Clean air is considered a basic requirement of human health and wellbeing. However, air pollution continues to pose a significant concern to health officials, worldwide. According to an assessment of the burden of disease due to air pollution by the World Health Organization (WHO), more than two million premature deaths are the result of poor indoor air quality (IAQ).
What I am about to share is based on my experience with air filtration systems in one of the most challenging environments for ensuring air quality, owing to the frequency and severity of sandstorms. I have been with Dar Gulf Consult, an engineering consultancy firm, based in the State of Kuwait, since 1999. Under the leadership of Eng. Najla Al Ghanim, Chairperson, and Eng. Ubed Arain, the CEO and MD, the firm has been at the forefront of design of major hospitals, and institutional and corporate buildings. The firm works on the policy that as a practising consultant it is a key link between current technology and commercial benefits.
Without the slightest doubt, air filtration technology has progressed in an astonishing fashion over the years. The aim of a consultant is to specify the best qualitative and ergonomic product, keeping in mind the best level of expertise, knowledge and support from those in the air filtration industry, so that they can provide optimum service to our clients to the expected level.
The financial budget of a project is of vital importance to the client. Dar Gulf Consult hence considers as a beholden duty the role of giving the right advice on the budget to the client. At the same time, it is the firm’s responsibility to make the client aware of new, efficient and economical systems, which can possibly be aligned with the requirements of the client’s project. The firm takes the role of sharing information not only on initial installation cost but also the running cost very seriously, indeed. Hand in hand with that, the firm is particular in informing about the best products available that would do the job of providing the best filtered air over the anticipated lifecycle of the client’s project, be it a corporate office, hospital, university or airport.
Clients should not be influenced by competitive prices offered by various manufacturers of air filters, which initially show less investment cost but will invariably lead to higher operating cost and also to compromising the IAQ and putting human health at risk in the long run. It is, hence, essential that the consultant should review, report and also advise on the important changes taking place in the filtration industry and advise the client on what is best in the market for use.
What I say may sound old-fashioned but still holds true: To facilitate the work of consultants, manufacturers should conduct yearly webinars and thereby share knowledge on product improvisation, the research and development work undertaken. Such a knowledge exchange would help consultants specify products with a great deal of accuracy.
In terms of specific requirements, the manufacturer should aim to offer a filter with an increased effective surface area of filtration media, which in my view, will enhance the life of the filter multiple times – at least 3-4 times; and the financial strain on the clients through replacing the filters, and the prospect of a shorter working life, are eliminated.
The manufacturer should also offer a filter with a lower delta P, which, in turn, will result in having a lower fan motor, in terms of kW consumption, and a reduced fan diameter, which will result in a lower cost of the AHU. The link is continuous, and the client and the end-user will benefit from the improvements in low delta pressure.
The manufacturer should also provide test report for the filters from a reputed laboratory to ensure credibility. Further, the technical team working for the manufacturer should be at hand to personally supervise the correct installation of the filters; I say this, because this step is mostly neglected.
I have also found that there is a huge disparity in the pricing structure of the filters by the manufacturers; this leads the client or the end-user to opt for the cheapest product, ignoring the technical aspects. If the manufacturing community were to standardise the products, there will be minimum price variation; that way, the end-user will benefit, and the manufacturing community will have a fair share of the market.
When it comes to long-term performance, the expectation of any consultant is that maintenance personnel should be absolutely aware of the performance of filters. In this, periodic visits by the technical team in the manufacturer’s payroll is a must – it falls upon the team to ensure that the product is working as intended, thereby enhancing the credibility of the manufacturer in question.
Also, in my years of experience, I have observed that end-users, in a bid to save money, do not replace filters after their life period has concluded; rather, they wash the filters and reinstall them, thereby compromising the IAQ of the built- environment and the health of occupants. Speaking of which, after they have been installed, filters should be monitored and their IAQ performance assessed by an independent third-party filtration expert to ensure that their performance is consistent with the manufacturer’s technical catalogue. The outcome of the assessment should be in the form of a report that gives an accurate picture to the client on the quality of air. The prospect of such a report being generated will keep people honest, thus fostering a healthy, productive and vibrant society.
Mohamed Shafiq Ur Rahman is Senior HVAC Engineer – 1, Dar Gulf Consult, Kuwait. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
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