The Importance of Intelligent Ventilation Based on Air Quality
1. To start this new episode, describe who you are and what is your background?
Good morning, sir,
My name is Yann POISSON, I come from a General Engineering School, ESME Sudria, a beautiful Swiss Army Knife factory for industry, the perfect starting point to find its place in small structures like ours. I first joined NanoSense in 2014 as an intern in the R&D department to carry out product design on the electronics side. Since then, I haven't been able to quit, I was seduced by the fields of application and technologies used by NanoSense. Today, I am on all fronts with Olivier MARTIMORT, the CEO and founder of NanoSense.
NanoSense is a SME created in 2002 by Olivier MARTIMORT. The company designs and produces various Indoor and Outdoor Multi-sensor Air Quality sensors (CO2, VOC, T°, RH, Radon, PM, NOX ...) which are able to control ventilation and/or heating/climate and are compatible with the main interfaces of the major intelligent building standards. We are also working on new Air Quality indicators that are more intuitive and more representative of their impacts.
Before starting this interview, I would like to set the scene and present the AIR Quality in a few figures:
Poor Air Quality is responsible for more than 67,000 premature deaths in France for Fine Particles (PMx) alone, compared to 3,248 on the roads, i.e. 20X more.
It is the 2nd cause of avoidable death in France behind alcohol and has just overtaken smoking (which is also a consequence of the absorption of pollutants by the respiratory system).
It impacts our health, brain function and comfort.
For health: we have more than 5% of asthmatics in France and the proportion of the population that has an increased sensitivity to Air Quality continues to rise.
We are also seeing the emergence of new childhood respiratory diseases.
50% of IDF schools are above the WHO threshold for PM10.
(Report Association RESPIRE : https://www.respire-asso.org/pollution-de-lair-dans-les-ecoles/)
2. Why do we need to measure indoor air quality?
We spend 90% of our time indoors, at home, at work or in transportation.
Indoor Air Quality is invisible and imperceptible.
Everything we breathe goes into our lungs, outside the developed surface of our lungs is about the size of a tennis court. This gigantic surface is very porous and absorbs oxygen but also certain pollutants such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and fine particles contained in the air (and the finer the particles, the further they will go into the body).
Once in the blood, these elements are distributed throughout the body.
Although our brain represents only 2% of our body weight, it is the brain that consumes more than 20% of the oxygen in the air we breathe.
You will therefore understand why certain pollutants have an impact on the functioning of our brain.
We're all ultimately slaves to our internal chemistry.
It should be noted that sources of pollutants are not always those expected.
Occupancy, furniture and use of the premises are sources of internal pollution.
For example: Cleaning up with the wrong products, deodorizing, putting on incense, repainting a room, buying new furniture, cooking, all these actions are sources of more or less harmful pollutants... But how can we know this without measuring what's really going on?
It is generally advisable to ventilate after having carried out one of these polluting actions.
Indoors, the pollutants to be monitored are CO2, VOCs and Fine Particles, each with their specificities and impacts as we will see later.
3. Is it useful to measure atmospheric air quality?
I would even say that it is essential to measure the Quality of the Atmospheric (or Outdoor) Air because it is the air entering the buildings where we spend more than 90% of our time.
Unfortunately, even today, incoming air is still considered "clean air" or "new air", I can assure you that this is far from being the case.
The only means of remediation used at present is filtration, which only acts on fine particles, the other pollutants are therefore left behind and can only be "diluted" by bringing in more so-called "new" air at the expense of energy consumption.
Furthermore, we have seen that the finer the particles, the more dangerous they are, so the most efficient filter in the world will still let the most dangerous particles through (even though it will reduce your overall exposure).
Apart from Indoor Air considerations, any outdoor activity can expose us to higher than recommended doses of pollutants. This is all the more true when we do sports because it is a time of over-ventilation and hyper irrigation of the pulmonary alveoli.
A good monitoring of the Outdoor Air Quality in a city can also provide the necessary tools for decision-makers to adjust the city's policy (roundabouts, traffic, Low Emission Zone (LEZ), red lights ...).
It is in order to better compare Indoor and Outdoor Air Quality that we have developed our QAA Probe (awarded at the AIRLAB - AirParif 2018 Microsensor Challenge).
We can thus control the ventilation but also indicate to the users whether it is relevant or dangerous to open the windows thanks to alerts or connected visual indicators.
These warning devices and opening indicators are being tested in various Parisian schools with a view to being deployed on a larger scale.
