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Energy and Indoor Environmental Quality in Modern or Modernized Buildings

The challenge for source control in ventilation and IAQ strategies

Given the choice between studying source control from interior finishes and air filters, many contractors will choose to study air filtration even though they have likely studied filtration before but never have studied interior finishes.

IA-QUEST Resources'

Won, D.Y.; Lusztyk, E.; Shaw, C.Y., Target VOC List: Final Report 1.1, Research Report, NRC Institute for Research in Construction, Volume: 206:28, March 2005

Won, D.Y.; Shaw, C.Y., Effects of air velocity and temperature on VOC emissions from architectural coatings, Conference: Indoor Air 2005, the 10th International Conference on Indoor Air Quality and Climate, Volume: 2, Beijing, China, 2005-09-04

Shaw, C.Y. Won, D.Y. Reardon, J.T., Managing Volatile Organic Compounds and Indoor Air Quality in Office Buildings - An Engineering Approach : Final Report 5.2, Research Report, NRC Institute for Research in Construction, 2005-03-01

Health Canada Residential Indoor Air Quality Guidelines

ASHRAE: The Indoor Air Quality Guide: Best Practices for Design, Construction and Commissioning

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Part I Source Control: Using the National Research Council of Canada's IA-QUEST VOC Emission and Simulation Tool
opyright © 2012, Robert Bean, R.E.T., P.L.(Eng.). All rights reserved. Edited and originally published in HPAC Canada, March, 2012 under a 2 part article called: "Together Forever"

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See Part II: How to use the ASHRAE Design Graph for Sensible Heating and Cooling with Floor and Ceiling Panels.

For a background discussion see: thermal and optical properties of flooring and other interior finishes.

Part I of my presentation explains, using the National Research Council of Canada's IA-QUEST VOC Emission and Simulation Tool why HVAC designers cannot operate in isolation from interior designers.1


Over the decades I have sat in on countless industry meetings and participated in debates over education curriculums for industry members. Typically I sit on the side, most often alone in my beliefs that a large segment of the industry does not actually know what it needs to know. My experience is that when prodded for learning topics, many will ask for more of the same, just presented differently.

   IA-QUEST Screen shot from a full room simulation - click to enlarge

Figure 1. IA-QUEST Screen shot from a full room VOC simulation. Source control is part of IAQ and jointly held within the domains of the HVAC and Interior Design professions. When was the last time a contractor or designer in HVAC studied source control?

Henry Ford probably said it best when he stated: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” I am with Henry – educational progress of any consequence is not achieved by “polishing the cannon ball.” In this case, the repetitive buffing of knowledge one already possesses. If you really want to learn you have to follow the advice of business guru Peter Drucker and put yourself in a place where you do not shine and where your lack of knowledge and skills makes you scared, awkward and frustrated. As I say in my classes, learn to embrace the intellectual and emotional pain – it is a sign that you are learning something new. That is often far more useful than taking classes that only confirm what you already know.

So where am I going with this?

Well, I have been saying for decades that hydronics and air-based HVAC designers cannot operate in isolation from the world of interior design. There is a non-trivial, consequential relationship between room geometry and interior finishes contributing to the ergonomics of the very occupied space that the HVAC system is supposed to condition. This relationship directly affects the energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality.

I am going to first illustrate this with the National Research Council of Canada’s (NRCC) IA-QUESTi; a free, downloadable indoor air quality and emission simulation tool. I will demonstrate this again in Part II using the ASHRAE Nomograph for designing radiant panels.

But, before I do this let me be very clear there is a significant difference between the educational and experience requirements of a professional interior designer and interior decorator; something I learned years ago from the American Society of Interior Designer (ASID) ii. Similarly, according to the Interior Designers of Canada Association (IDCA) iii,

"Interior design is about more than just aesthetics. It is about finding creative design solutions for interior environments while supporting the health, safety and well being of occupants and enhancing their quality of life."

