ASHRAE Awards NIST Grant to Study IAQ in Retail Stores
November 16, 2010

Research on improving ventilation and indoor air quality in big box retail stores has begun under a research project awarded by The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and funded with a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as part of the 2009 Recovery Act Measurement Science and Engineering Research Grants Program.

Given that there are some 14.6 billion ft2 of retail space in the United States where people shop up to 24/7, it is vital that ventilation systems operate as efficiently as possible while maintaining good indoor air quality.

Currently, there is little published information about air quality and ventilation rates in retail spaces. Ventilation requirements for retail and other space types have been set largely by data for commercial office buildings.

The three-year project, Ventilation and Indoor Air quality in Retail Stores, is one of 27 projects funded by NIST for measurement science and engineering research. ASHRAE awarded the project under a collaboration to principal investigator Dr. Jeffrey Siegel at the University of Texas at Austin and co-investigator Dr. Jelena Srebric at Penn State University. Siegel is an associate professor and J. Neils Thompson Centennial Teaching Fellow in Civil Engineering, Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering.

“We are working to develop a robust database of indoor air quality, ventilation, occupant surveys and building measurements for the U.S. retail building stock,” Siegel said. “This database will be used to determine the relationship between ventilation rate and indoor air quality and occupant satisfaction with a goal of recommending appropriate minimum ventilation rates for different categories and locations of retail establishments. This will help further the industry by improving the energy efficiency of ventilation systems in retail stores while maintaining air quality.”

The building measurements will take place in at least 16 buildings – general merchandise, department, supermarket, restaurant and home improvement/hardware. Half of the buildings will be located in the hot and humid climate of central Texas and the other half in the cold and dry climate of central Pennsylvania.

The results will provide a more rigorous basis for the ventilation rate requirements in retail spaces and provide incentives for improved maintenance if it can be shown that well-maintained spaces lead to lower pollutant concentrations and improve the perception of good air quality.

The project started in September and is slated to end in December 2012.

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