Building Air Supply: "A Breath of Fresh Air"
Superintendent Jason here, and I wanted to take a bit of time to talk to you about the air in your building! You see, it's something that you almost never think of throughout your day unless it becomes a problem. Hopefully this answers any questions you might have had, or, if nothing else, teaches you a little bit about the hidden workings of your homes.
Q) Where does our air supply come from?
A) Outside! Well, actually, there are two sources: one up top and one down by the ground. If you're near the top of the building, about the 20th floor and above, you're likely getting supplied by this:
It's on the South side of our roof and pulls in fresh cool air 24/7 through filters, heating and cooling, and then a large 30HP fan. For the lower floors, the source is on the Southwest corner of the building on the ground and pulls through a similar setup.
This area is monitored by Security, who is particularly alert to people smoking in the area, as if you've ever noticed a smell coming from the vents it likely means someone has been smoking nearby.
Q) Is the air in the building clean?
A) For your suite in particular, it can be hard to say. Far too many factors such as pets, plants, smoking, cooking, and dust can all contribute either way to that. All I can speak for is the air we supply to you.
The air vents in the hallway provide fresh, filtered temperate outside air. The air is first passed through two sets of filters to clean it. First, a pleated filter which is able to stop particles down to the size of 3 microns. The second filter is a finer bag filter, which collects much of what remains by providing a higher surface area that the air must pass through. From there the air is then heated or cooled, depending on the seasonal need and a faint scent is added to help combat household odors such as cooking.
One way that many buildings monitor the freshness of air is through the concentration contaminants such as CO2 in the air, measured in ppm. This method of monitoring assumes that if the air is being pushed out and replaced by fresh air then the ppm will remain similar to that of outside and if the air sits and becomes stale it will raise.
These sensor devices were installed on various floors in the building to monitor if the hallway air was being refreshed properly. Our regular readings for CO2 are 400-500ppm. Now this may seem to be high but according to ASHREA, the organization that sets the standards for indoor air quality fresh outdoor air regularly ranges from 300-500ppm. To put this in perspective, schools and office buildings often run between 1000-1200ppm with little to no effects on their occupants' health. That means that the air we supply is regularly refreshed and is of a good quality when it reaches your home.
Q) Why are the vents in the halls blowing so hard?
A) This is for a number of reasons that all come down to pressure. We try to keep the building at a slightly higher pressure than outside. This means that air taken in and supplied to the hallways will then travel through gaps in your door, pushing the air in your home out through cracks in windows and balcony doors. This helps to keep the cold air outside from coming in and helps to stop scents from activities like cooking from going out to the hallway.
We keep the fans blowing 24/7 to try and ensure we don't lose this effect but there are always factors that fight us. The wind in particular can be difficult, as I'm sure you know this building is in a very windy area. The wind hitting the west side of the building can make those units have much higher pressures than their Eastern counterparts. This leads to some units getting air into their homes and others out. Or there is the fact that with hot air rising, the top of the building will always be at higher pressures than the bottom, thanks to things like the elevator shafts allowing transfer. Not to mention if someone sits with a balcony door or window open then a large amount of air will simply rush to the simplest way out. This means airflow has to be carefully adjusted to each floor to try and please everyone and we do our best to try and reach a standard where everyone can be happy.
Q) Why shouldn't I block air coming through my door?
A) We often receive complaints about drafts through the main door of your homes. And while we agree they can be annoying when they make sounds, please know that these drafts are intended and can be great for the air quality of your home as well as serving purposes such as keeping your unit pressurized. They deliver high quality air into your unit to reduce built up contaminants and refresh the air you breathe.
Some will say opening a window is better as it is more direct. But remember this is Canada, and we contend with frigid dry winters, hot humid summers and many people suffer from seasonal allergies so opening a window isn't always a good option. The air in the hallways has been taken directly from outside, had all of the dirt and allergens filtered out, and then brought to a temperature which is much easier to tolerate. All so that we can provide a good air quality in your homes even when opening a window is not an option.
Q) Why is the hallway air cold?
A) The fans are programmed to try and provide air just slightly cooler than what you would use in your home. At this time of year they are set to about 19-20 degrees Celsius. It's hard to explain the science of it but it's for two reasons. Firstly, it's to cool anything that would otherwise get warm due to lack of exposure to the outside air. These can be areas like electrical rooms, mechanical rooms and hallways. The second reason is to prevent cold by your windows. If the building provided all the heating through the hallways then the first half of your home, up to the first thermostat would stay warmer. This would mean all of your heating by your windows would stay off and that half of your home would likely fall to uncomfortable levels.
That being said, if you notice the hallway air suddenly get much colder or warmer than usual or a lack of airflow please contact Security to report it as soon a possible. They will relay the message to us and we can investigate. If it is a mechanical failure, the Superintendents will likely already be aware/responding but additional information is always a good thing.
Q) How can you help?
A) Talk to us or even better write an email to myself or Douglas at firstname.lastname@example.org or to the management at email@example.com (paper trails make things easier to track and follow up on) and we will do our best to respond to any questions, suggestions or complaints that you might have.
Please, do not be afraid to communicate with us; I welcome the feedback positive or negative, as it helps me get a better picture of what is going on and what is important to you. It is my goal to make the quality of life in your home as good as possible but there are things that I simply am not aware of. That's where you come in, if you're uncomfortable let us know, if you notice a new sound or vibration let us know. I can't promise we will have an immediate fix or the time and budget to try every suggestion but we will do our best to take everything into consideration.
I know this post has been long post, but I hope it has at least put some people's minds at ease. The air we breathe is important and we all need to take the best care of ourselves that we can.
Stay warm and healthy this winter,
Jason Lockton. Superintendent for Emerald City One