The research will evaluate air quality in retail spaces and how to increase ventilation efficiency.

Study Evaluating Retail Stores' IAQ

There is little published information about air quality and ventilation rates in retail spaces, and ventilation requirements for retail have been set largely by data for commercial office buildings.

Ventilation and indoor air quality are being studied inside at least 16 big-box retail stores in two distinct U.S. climate zones, Pennsylvania and Texas, as part of a federally funded, three-year research project awarded by ASHRAE. Funding comes from a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The study's goal is to find ways to improve air quality and ventilation system efficiency in the 14.6 billion square feet of retail space in the United States, some of it busy with shoppers 24/7. According to ASHRAE, there is little published information about air quality and ventilation rates in retail spaces, and ventilation requirements for retail have been set largely by data for commercial office buildings.

ASHRAE awarded the project under a collaboration to principal investigator Dr. Jeffrey Siegel at the University of Texas at Austin and co-investigator Dr. Jelena Srebric at Penn State University. Siegel is an associate professor and J. Neils Thompson Centennial Teaching Fellow in Civil Engineering in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering. "We are working to develop a robust database of indoor air quality, ventilation, occupant surveys, and building measurements for the U.S. retail building stock," Siegel said. "This database will be used to determine the relationship between ventilation rate and indoor air quality and occupant satisfaction with a goal of recommending appropriate minimum ventilation rates for different categories and locations of retail establishments. This will help further the industry by improving the energy efficiency of ventilation systems in retail stores while maintaining air quality."

Various occupancy types -- general merchandise, department, supermarket, restaurant, and home improvement/hardware -- will be included. Half of the buildings will be located in the hot and humid climate of central Texas, the other half in the cold, dry climate of central Pennsylvania. The project is expected to end in December 2012.

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