The case for ventilation in multi-family buildings

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Is ventilation really necessary?

Today’s multi-family building codes are driving airtight, energy-conscious construction. As a result, achieving and maintaining healthy, balanced indoor air quality (IAQ) is now more important than ever. A properly designed ventilation system protects the dwelling and its occupants in many ways, including:

  • removes harmful pollutants and replenishes the space with clean healthy air
  • prevents moisture and costly moisture-related damage
  • reduces building maintenance
  • improves the unit’s durability
  • saves energy and lowers utility bills
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Harmful pollutants found in every apartment

Stale, uncirculated air breeds all sorts of harmful pollutants inside an apartment. These include mold, mildew, pollen, dust mites, pet dander, viruses, and bacteria. Accumulation of these toxins can result in hazardous health effects for occupants and structural damage to the unit, all unnecessary risks for property managers. The good news is, they are almost entirely preventable.

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Continuous ventilation: a low-cost IAQ strategy

Installing a powerful, continuous run exhaust fan is the lowest cost strategy to predictably move bad air, and the contaminates it carries, out of a building. I say predictably because without a continuous run ventilation strategy air will move throughout the property on its own.

By running a fan continuously at a low cubic foot per minute (CFM) rate, a low-pressure system is created within the apartment. Since we know that air moves from high-pressure to low-pressure, over time every cubic foot of air will ultimately find its way to the fan and out of the dwelling.

Warmed air from a kitchen stove, heat register, or window (via solar gain) in one area will expand and put pressure on the weakest part of the building envelope. This activity literally pushes the contaminated air to the weakest or lowest pressure space in the envelope, which would be in the vicinity of an envelope air leak.

For that reason, contaminants originating in one location can easily migrate throughout the property, affecting everyone – even those trying to avoid the source. With a continuous run fan strategy in place and operating, the fine, aerosolized contaminants will always be moving toward the low-pressure system and exhausted out of the building. An apartment has to breathe. A properly designed ventilation system ensures that it will.

IAQ - Multi Family Strategies

Healthy living in healthy apartments

Think of ventilation in an apartment like the air exchange that takes place in your lungs. Each time you inhale and exhale, old contaminated air is removed while fresh, oxygen-rich air is brought in to replace it. Your apartment’s ventilation system serves the same purpose by removing stale and polluted air and replenishing it with clean, healthy air.

Moisture: a property manager’s worst enemy

Moisture comes at your building from inside and out, all day, every day. To combat it, your moisture management strategy has to be on guard 24x7. It’s time for property managers to make a stand against the damaging effects of moisture.

All ventilation strategies should utilize an automatic trigger to turn the fan on, or in the case of WhisperGreen Select, from low to high speed.  After all, a fan that doesn’t get turned on - doesn’t move air or remove moisture. I always recommend using our WhisperGreen Select fan with its plug and play condensation sensor module.

Our moisture module nests inside the fan can and will detect abnormal rises in airborne moisture loads or drops in room temperatures, automatically turning the fan on and off as high humidity conditions persist. Temperature drops are often a result of occupants trying to conserve energy costs by turning the heat to a minimum setting or off altogether. With the moisture sensor nested inside the fan, it’s less likely to be modified, abused or removed by a “well-meaning” occupant. 

The result of excessive moisture in any building envelope is condensation. From condensation comes mold and mildew. By employing a proper ventilation strategy that removes moisture; mold and mildew will be eliminated from your worries before it can get started.

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Moisture management made simple

Panasonic low-cost moisture management tools can play a big role in solving the potentially costly problem of moisture, condensation, mold and mildew.


Ken Nelson- BPI Certified Building Analyst & Channel Sales Manager, Indoor Air Quality, Panasonic Life Solutions

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