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Air quality: Put an end to stale air!

Indoor air quality is only a secondary issue for many building oper­a­tors and employers. But it is a crucial factor for the health and produc­tivity of people who live or work in such spaces. An intel­li­gent solu­tion from ebm-papst neo moni­tors and regu­lates the air quality of build­ings with easy-to-retrofit compo­nents and a cloud-based plat­form.


The health of their employees is a high priority for most compa­nies. They put numerous measures in place, ranging from ergonomic work­sta­tions to company sports groups. The oper­a­tors of the build­ings also want to ensure that the people who are in the rooms feel comfort­able and have the right condi­tions to perform at their best. After all, they pay them rent. A key factor in this is gener­ally ignored: the air quality in the rooms.

Air is quality of life

We can survive weeks without food and days without water, but only a few minutes without air. We breathe in and out up to 15,000 liters of air every day. That is why it is so impor­tant that the quality of this air is as high as possible. It is crucial to health, impor­tant for our day-to-day produc­tivity and essen­tial for our well­being.

As most Euro­peans spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors, it quickly becomes clear that good air quality is a crit­ical factor here. In indoor spaces, the surrounding climatic condi­tions and envi­ron­mental influ­ences affect the air. But the number of people present, furnish­ings, tech­nical equip­ment or building mate­rials used also directly influ­ence the quality of the air.

We breathe in and out up to 15,000 liters of air every day. That is why it is so impor­tant that the quality of this air is as high as possible.

If temper­a­tures increase outside due to climate change, the inside can quickly become hot and humid, signif­i­cantly restricting everyday life. A less obvious but percep­tible indi­cator of poor air quality is the carbon dioxide content, for example. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that people’s produc­tivity decreases by 19 percent when the CO2 content in the air increases by 400 ppm. By compar­ison: Euro­pean stan­dard 13779 assesses the quality of indoor air with a CO2 content of up to 1,000 ppm as medium, from 1,400 ppm as poor. Gases, spores, tiny parti­cles, or hazardous germs or viruses are also invis­ible health hazards.

Para­me­ters against the pandemic

Sars-CoV-2 has made this partic­u­larly clear to us. We know that the new coro­n­avirus is partic­u­larly widely spread via aerosols. The ques­tion of how to make indoor spaces safer in this regard is there­fore of great impor­tance. Para­me­ters with which the trans­mis­sion risk can be esti­mated have already been iden­ti­fied. Because every person exhales CO2, the CO2 concen­tra­tion in a room indi­cates how used up the air is. This means the higher the propor­tion of CO2 parti­cles, the higher the propor­tion of air that has been breathed several times. In turn, this means the higher the CO2 concen­tra­tion, the higher the risk of infec­tion. The German Envi­ron­ment Agency has there­fore suggested “CO2 traffic lights”: If sensors register a previ­ously defined CO2 value, the room must be venti­lated.

Humidity also plays a crucial role in the spread of the virus. For example, a research team from the Univer­sity of Missouri has shown that, with high humidity, parti­cles can remain in the air for longer and travel further than in dry air. The catch: From a humidity level of less than 40 percent, people’s mucous membranes suffer and are then more suscep­tible to illness (Figure 2).

Fig. 2: The ideal air humidity zone for people is also a bad climate when it comes to germs and viruses. (Graphic | ebm-papst)

Air quality is not a feeling

It is good to know these para­me­ters. Many building oper­a­tors, however, are unable to tell their users how often the air is actu­ally replaced or how clean it is. To be able to check the para­me­ters, these must be iden­ti­fied and controlled. And this is currently not tech­ni­cally possible in most build­ings. The status quo in the manage­ment of indoor air quality is to use your gut feeling. Often people then venti­late rooms more often than is actu­ally neces­sary – with nega­tive effects on energy effi­ciency.

Using data to opti­mize air quality

ebm-papst neo, the start-up of the venti­la­tion and drive specialist in Mulfingen, wants to change this. And is offering the world’s first sensor-based building stan­dard for commer­cial build­ings and their inte­rior spaces in the form of RESET. The stan­dard moni­tors, commu­ni­cates, and certi­fies the air quality in build­ings. To achieve this, sensors in the fresh air supply and exhaust and in the inside spaces record various air quality para­me­ters: Temper­a­ture, air humidity, carbon dioxide, fine dust (PM2.5) and TVOC, i.e. gases emitted by the mate­rials present indoors (Figure 3). To ensure the accu­racy of the data recorded, RESET spec­i­fies strict require­ments for the preci­sion of the sensors and the type of data trans­mis­sion.

The data is sent to the ebm-papst Building Connect plat­form via the Gateway connec­tivity module. This plat­form is where the data is processed and analyzed. It can then be provided to the building oper­ator and also be used to opti­mize the building control systems. The ebm-papst Building Connect plat­form there­fore plays an active role in moni­toring indoor air quality and regu­lating it in an energy-effi­cient way. Algo­rithms learn from user behavior, building char­ac­ter­is­tics and envi­ron­mental condi­tions, and, with the help of energy-saving fans, help to create an opti­mized indoor eco-system.

Fig. 3: The RESET stan­dard uses sensors to record a wide range of air quality para­me­ters in the fresh air supply and exhaust, as well as indoors. (Graphic | ebm-papst)

Count parti­cles – do not esti­mate them

RESET will also soon offer an index that can indi­cate the risk of infec­tion in a room. To do this, it uses air para­me­ters such as the CO2 concen­tra­tion as well as the actual particle load. Filter units mounted on the ceiling can be networked with the system. They can filter not only pollu­tants and viruses out of the air, but also provide data about the number of parti­cles via a fine dust sensor. This can be used for the RESET index. It compares the measured number of parti­cles in the air with the actual air purifi­ca­tion rate – in which aerosolized virus parti­cles are elim­i­nated. As a result, building oper­a­tors do not have to rely on esti­mated values and more venti­la­tion than actu­ally needed. They can there­fore create clean air in indoor spaces, as energy effi­ciently as possible.

Fig. 4: The RESET-certi­fied fan from ebm-papst uses sensors and Gateway to transfer a wide range of data to the ebm-papst Building Connect plat­form, thereby contributing to moni­toring and control­ling indoor air quality. (Image | ebm-papst)

Quick and easy to imple­ment

The possi­bility of managing building control with the ebm-papst Building Connect plat­form has the advan­tage that you can add an Internet-capable brain to a simple control system. You can, there­fore, specify opti­mized times for a time-controlled venti­la­tion system, thereby control­ling the air quality in real time, for example.

The great advan­tage of the ebm-papst Building Connect plat­form is that it can be imple­mented quickly and without a great deal of effort. Experts inspect the rooms and define the posi­tion of the sensors. Room plans are used to create a digital twin of the building on the Building Connect plat­form. Once the sensors have been installed, the system is ready for use. It all takes just a few weeks.

This prin­ciple is also behind the RESET-certi­fied fan from ebm-papst. This combi­na­tion product consists of an energy-saving fan with RESET-certi­fied sensor and gateway (Figure 4). The RESET-certi­fied fan supplies fan data such as speed, vibra­tion, noise, air speed, power consump­tion, and at the same time, the air quality para­me­ters described above. In this regard, the RESET-certi­fied fan is a true plug-and-play solu­tion: Install, plug in – and breathe deeply.

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