Effect of Outside Air Ventilation Rate on Volatile Organic Compound Concentrations in a Call Center

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Journal Article

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A study of the relationship between outside air ventilation rate and concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) generated indoors was conducted in a call center office building. The building, with two floors and a total floor area of 4600 m2, is located in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA. Ventilation rates were manipulated with the building's four air handling units (AHUs). VOC and CO2 concentrations in the AHU returns were measured on 7 days during a 13-week period. VOC emission factors were determined for individual zones on days when they were operating at near steady-state conditions. The emission factor data were subjected to principal component (PC) analysis to identify groups of co-varying compounds. Potential sources of the PC vectors were ascribed based on information from the literature. The per occupant CO2 generation rates were 0.0068–0.0092 l s−1. The per occupant isoprene generation rates of 0.2–0.3 mg h−1 were consistent with the value predicted by mass balance from breath concentration and exhalation rate. The relationships between indoor minus outdoor VOC concentrations and ventilation rate were qualitatively examined for eight VOCs. Of these, acetaldehyde and hexanal, which likely were associated with material sources, and decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, associated with personal care products, exhibited general trends of higher concentrations at lower ventilation rates. For other compounds, a clear inverse relationship between VOC concentrations and ventilation was not observed. The net concentration of 2,2,4-trimethyl-1,3-pentanediol monoisobutyrate isomers, examples of low-volatility compounds, changed very little with ventilation likely due to sorption and re-emission effects. These results illustrate that the efficacy of ventilation for controlling VOC concentrations can vary considerably depending upon the operation of the building, the pollutant sources and the physical and chemical processes affecting the pollutants. Thus, source control measures, in addition to adequate ventilation, are required to limit concentrations of VOCs in office buildings.


Atmospheric Environment



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