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Meet The Next Generation Of Air Quality Systems That Neutralize Harmful Particles At Their Source


When building owners think of ways to improve indoor air quality, two words likely come to mind: filters and ventilation. Building owners have used strategies such as implementing higher efficiency media filters, increasing ventilation and even opening windows as ways to reduce the spread of airborne microorganisms, viruses and bacteria since the 1950s. Over half a century later, it may be time for an update. 

“Filters do their job, but they have limitations,” said Tony Abate, vice president and chief technology officer at AtmosAir, which manufacturers indoor air purification and air quality monitoring solutions. “The same is true of ventilation. It’s great if you’re dealing with a new building that was designed with maximum ventilation in mind, but if you’re in an older facility, things get much more complicated.” 

Abate said that filters, especially high-level Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or MERV, filters, can comb out harmful particles in the air, but they also increase static pressure drop in a building, which results in lower airflow throughout the HVAC system. This means that buildings will have to work harder to take in and condition fresh air, leading to higher energy costs. 

Filters are also a passive form of air purification — they need to have contaminants come to them in order to dilute them and clean the air. Combine this with the fact that they can restrict airflow and, as Abate explained, pressurization issues can arise and can actually create an air quality problem, instead of solving one. 

But modern air quality solutions can be far more active. AtmosAir’s air purification system relies on bipolar ion technology. Ions are released into an occupied space where contaminants are being generated, and they reduce and neutralize those contaminants at the source. These ions not only make air smell and feel fresher, but they also create healthier and safer air. 

“Everyone has breathed ionized air,” Abate said. “Bipolar ions are a natural part of the ecosystem, but when we get into indoors or near pollution, those ions decrease. A bipolar ion system restores the air to what you would find in a clean, outdoor space.” 

Bipolar ion systems are designed to adapt to a building, not the other way around. They can be added to any existing HVAC system without requiring changes to a building’s mechanical system. Once they are exposed to a building’s airflow, they produce the appropriate amount of ionization to saturate a space and clean the air in a noninvasive way. 

Abate said air quality is never static; it changes from moment to moment, and owners need a system that can alert them to those changes. Buildings are getting smarter as owners install tools that can alert them to changes in occupancy, temperature, lighting and more. AtmosAir’s system can be integrated into these tools to alert owners to real-time changes to air quality. 

“As you start to know the habits of a building, you can make smart decisions for what you need to do to keep air quality consistent,” Abate said. “Our devices can adjust to the conditions of a building, learn from them and make proactive changes.” 

AtmosAir partnered with the State University of New York Canton in September to install its systems on the school’s campus. Measurements were taken before and after the systems were put in to measure volatile organic compounds and particles. The results showed a clear improvement in every category in the months following the installation of AtmosAir technology, compared to when the buildings were just relying on filters. 

The system has also been adopted by several K-12 school systems, including the Sioux Falls School District in South Dakota, which installed AtmosAir's bipolar ionization technology in each of its 23 elementary schools, five middle schools and five high schools. The system can also be found at Southeast Technical College facilities in Sioux Falls, schools in Greenwich and Darien in Connecticut, and several other universities. 

“Schools, especially ones in older buildings, often have limited HVAC systems, with individual windows units instead of central air,” Abate said. “Bipolar ionized systems can work with those units, which is why schools all over the country, from UCLA to Northwestern, are using our technology.”

This article was produced in collaboration between AtmosAir and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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