I don't know about you but to me, this sounds like a nice fit with HVAC.

To illustrate the output of the IA-QUEST program for floor coverings, I have set up the simulation parameters based on Table 1, and then for comparison, randomly selected carpeting with underlayment and unfinished hardwood from the program's data base.

Table 1 - Simulation Parameters

Description Value Unit

Room width



Room length



Floor area



Room height






ACH, min - unoccupied



Ventilation flow rate*



ACH, normal - occupied



Ventilation flow rate*



Simulation period



Data output intervals



*as calculated by the program


Caveat: As for all modelling software the output from the simulation is not representative of all finishes. With regards to carpet for example, the sample selected for the simulation only represents that specific carpet chosen for evaluation and is not representative of all carpets. Also, this specific example did not include the wall and ceiling finishes which should also be included for a complete review of the room.

After setting up the ventilation schedule for unoccupied and occupied periods around 600, 900, 1600, 1800 and 2400 hours (Figure 2, below), I ran the calculation to produce comparative emissions for each compound as illustrated in Figure 3 (hardwood) and Figure 4 (carpeting).  The output units on the y axis are concentrations in mg/m3 with the x axis showing time in hours. The uppermost red lines represents the TVOC, or total volatile organic compounds, with subsequent lines representing the various other components emitted during the simulation time.

Figure 2 (above). Time schedule

Figure 3 (above). Hardwood flooring

Figure 4 (above). Carpet flooring

The data “teeth” or “peaks” represent the minimum and normal operational times of the ventilation schedule. Make note of the inventory list of chemicals below the x axis. Not surprisingly, the quantity is much less for the unfinished hardwood than that of the carpet. Likewise, the concentration of chemicals emitted in the former peaks at 0.42 mg/m3 in comparison to the latter of approximately 2.1 mg/m3.

Due to the quantity of compounds emitted at lower concentrations in carpeting, I have adjusted the output in Figure 4 so you can see with somewhat better clarity in Figure 5 the chemical soufflé that is emitted during the simulation period.

Again note: It is not accurate to assume that one simulation is representative of all coverings – most flooring manufacturers have been working diligently to reduce their VOC emissions and their respective data should be used in evaluations.


Figure 5 (above). Inventory of compounds in selected sample of carpet.

As with these types of programs, the output values mean nothing unless one can compare them to some value that has meaning to the users of the program, and also in this case, the occupants in the space. Health Canada, EPA and other public and private organizations do publish some values that can be used to benchmark against the results, but as anyone competent in the world of IAQ knows, the ultimate test of chemical sensitivity will be the occupants themselves. [iv]

What does this mean?

It means there is no shortage of assumptions going on in the world of ventilation design, since many designers never get to talk with the occupants and often do not have access to the schedule of interior finishes and so default to using the ventilation rate prescribed by CSA F326 or ASHRAE 62.1 and 62.2 without considering the influence from interior finishes and need for source control.

In winding up this first part of the demonstration, I want to reiterate that source control à la CSA F326 Residential Mechanical Ventilation SystemsASHRAE 62.1 -Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality, and  ASHRAE 62.2 - Ventilation and Acceptable Indoor Air Quality in Low-Rise Residential Buildings means having an understanding of interior finishes -- meaning interior design is not detached from the world of the HVAC designer.

As you will see in Part II, flooring and radiant systems, neither the hydronics nor the air based designer is immune from this topic – remember this when upgrading your knowledge base.  

Download the Indoor Air Quality Emission Simulation Tool (IA-QUEST) -- Version 1.1



  2. American Society of Interior Designers


  4. Charles, K.E. Magee, R.J. Won, D.Y. Lusztyk, E., Indoor Air Quality Guidelines and Standards : Final Report 5.1 , Table 6. Guideline Values for Organic Chemicals in Indoor Air (industrial and non-industrial settings) Research Report, NRC Institute for Research in Construction, 204 pp. 36. 2005-03-01

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