Balancing Indoor Air Quality and Energy Efficiency: Strategies for Building Managers

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is an important consideration for building managers and occupants alike. As we know, poor IAQ can have significant health implications, including respiratory illnesses, allergies, and asthma. It can also impact workplace productivity and contribute to building deterioration. However, improving IAQ often requires increased ventilation and energy consumption, leading to higher emissions and energy costs. This blog article explores potential ways to help improve IAQ while simultaneously reducing emissions and energy costs.


Implement demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) systems

DCV systems adjust ventilation rates based on the signals from indoor air pollutant or occupancy sensors. CO2 sensors are a great way to monitor the indoor air quality component related to bio effluents. When a room is unoccupied, the system reduces ventilation rates to save energy. As people enter the room, the system adjusts ventilation rates to maintain healthy IAQ levels. However, CO2 sensors generally do not respond to indoor air pollutants that are unrelated to occupancy such as emissions from building materials and furnishings. In buildings, where the human pollution load isn't dominant, CO2-based DCV systems may lead to insufficient ventilation.  Consequently, the efficacy of a DCV system can be improved by using other gas pollutant sensors, primarily VOC sensors, in conjunction with CO2 sensors.[1]

TSI's AirAssure™ IAQ Monitor continuously measures factors critical to knowing if your indoor air is healthy for occupants, namely the levels of carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), formaldehyde, total volatile organic compounds (tVOCs), sulfur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and airborne fine particles (PM2.5). From basic assessments to more advanced applications, these options allow you to choose the best fit for your building type. Connected to a DCV system, you can save up to 60% of energy compared to traditional HVAC systems, while also improving IAQ[2].


Install air-cleaning technology

Air purifiers, electrostatic precipitators, and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation systems can help remove harmful pollutants from the air, e.g. particulate matter (PM2.5), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other toxins, as well as limit the spread of viruses and bacteria, including COVID-19, improving overall building health and occupant comfort. Although they can help improve indoor air quality, they cannot remove all pollutants from the air. To monitor the efficiency of air-cleaning devices and the indoor air quality, IAQ professionals can spot check indoor areas with TSI’s Q-Trak™ XP Indoor Air Quality Monitor. Measuring particle mass and gas in a single, handheld instrument, this is a flexible solution, that can be configured, customized and expanded to monitor and maintain optimal indoor air quality for your building and those within.


Use green roofs and walls

Green roofs and walls use plants and vegetation to absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the air. They provide a natural filtration system for the building, help improving IAQ while also reducing energy usage. They also provide insulation, reducing the amount of energy required to heat and cool the building. According to research conducted by Environment Canada, buildings equipped with green roofs can potentially reduce energy demand on their upper floors by up to 20% by decreasing the need for cooling[3].


Implement smart building technologies

Sensors can detect the level of pollutants in the air and provide indication to adjust ventilation rates accordingly. To keep track of your IAQ, you can use the AirAssure™ IAQ Monitor that equips you to track levels of particulate matter (PM), traditional IAQ parameters, and up to six gases. You can also view, analyze and share actionable data all within the cloud-based TSI Link™ Solutions. In addition to monitoring indoor air quality, automated blinds and lighting systems can reduce energy consumption by adjusting lighting and temperature levels based on the time of day and occupancy levels. By integrating data and technologies, including Internet of Things (IoT) applications and Building Management Systems (BMS), smart buildings can improve IAQ while also reducing energy consumption


Use energy-efficient lighting, insulation, and windows

Implementing energy-efficient lighting, insulation, and windows is an effective way to decrease energy costs and enhance indoor air quality (IAQ). Energy-efficient lighting, such as LED bulbs, uses less electricity and emits less heat, which reduces cooling needs. Proper insulation and windows with high energy-efficiency ratings minimize heat transfer, preventing unwanted heat gains or losses. As a result, it can help reduce energy costs and promote stable indoor temperatures, which can contribute to improved IAQ by reducing humidity levels and preventing mold growth. Overall, these simple upgrades can improve the comfort of the indoor environment while lowering energy costs and promoting healthier living conditions.


Use renewable energy sources

Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower can help to reduce energy costs and improve indoor air quality (IAQ) in buildings. By using renewable energy, buildings can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, which can help to lower energy costs over time. Additionally, renewable energy sources do not produce harmful emissions or pollutants, which can improve the environmental and indoor air quality and promote healthier indoor environments. Overall, using renewable energy sources can provide both economic and environmental benefits for building owners and occupants.

Encourage sustainable practices

Building managers can encourage sustainable practices among occupants, such as promoting the use of public transportation or carpooling, helping to reduce energy costs and improve indoor air quality (IAQ). By adopting sustainable practices such as using energy-efficient appliances, installing insulation, and utilizing natural light sources, we can significantly reduce energy consumption and costs. Moreover, sustainable practices like using eco-friendly cleaning products, maintaining proper ventilation, and minimizing indoor pollutants can help improve IAQ, which is essential for maintaining a healthy and comfortable living environment.


[1] M. Justo Alonso et al.: Holistic methodology to reduce energy use and improve indoor air quality for demand-controlled ventilation. IN: Energy and Buildings, Volume 279, January 2023. Available at

[2] Gang Jing et al.: An energy-saving control strategy for multi-zone demand controlled ventilation system with data-driven model and air balancing control. IN: Energy, Volume 199, May 2020. Abstract available at



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