BehrTech Blog

How Indoor Air Quality Monitoring Transforms Commercial Buildings

An Interview with atlasen

Environmental control, especially indoor air quality monitoring, has gained growing importance in modern building operations, especially with the new tide of advanced sensor and wireless technologies. This week, Dr. Jihyun Park, Founder and CEO at atlasen, shares with us her expert insights on IoT adoption in the commercial real estate sector, the benefits and requirements for an indoor air quality monitoring solution, and the future outlook of the smart building market.

1. Tell us about atlasen. What are your products and vision, who are your customers?

atlasen develops and provides innovative indoor environmental quality (IEQ) management system using IoT equipment and artificial intelligence (AI) analytics engine. We value the humans-first principle and prioritize occupants’ feedback in real-time IEQ management.

For contemporary building controls, IEQ management is often employed as an essential component to optimize building energy management. atlasen brings a new perspective on this part. In particular, user satisfaction in buildings is prioritized over energy usage. As evidenced by our studies, the satisfaction level of building occupants has a positive impact on actual energy use. In some cases, lower satisfaction levels due to overcooling in summers or overheating in winters could lead to a detrimental effect on energy savings as planned.

Our system is utilized in the building automation system, air quality monitoring market, and building energy use optimization. Our main clients include real estate building properties groups, electric power companies, and leading energy system integration companies who are the leader of smart buildings.

2. How do you see the demand for IoT adoption in the commercial real estate industry today? What are the key drivers behind it?

The IoT-integrated smart built environment leverages the data science to enhance user experience in buildings, and, as a result, offers added-values to prospective customers. For instance, the operational costs of buildings could be reduced drastically by learning from dynamic occupants’ end-use patterns. Positive ROI outcomes could easily offset the implementation costs induced by IoT deployment in a relatively short term. With an increasing interest in health and well-being in buildings, IoT investment offers an additional advantage to evaluate the quality of indoor built environments and deliver long-term impactful applications. For instance, improving the health of workplaces could lead to reductions in sick leaves and attrition. The readiness of communication technology is envisaged to accelerate the adoption of IoT for the commercial real estate industry in the foreseeable future. In particular, the competence in data transmission and network security will be pivotal factors for success.

3. How do you see the importance of monitoring indoor air quality (IAQ) in smart buildings?

Good levels of indoor air quality (IAQ) can improve the health, comfort, and well-being of building occupants and reduce risks of developing respiratory symptoms. However, IAQ problems can be challenging to diagnose and often involve the intricate combination of concurrent IAQ conditions. For instance, carbon dioxide is odorless and colorless, and as such occupants cannot easily discern the level of concentration -usually the higher the concentration level, the higher the rate of sick building syndrome symptoms. In the contemporary sustainable design practice, green building rating systems, such as WELL, LEED, BREAM, and many others, consider IAQ as one of the critical indexes and stipulate exposure thresholds for pollutants to ensure the healthy indoor environment requirements to be met.

Smart buildings are envisaged to harvest the power of the IoT network to monitor critical environmental indexes, such as IAQ, to transform the way buildings are operated. The objective is to deliver a human-centric, healthy and affluent indoor environment that improves occupants’ health, comfort and satisfaction to the highest standard.

4. What benefits can property owners and facility managers harness from implementing an IAQ monitoring solution?

In the holistic building performance evaluation, indoor air quality (IAQ) is often considered as a critical factor among others, including thermal, lighting and acoustic quality. Maintaining good indoor air quality (IAQ) can improve occupants’ comfort and satisfaction levels. Property owners and facility managers gain benefits from satisfied occupants as a result of enhanced indoor air quality (IAQ) that contributes to holistic indoor environmental quality (IEQ). Actively monitoring the IAQ conditions will provide actionable insights for facility managers to prevent IAQ problems at a fraction of the expense and effort that will be required to solve them.

5. How does an IAQ monitoring architecture look like?

atlasen’s IEQ system is designed to benchmark user satisfaction with associated environmental data. Ultimately, our system prompts users, such as facility managers or building owners, with actionable guidelines to tackle problems associated with low satisfaction levels and comfort. The underlying data processing workflow involves three major steps: (1) indoor environmental quality data acquisition, (2) user satisfaction benchmarking and end-use survey, (3) indoor environment management guidelines output. To assess the occupant satisfaction level, we integrate multiple evaluation metrics, including 1) building regulations and recommended levels for the healthy indoor environment and certifications, 2) outdoor environmental conditions, 3) building facility systems, 4) occupants’ basic information under the circumstance, 5) occupant real-time survey on satisfaction.

6. What are the sensor connectivity requirements in this context?

atlasen sensors provide built-in functions to collect real-time IEQ data and require a dependable network to communicate with our cloud-based diagnosis platform in real-time. Our consideration for IoT communication is to ensure data transmission accuracy and maintain the highest network security standard. When deploying sensors in large buildings, the effective coverage of the sensor network will require the controllable accessibility in context while retaining the efficiency of data acquisition and interoperation in motion with scalable capacity.

7. From your perspective, what makes MYTHINGS the right solution? How does it outperform legacy communication options?

atlasen’s LEO (AT04) delivers high-performance IEQ assessments with its extremely compact dimensions in its class. LEO can measure up to 15 different IEQ conditions simultaneously in real-time, including Temperature, Humidity, Carbon dioxide (CO2), Carbon monoxide (CO), Particulate Matters (PM10, PM2.5, PM1.0), Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC), Formaldehyde (HCHO), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Ozone (03), Ammonia (NH3), Illuminance, Sound Level and occupancy detection. In some cases, more than 100 sensors can be deployed on one floor. MYTHINGS provides robust and effective wireless communication for our sensors in action to deliver streamlined real-time data acquisition and facilitate data integration for the contextual analysis. Synchronizing all sensor data at a large scale is unquestionably the essential challenge to accelerate the uptake of IoT. In particular, IEQ data acquisition and transmission depend heavily on the effective network coverage provided by the chosen communication protocol. MYTHINGS address this critical data interoperation challenge through its high scalability and extensive coverage.

8. What predictions do you have for the smart building market in the next 3-5 years?

The paradigm of a smart building is not ‘green or energy’ anymore. ‘Healthy or Human-centric’ built environment is a top priority in the smart building market. Smart buildings are evolving and will continue to evolve with a human-centric controlling system. With the advancements of information and communication technologies, we envisage a broad spectrum of IoT equipment inside buildings to improve our living quality and boost productivity while minimizing environmental impacts. Both sensing accuracy and communication efficiency are essential. Meanwhile, ensuring cybersecurity to protect privacy is gaining a growing interest among all and will become even more prominent when scaling up such technology for broader society. Resolving challenges arising from these considerations will serve as the key to success for sustainable market growth. From our experience worldwide, we at atlasen, believe that a building can make people healthy or sick, happy or sad, creative or lethargic. An anti-virus or protective indoor environment can be one of the key issues. Smart buildings will play a leading role in making our lives healthier and more affluent.

Dr. Jihyun Park is the Founder and CEO of atlasen and associate lecturer at the Sheffield Hallam University, UK. Dr. Park is a Building Scientist holding Ph.D. in Building Performance and Diagnostics from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), U.S., Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC) and LEED AP in Building Design and Construction. Her passion is to support and improve design, management and performance of the workspace, through profiling the physical and environmental quality of existing built environments to correlate with user satisfaction.

About atlasen

The atlasen platform incorporates continuous IEQ sensing, including Air, Thermal, Lighting, Acoustic and Spatial, and user satisfaction assessments using the innovative prediction model coupled with expert walkthrough assessments, to provide added values to the built environment.

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