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Impact of outdoor air quality on the natural ventilation usage of commercial buildings in the US

Jianli Chen, Gail S. Brager, Godfried Augenbroe and Xinyi Song

Applied Energy, 2019, vol. 235, issue C, 673-684

Abstract: Natural ventilation has emerged as a desirable feature of sustainable buildings given its potential positive impact on building energy performance and amenities for occupants. In some circumstances, natural ventilation can provide a higher ventilation rate compared to mechanical ventilation, thus improving the air quality of indoor space, resulting in lower indoor carbon dioxide and volatile organic compound concentrations. However, this increased ventilation rate also raises the issue of increased indoor pollutant concentration from outdoor sources, which has been proven to significantly affect occupant health. In this paper, we investigate the influence of three major outdoor air pollutants, PM2.5, PM10, and ozone, on natural ventilation usage across 12 major US cities and their corresponding climate zones utilizing the outdoor air pollutant records from the US Environmental Protection Agency. Firstly, a descriptive statistics study presents a general description of air pollutant records in these investigated cities and climate zones. Then two natural ventilation operation scenarios (considering outdoor air pollutants vs. not) are developed and compared to explicitly show the expected natural ventilation reduction in these areas. The investigation results indicate that the most polluted area for natural ventilation is Los Angeles (with a projected 70% reduction), followed by Chicago (approximately 40% reduction), and then Atlanta and San Francisco (20–30% reduction for each). The natural ventilation reduction caused by outdoor air pollutants ranges from 5% to 20% in all other tested cities. Among the three pollutants (PM2.5, PM10, and ozone) we investigated, the influence of PM2.5 consistently emerges as the most critical to consider, while the impact of PM10 is typically trivial. The influence of ozone is not obvious in most cases. Nevertheless, in certain cases, its influence is non-negligible when natural ventilation is utilized. This study aims to provide a general guideline for decision makers to consider the influence of outdoor air quality on natural ventilation usage when adopting natural ventilation in different US locations. The results also confirmed the outdoor air pollutants, especially PM2.5, as a significant factor to consider in the natural ventilation design to shield the occupant from excessive air pollutant exposure.

Keywords: Natural ventilation; Outdoor air quality; Commercial building; Air pollutant control; Particulate Matter; Ozone (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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Handle: RePEc:eee:appene:v:235:y:2019:i:c:p:673-684