Monitor the QAA :
4. Which buildings are affected by these measures?
All buildings are affected by air quality measurement. And the more time you spend there, the more relevant it will be to monitor your breathing.
There is a new regulation concerning ERPs (Institutions Receiving from the Public) of which schools are part and which make them a priority target for deployment.
This regulation indicates that all ERPs will be obliged to carry out Air Quality measurements and/or to implement good practices in order to improve Air Quality.
The timetable for the implementation of this measure is as follows:
- 2018: Kindergartens, nurseries and elementary schools
- 2020: Colleges and high schools and leisure centres
- 2023: ALL THE ERP!! Social, medical, sports structures, EPHADs ...
However, since ventilation systems often leave much to be desired in these establishments, the tertiary sector (offices, etc.) remains the target with the most potential for improvement without any development costs.
Going further: Air Quality in Schools Guide - NanoSense
5. What are the physiological impacts in relation to indoor air quality?
What we call "physiological impacts" are the impacts that air quality and the main environmental parameters (Temperature, Humidity, light...) have on our body, brain functioning and building.
You will find the Table of Physiological Effects on the WEB version of this interview.
What is important to note is that CO2, although it is a good indicator of containment, has never killed anyone, however it is responsible for decreased concentration, reduced memory, headaches etc.
VOCs and PM have a health impact as we have seen, but not only! Recent studies have quantified the impact of these pollutants on brain function.
We have therefore quantified and synthesized all these impacts in order to calculate physiological impacts that take all these elements into account through various quantified scientific studies.
Imagine being able to adapt the ventilation and consumption of each room according to its use and the corresponding exposure time. For example, we don't need good air quality in a bathroom where we rarely spend more than 20 minutes.
According to our experience and some official reports, more than 2500ppm of CO2 is detected in most classrooms while the Departmental Regulatory threshold is set at 1000ppm, almost 3x less. This amounts to a reduction in cognitive functions of more than 20% by respecting the departmental threshold and we are off the curve for the 2500ppm but we have a reduction >50% after a few hours of class. Which is rather a pity for a "temple of knowledge".
In fact, we even had to switch to sensors capable of measuring up to 5000ppm of CO2 because we were quickly reaching saturation in most classrooms. This last threshold is far from being unattainable since we have seen saturation in several cases.
Productivity as an impact immediately caught our attention because it is for the tertiary sector an absolutely unbeatable source of return on investment (at least 500x faster than the return on energy bill)!
More info :
6. Can it be dangerous to breathe air in which none of the pollutants exceed the limit values?
Of course! It is already complex to find one's way among the various existing thresholds based on exposure times outside there is an impressive amount of the components of the Air we breathe. But even if we respect all these thresholds, we are not completely protected!
In non-prescription drugs, for example, it says "do not exceed X tablets per day" but if you take 10 boxes of different drugs and you ingest the limit dose... The impact on your body will be tenfold and the same goes for the impact on your brain which is the most irrigated part of the body.
There is therefore an additive effect to any exposure to several components that are harmful to the body, the so-called "cocktail effect".
With this in mind, NanoSense quantifies and integrates into its physiological impact calculations the cocktail effects of different indoor air pollutants.
Taking these elements into account, a ventilation can be triggered without any of the pollutant thresholds being exceeded if the overall impact is greater than the desired set point.
7. What is your way of expressing indoor air quality?
We can express the AIR Quality in several ways thanks to our probes, you have access to raw data (concentrations in ppm, µg/m3, ...), physiological impacts (Health, Productivity, ...), calculated global indicators (European Index, Airparif Indices, ...) and/or visual indicators (coloured LEDs on the product and/or connected window opening indicators).
To do this, we have several compatible media of our products, the data are accessible via the interface of the Gateway and/or connected home automation box (e.g. JEEDOM), via the interface of our partner PandO2 specialized in the restitution of indoor and outdoor air quality data or via visual indicators.
8. What is intelligent ventilation?
We popularize "intelligent ventilation" but it is above all a ventilation "on demand" or "on demand" adapted to the need.
In order to have a complete picture of exposure to pollutants, a multi-pollutant approach is necessary. The opposite would be like walking down the street with blinkers on, we'd end up bumping into each other.
We really advocate the multi-sensor trend with an integrated controller where it can be easily integrated into a control ecosystem.
I would therefore like to take this opportunity to introduce our future range of sensors for 2020, the EP5000 range, which will integrate the measurement of Temperature, Humidity, CO2, VOCs, PM but also sound, light and atmospheric pressure.
