April 2015 did not start out too kindly for the Middle East, as it brought with it a terrible sandstorm that swept across the region, disrupting – as per news reports – operations in airports and forcing schools and offices to shut down.
While the reports pointed out that the storm’s severity was unusual, there’s no denying that sandstorms are regarded as natural phenomena in the Gulf region – a detail that was not lost on Qatar Green Building Council’s Healthy Buildings Interest Group (HBiG), which surveyed Mövenpick Hotel West Bay Doha on April 7 to determine the health of its indoor environment.
“It’s important to note that the inspection was conducted just a few days after a bad sandstorm, an occurrence associated with an increase in the concentration of particles in the air,” Iñigo Satrústegui, Head of HBiG and Managing Director of Quality Air Global, told Climate Control Middle East in a phone interview. “The location was also good, because there was construction going on nearby.”
In a nutshell
Excerpts from the presentation of findings* prepared by Qatar Green Building Council’s Healthy Buildings Interest Group
- Suitable indoor noise levels
- Reduced outdoor noise levels (noise emission)
- High sound insulation
- Very high cleanliness standard was observed.
- Housekeeping team used good practices in support of a Green cleaning programme.
Maintenance and operation programme:
- Very good operation and maintenance programme was in place, which is key in achieving satisfactory levels of Indoor Air Quality.
- A scheduled maintenance plan according to the Mövenpick quality standards was followed by the maintenance team.
- Files have been kept for each FCU and FAHU, with the history of all the maintenance works undertaken.
- A regularly updated central maintenance system monitored and recorded the maintenance schedule.
Indoor Air Quality:
- The concentration of PM2.5 in all rooms and corridor were within the standards, with an average concentration of 14.3 μg/ m3 (EPA recommended limit for short-term exposure is 35 μg/m3).
- Ventilation rate and comfort conditions were very good, as per CO2 levels. Humidity and temperature measurements were within the comfort levels.
- Based on the data obtained, ventilation rates, filtration efficiency and cleaning and maintenance programme were correct.
- Change fragrance system from aerosol to non-aerosol.
- Store chemicals in a ventilated room.
- Put HEPA filters in all vacuums.
- Enable regular operation of drop seals at room entrance doors.
- Noise of fresh air supply to rooms is audible. Install FAHU with sound attenuator or duct liner to reduce background noise.
- Reduce the RH level of the swimming pool to below 65% in order to lessen, as much as possible, the risk of mould and microorganism-growth in the area.
*Those interested in acquiring comprehensive information about the survey findings are advised to contact HBiG at firstname.lastname@example.org
Explaining the points, he added: “The idea behind the exercise was to know the real situation in the hotel and get on-the ground data, so we can help the country develop local standards by providing specific information on what should be done and what could be done. The most important plan was for results to show that, regardless of external conditions, it is possible to have good IEQ.”
Sharing that the inspection was completed within a 24-hour period, Satrústegui revealed that HBiG worked in coordination with the hotel facilities manager and asked for full access to the facilities, including 10-20% of the rooms, with at least one room per floor.
“For the survey, we looked into acoustics and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ),” he said. “We also looked into humidity, accessibility, furniture and materials, housekeeping and operation and preventive maintenance, which is why we asked for full access to mechanical rooms, HVAC systems and installations, the kitchen and the kitchen exhaust, the building entrance, toilets, the swimming pool and a few other areas.”
To effectively and thoroughly carry out the inspection, Satrústegui explained, the Group divided the IEQ elements identified for testing among different industry experts, with him handling IAQ. The others involved were: Maro Puljizevic (Acoustics Section Manager, Al Mana & Associates) – acoustics; Natalie Clark (Country Manager, Reza Hygiene) for housekeeping – hygiene; and Dr Arch Atos Batarra for accessibility – furniture and materials.
Scope and methodologies
According to the survey report released by HBiG, the testing of acoustics – particularly of indoor noise levels – was carried out by placing a sound level meter in “a typical bedroom, above the bedhead (or as close as practicably possible), 1.5 metres above the floor”. The report went on to explain that “all the services associated with the normal operation of the bedroom”, including air conditioning, were operating “as per design conditions”, and that measurement was performed “in the octave band frequency range of 63 to 8,000 Hz” for at least 30 seconds.
On the whole, according to the report, the acoustics part of the survey encompassed outdoor noise, building services, noise emission levels of the hotel and privacy levels, as determined by the quality of sound insulation. For housekeeping, as per the report, visual inspection was carried out in the areas the Group requested access to, with the intention of ascertaining existing conditions related to particulates, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and biological contaminants like mould, bacteria and food matter. Procedures and techniques in cleaning, floor care and dusting were also evaluated.
IAQ testing also involved visual inspection of the HVAC systems. In addition, IAQ samples were taken using direct-reading instruments and assessed according to established parameters. The carbon dioxide parameter specified in the report, for instance, is “no more than about 700 ppm over outdoor ambient” and is based on ASHRAE Standard 62.1- 2010. For particle matter 2.5, the parameter identified is reportedly based on US EPA criteria: “short-term standard (24-hour or daily average) is 35 microgrammes per cubic metre of air (μg/m3)”.
“Different international standards, including ASHRAE and US EPA, were taken into consideration,” Satrústegui said. “Though most standards are basically the same, you also have to take into account local conditions.”
Bill of health
So how healthy is the IEQ of Mövenpick Hotel West Bay Doha? Going by the results of the survey (see “In a nutshell”) and Satrústegui’s assessment, it appears to be in very good shape.
“The hotel received high marks from all agencies involved in the testing,” Satrústegui said. “In terms of IAQ, my area of the survey, the results were good. The filters and coils were clean, and the kitchen’s exhaust system was isolated, so odours don’t get into the FAHUs.”
He pointed out, however, that there are still areas for improvement. “In the smoking rooms, for example, while concentration of particles was similar to non-smoking rooms, and within standards, odours were noticeable, since they tend to stick to curtains and carpets.”
To address the challenge of tobacco smell in the smoking rooms, Satrústegui said that the Group suggested that the hotel implement treatments like ozone, but emphasised that they be carried out by professionals. He adds that another solution that the Group recommended, and one that has allegedly been proven effective and permanent, is photocatalytic oxidation.
“Because of the conditions in the region, we often hear stakeholders asking, ‘What can I do?’ There are many things you can do,” he says. “You can adopt proper design and observe proper maintenance, and there are different technologies that you can use. You know, the challenge in Qatar is temporary and mainly a result of heavy construction activity, which is creating an environment with a lot of noise and dust, but so many things can be done if we want to be healthy.”
And healthy is definitely something that we want to be, he declares, before observing: “There’s much talk about sustainability today. What stakeholders must understand is that IEQ and sustainability are very much linked. Sustainability requires the creation of a liveable environment for the people. You can’t achieve sustainable development unless you ensure people’s welfare.”
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