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8 Tips for Minimizing the Impact of Poor Air Quality on Buildings

In the last two decades, Dubai has emerged as an epitome of elegance and a symbol of the elite metropolitan lifestyle. It has become a place where every person in the world wishes to be in. The vast credit of this monumental success goes to the city’s real estate sector for constructing world-class skyscrapers. Dubai is at the 4th spot in terms of the highest number of skyscrapers with 232 buildings above 150 meters and 102 buildings above 200 meters tall, according to the skyscraper center. Due to its exponential development pace, Dubai has also witnessed a huge rise in the number of people from across the globe moving to the city in search of a better lifestyle. Undoubtedly, the success achieved by Dubai has been impressive; however, this epic success has come at the hefty price of degraded air quality.

Where Does Dubai Stand Globally in Air Pollution?

Dubai is at 51 th place globally in the list of most polluted cities with a score of 60 US AQI (US -Air Quality Index) and UAE is amongst the top 20 most polluted countries in the world in 2020 in ‘Air quality and pollution city ranking’ – a global list released every year by the Swiss air quality technology company, IQ Air. Along with residents’ health, the degrading air quality is also taking a toll on the health of the city’s skyscrapers. The increase in air pollution also makes the natural & passive ventilation techniques unsuitable and opens the doors for several health risks. To overcome these issues, many building owners use air filtration. An increase in air pollution also has an adverse impact on the building’s performance and increases its energy usage which can later result in the pollution multiplier effect. 

How Does Poor Air Quality Deteriorate Your Building?

Air pollutants cause significant degradation on the surfaces of the buildings. The adverse effect of these pollutants on building materials is often irreversible. 

Here are the adverse effects of poor air quality on your building

1. Higher Usage of Air Conditioning

The rise in air pollution increases the humidity level and creates an urge for an increasing need for air conditioning. This increases the electricity bills and maintenance costs of the building. Furthermore, an increase in the usage of air conditioning also creates local microclimatic warming impacts basically due to the expulsion of hot air and aggravates the urban heat island effect. This process generates equipment noise which can decrease the practicality of natural ventilation.

According to research conducted by International Energy Agency (IEA), the global energy demand from air conditioners is expected to triple from 1.6 billion in 2018 to 5.6 billion by 2050. This is indeed scary news for the real estate sector as the buildings will face the brunt of deteriorating air quality. The impact of air pollution will also damage the indoor air quality which is damaging for both buildings and people inside it. The research by World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) reveals that most of our exposure to outdoor air pollutants occurs when we are inside buildings, due to infiltration through windows, apertures, or cracks in the building fabric.

2. Increased Need for Cleaning & Repairs

The smoke released by the industries contains carbon monoxide which is produced due to the combustion of fossil fuels. This results in the emission of a vast gamut of dangerous pollutants in the air such as: Nitrogen oxides (NOx) Sulfur oxides (SOx) and Carbon monoxide (CO). Exhaust fumes released by devices and smoke are the biggest sources of carbon monoxide which have a retarding impact on the exteriors of the building and makes them look dirty due to the deposit of dust, soot, and fumes. This increases the need for cleaning, repairs, and retrofitting resulting in a surge in the operational cost of the building.

3. Poor relationships & Reputation

Poor air quality adversely affects the building’s performance and also increases its cost of operations. Higher cost of operations results in rising in the service charges for the residents and often result in higher dissatisfaction. It also has a negative impact on the occupancy rate of the building, relations between building owners, management, staff, and occupants, and above all on the revenues and reputation of the asset manager.

Here are the 8 Tips for Minimizing the Impact of Poor Air Quality on Buildings:

Some of the best ways to minimize the impact of degrading air quality on the buildings are as follows:

  • It is always advisable to use surface treatments on all metals to protect them from airborne pollutants and minimize the impact of air quality on buildings to prevent corrosion. Furthermore, galvanizing all the building metal products will make them resistant to corrosion and will reduce the increased need for repairs.
  • Installing highly efficient air filters will assist in improving indoor air quality and eliminate the harmful pollutants which cause corrosion. 
  • Installing Specialized Filtration Equipment can play an instrumental role in protecting the building exterior from the aftermath of poor air quality by trapping the particles in the outdoor supply air. Furthermore, it also controls the adverse effects of gaseous and chemical pollutants. Specialized filtration equipment also protects the building’s indoor environment from the negative effect of poor outdoor air quality.
  • Installing Green Roofs can provide shade and remove the heat from the air through evapotranspiration to minimize the temperature of the building’s surface and the surrounding air. A green roof is a vegetative layer grown on a rooftop of the building to absorb the heat of the building and it acts as an insulator. The green roof also minimizes the energy consumption of the building by performing cooling of the building which has a deep impact on the energy bill. Furthermore, a green roof also reduces the heat stress which arises due to heat waves and improves indoor comfort.
  • Installing Cool roofs or reflective roofs on the building will reflect sunlight and heat away and minimize the overall roof temperature. This allows the building to stay cooler and also curtails the energy bills by minimizing the amount of air conditioning. Installing cool roofs also leads to higher energy savings which can be further invested in minimizing the impact of greenhouse gases on the building.
  • In scorching humid climates like Dubai, reflective roofs & walls, low emissivity window coatings or films, exterior shades can be instrumental in reducing the energy consumption & costs involved in cooling the building. 
  • The temperature of the building’s surface can reduce substantially if the neighboring buildings implement Bio-inspired Retro-reflective Façade, as it minimizes the energy required for cooling the building.
  • Another best practice to minimize the impact of poor air quality is Air Sealing. It restricts the passage of air through the building envelope and enhances its energy efficiency. This leads to better management of heat transfer.

Summary

  • The pollution level in Dubai is rising every day which is very damaging for its skyscrapers.
  • Some of the adverse impacts of poor air quality on your building & business include – corrosion, the higher need for air conditioning due to increased humidity, higher need for repairs increasing the operational cost, poor relations with the stakeholders, increase in service charges, higher tenant turnover, lower occupancy, the decline in developer’s reputation, poor building’s performance, lawsuits, and decrease in the lifespan of the building.
  • Using surface treatments on all metals to protect them from airborne pollutants and prevent corrosion
  • Installing highly efficient air filters to improve indoor air quality & prevent corrosion
  • Installing specialized filtration equipment to protect the building’s exterior from poor air quality
  • Installing Green roofs to remove heat from the air and reduce the temperature of the building
  • Installing Cool roofs or reflective roofs on the building to reflect sunlight and heat away and minimize the overall roof temperature. This allows the building to stay cooler and also curtails the energy bills by minimizing the amount of air conditioning.
  • Installing reflective roofs & walls, low emissivity window coatings or films, exterior shades can minimize the energy consumption & costs involved in cooling the building.
  • The temperature of the building’s surface can reduce substantially if the neighboring buildings are implementing Bio-inspired Retro-reflective Façade, as it minimizes the energy required for cooling the building.
  • Performing Air sealing in the building to restrict the passage of air through the building envelope and improve its energy efficiency. 

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