9. What's the point?
Intelligent ventilation provides Health and productivity gains for the best possible energy efficiency.
It is thanks to this effort on ventilation in over-insulated buildings that the low-energy or BEPOS (Buildings with Positive Energy) objectives can be achieved.
Intelligent ventilation can also do predictive maintenance and reduce fouling of ventilation systems.
Above all, it is the best optimization of the balance between health, productivity and energy consumption objectives.
10. How can home automation improve indoor air quality?
In my opinion, Home Automation is the connection of an ecosystem of sensors, actuators and a hint of intelligence.
That's why it's so important for us to have multi-protocol products, to fit into as many ecosystems as possible.
Our probes are already a small ecosystem in themselves as they integrate several sensors, are controllers and are able to receive information from sensors of presence, window opening etc...
We therefore already have the most eagerly awaited features such as adapting to presence, cutting off consumption related to heating and ventilation when windows are open.
But in a more global ecosystem, the possibilities are endless!
We can integrate usage scenarios adapted to each room and each user, taking into account exposure times. It is possible to anticipate presence, habits, it is even possible to do energy saving (on ventilation in anticipation of consumption peaks), to do free-cooling in summer (over-ventilation at night to refresh buildings in anticipation). It is also possible to identify signatures of specific events, to monitor the occupancy rate of entire building fleets based on expired CO2, the estimated productivity of a building, security in supposedly unoccupied areas, monitoring of the schedules of maintenance agents...
For example, with a day/night sensor, you can change the set point of a room to be used for sleeping so that the air quality is ideal at night and normal during the day or when you are not there. However, you can do the opposite for the Salon, where you are usually not present at night.
What is important to note is that the data restitution and valorisation part brings a more virtuous behaviour of the users. You can even act in the residential setting with manual actions.
Wouldn't home automation be a good way to save the world?
11. Which home automation controller is right for you and why?
Then none because we are our own controller on a room scale but also almost all at once because we are multi-protocol.
Nevertheless, we tend to favour the most open & flexible ones such as JEEDOM or our gateway based on a JEEDOM Core.
12. What are the devices to be put in place to achieve intelligent ventilation?
For the domestic, most often there is a CMV (Mechanically Controlled Ventilation, Air Extraction) but it is not controlled. It should be made controllable and therefore with an IAQ probe and a controller. It is in this case that there is the greatest potential for improvement from an energy point of view because, unlike double-flow CMVs found in the tertiary sector, single-flow CMVs do not have a heat exchanger.
For the collective and tertiary sectors, it is necessary to equip the rooms with probes and directly control the room registers (controllable register or even better, controllable VAVs) or send the measurements or commands to the CTA (Air Handling Unit) or to the PLCs or to the BMS (Building Management System - computer that controls all the equipment in the building).
In both cases, a Cloud or local supervision is appreciable and allows to valorize the Air Quality data used for the piloting. This supervision can be done by data transmission through a gateway or a connected home automation BOX or BMS.
13. What are your current and future projects about intelligent ventilation?
For current projects, we are evaluated by the AIRLAB 2019 Challenge (which we won in 2018, 2019 results on January 21), we have one experiment underway with the URBANLAB of the City of Paris and two experiments underway with the City of Paris and the IDF Region respectively to equip schools for widespread deployment.
Now that we have our QAA (Quality of the Atmospheric Air) probe and a gateway based on the JEEDOM core, we can go to the end of our ideas and take into account the Quality of the external AIR in our recommendations and pilot window opening indicators.
Otherwise we work on the best valuation and supervision of the physiological effects.
We'll be able to pilot on physiological effects targets.
We have a mobile app for parameterization and data visualization that should arrive at the same time as the EP5000 Range (current 2020) that pushes the multi-sensor to its peak.
14. Finally, do you have any advice for our readers/listeners?
Even if you don't have a way to compare Indoor and Outdoor Air Quality, still ventilate your home at least 10 minutes a day.
We've seen very high CO2 levels in bedrooms, so I would advise you to open the window or the door of your bedroom, because that allows CO2 to be distributed throughout the home and you'll have a much more restful sleep. This is especially true for infants or children who, although they are smaller, ventilate almost as much as an adult.
One last anecdote for the road, we discovered in our premises that the PM rate was disappearing completely every Saturday morning, to reduce the PM in a dwelling, you just have to mop the floor and the PM will be "drawn" to the ground.
If not, get equipped and keep yourself informed.
You can also ask your city about the status of RIA Quality improvement approaches in ERPs and particularly schools.
Listen to the Spotify interview here!