Identifying Sources of Volatile Organic Compounds and Aldehydes in a High Performance Building

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The developers of the Paharpur Business Center (PBC) and Software Technology Incubator Park in New Delhi, India offer an environmentally sustainable building with a strong emphasis on energy conservation, waste minimization and superior indoor air quality (IAQ). To achieve the IAQ goal, the building utilizes a series of air cleaning technologies for treating the air entering the building. These technologies include an initial water wash followed by ultraviolet light treatment and biolfiltration using a greenhouse located on the roof and numerous plants distributed throughout the building. Even with the extensive treatment of makeup air and room air in the PBC, a recent study found that the concentrations of common volatile organic compounds and aldehydes appear to rise incrementally as the air passes through the building from the supply to the exhaust. This finding highlights the need to consider the minimization of chemical sources in buildings in combination with the use of advanced air cleaning technologies when seeking to achieve superior IAQ. The goal of this project was to identify potential source materials for indoor chemicals in the PBC. Samples of building materials, including wood paneling (polished and unpolished), drywall, and plastic from a hydroponic drum that was part of the air cleaning system, were collected from the building for testing. All materials were collected from the PBC building and shipped to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) for testing. The materials were pre-conditioned for two different time periods before measuring material and chemical specific emission factors for a range of VOCs and Aldehydes. Of the six materials tested, we found that the highest emitter of formaldehyde was new plywood paneling. Although polish and paint contribute to some VOC emissions, the main influence of the polish was in altering the capacity of the surface to accumulate formaldehyde. Neither the new nor aged polish contributed significantly to formaldehyde emissions. The VOC emission stream (excluding formaldehyde) was composed of up to 18 different chemicals and the total VOC emissions ranged in magnitude from 7 μg/m2/h (old wood with old polish) to >500 μg/m2/h (painted drywall). The formaldehyde emissions from drywall and old wood with either new or old polish were ~ 15 μg/m2/h while the new wood material emitted > 100 μg/m2/h. However, when the projected surface area of each material in the building was considered, the new wood, old wood and painted drywall material all contributed substantially to the indoor formaldehyde loading while the coatings contributed primarily to the VOCs.

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