.

In conjunction with International Passive House Days, Earth Advantage, a Portland-based nonprofit focused on creating better buildings, will teach the Building Science Fundamentals module of its Sustainable Home Professional training series on Friday, November 13 and Saturday, November 14. Class members will tour some of the open Passive Houses. For more information and registration, visit www.earthadvantage.org/education/2321-259.

International Passive House Days is sponsored by the following organizations:

Earth Advantage:  www.earthadvantage.org
International Passive House Association:   www.passivehouse-international.org
North American Passive House Network:  www.aphnetwork.org
Passive House Northwest:  www.phnw.org

Information on Passive House buildings worldwide is available through the Passive House Database:  www.passivhausprojekte.de/index.php?lang=en

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Don’t Miss Washington’s Energy Future Conference

EF-WA15-Banner.425

Don’t Miss Washington’s Energy Future Conference
with Keynote Speaker Governor Jay Inslee,
Nov. 2 in Seattle.
Seattle Airport Marriott

Presented by Northwest Environmental Business Council (NEBC) and the Washington Department of Commerce

The Conference for Those Building the Clean Energy Economy

Now in its sixth year, this conference is the State’s signature clean energy event, bringing together members of the energy industry, energy policy & economic development leaders, project hosts, and users of energy services.

Included within this one conference are:

  • Policy & Economic Development
    Looking at the current context for clean energy, and how Washington can continue on its leadership path in the face of changing market dynamics.
  • The Business of Renewable Energy
    Advancing the professional level of the industry with discussions on the market and nuts-and-bolts issues related to energy project development.
  • The Business of Energy Efficiency
    Exploring how to increase the penetration of energy efficiency through policy, finance, and market
  • Energy Technology Innovation
    A look at the leading edge of clean energy technologies.

Presented by the Northwest Environmental Business Council (NEBC) and the Washington Dept. of Commerce.

 
Full information & registration
here or at http://www.energyfutureconf.com/wa15/

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