Our Firm Has Always Committed to Healthy Air

We can’t help but notice the sudden interest in healthy indoor air quality and breathe a sigh of relief. As a firm that has designed buildings for decades, we’ve always had a personal commitment to healthy indoor environments. Everyone deserves to breathe easy and it shouldn’t take a pandemic to realize that.

Our adherence to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) has always been a primary focus. We’re a community-oriented engineering firm. It goes without saying that we’re just as invested in the people using our spaces as the spaces themselves.

ASHRAE & Air Quality

If anything deserves an acronym, it’s the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). To put it simply, ASHRAE is the national standard for what is and is not conducive to indoor clean air. ASHRAE standards have always been at the forefront of how we plan and design a space. Baccus Oliver, Principal of Marcum Engineering, dives further into the topic.

“For 20 years, Marcum Engineering has always taken a high standard approach for IAQ. ASHRAE is our governing standard. What we do different is: focus on whole building balance; prohibit the drawing in of unwanted outdoor air; locate and source capture pollutants with dedicated exhaust systems; locate a good source of contaminant-free makeup air possible; and provide good air filtration.  Some of the tools we utilize are demand control Dedicated Outside Air Systems (DOAS), occupancy controlled/dedicated exhaust systems, bipolar ionization/filtration via plasma treatment of return air, and disinfection via ultraviolet light treatment of return air.

“Marcum Engineering is an advocate for return air treatment because it allows for better collection of pollutants and reduction of odors by breaking down odors into harmless compounds. It’s also effective at capturing some viruses, most mold spores, and most bacteria by causing them to collect other ions thus making them larger to be captured by air filters. It does all of this while simultaneously saving energy by reducing the amount of outside are required for ventilation.”

Indoor air quality is a complex problem due to the modern complexity of our living and work environments. It takes cutting edge technology as well as focused interest in the topic. There is plenty of bad engineering in the world that leads to sick buildings and unhealthy occupants.

Is there a Perfect Solution?

We are asked a lot if there is a perfect solution when designing a building; a “perfect wall” that will, to put it simply (and to quote a famous engineer), ‘keep the outside out and the inside in”. Baccus loves to quote the aforementioned famous engineer, Joseph Lstiburek in these situations. Joseph is an engineer’s engineer; the kind of guy that manages to ride the line between genius and comedian. Here are his thoughts on the perfect wall:

“The perfect wall is an environmental separator—it has to keep the outside out and the inside in.  In order to do this the wall assembly has to control rain, air, vapor, and heat. In the old days, we had one material to do this: rocks. We would pile a bunch of rocks up and have the rocks do it all. But over time rocks lost their appeal. They were heavy and fell down a lot. Heavy means expensive and falling down is annoying. So construction evolved.”

Lstiburek goes on to call out a painful reality that all engineering firms are familiar with “Also, after generations of building out of rocks folks somehow got the idea that they wanted to be comfortable—and they figured out that rocks were not the best insulation. I mean rocks are not that bad compared to windows—memo to building owners: you can’t build an energy efficient green building out of glass, but you can get design awards and we all know which is more important. Back to rocks, they are heavy and you need a lot of them to make the wall have any decent thermal resistance so we invented thermal insulation.”

At Marcum Engineering, we feel that we’re on the same page as Joseph. Great engineering means facing the harsh reality that beauty is often times at the expense of what is right. Finding that perfect balance is our job as engineers. Good indoor air quality, to us, is a basic human right. We’ve never thrown that to the side due to pride or aesthetics and we never will, even for the shiniest design award.

We Design Peace of Mind, Always

Baccus is no stranger to IAQ. He emphasizes that Marcum Engineering is able to employ healthy IAQ strategies to all building types. Now that everyone’s mind is on the cleanliness of their indoor environment, it’s more important than ever for businesses to provide that peace of mind. We are already in talks with a few different clients on how they can rethink their indoor spaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to our enduring focus on this very concept, we have solutions before they even have questions.

Baccus elaborates on a few of the conversations we’ve already had, “We have been involved during the COVID-19 pandemic by helping clients isolate portions of buildings and placing the holding of COVID-19 patients in a relative negative atmosphere to help mitigate the spread of the virus within the facility.”  “We are also helping school systems rethink their building operations as recommended by CDC and ASHRAE.”

The truth is, it’s our responsibility as an engineering firm to ensure our plans provide healthy air, no matter what. We, like Joseph Lstiburek, are always in pursuit of the perfect wall. While we know that perfection is an impossible standard we’re happy with what we’ve found along the way. It’s made us an enduring engineering firm that cares about people as much as it cares about buildings. We like it that way.