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Expert Interview: Erron Williams on Indoor Air Quality

Erron Williams, Vice President Engineering, manages a team of engineers that supports 150+ workplace communities. Recently, we spoke with Erron about Irvine Company’s long-term commitment to a safe and healthy workplace environment, including the importance of optimal air filtration and ventilation.

What is Irvine Company’s approach to workplace wellness?

Healthy air, deep cleaning and touch-free solutions are built into every workplace. Recently, in partnership with UCI Health, we’ve made additional enhancements to help ensure customers can return to their workplace with confidence.

Why does fresh air exchange matter and how is this maximized in the workplace?

Fresh air exchange reduces the circulation of stale air by purging it from the building and replacing it with fresh air from outdoors. Different buildings have different ventilation designs and we’re implementing solutions to maximize fresh air exchange. We flush and replace the air in our buildings at regular intervals both during occupancy and after hours. Indoor air is flushed and replaced on average every 60 minutes and the air in restrooms is replaced on average every six minutes.

What is a MERV rating and what rating do Irvine Company’s workplaces use?

MERV, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, is a system for measuring how efficiently an air filter removes particles of varying sizes. The system goes from 1 to 16 with the highest ratings typically used in places like clean rooms and hospitals. The highest MERV rating used in commercial buildings is generally MERV 15.

The MERV rating in all of our buildings meets or exceeds the current industry guidance. 75% of our workplace communities, including 100% of our high-rises and 60% of our campus offices, use MERV 13 or higher. Generally, MERV 13 is most appropriate for use in larger rooftop units and  buildings with centralized HVAC systems. MERV 15 is used in our portfolio on fresh air fans and larger air handler systems. We continue to evaluate options to increase the filter MERV rating wherever feasible. 

Why do some workplaces have different MERV filters than others?

As the MERV rating increases, the capture rate for particulates also increases, which increases the restriction to airflow and can limit overall air delivery and fresh air intake. We’re balancing filter rating with maximizing ventilation to support optimal air quality.

Should companies add air filtration machines or air purifiers to their individual suites?

The installation of additional filtration can be used as a supplemental option for specific needs of a space or area, or an additional measure that companies may take to make their employees feel even more comfortable. Companies may choose to install HEPA air filtration machines in their suites as long as sufficient power is available. Companies may also choose to use other air purifying technologies– we just ask that our Engineering team review them prior to use.

How does the Engineering team ensure all systems are working properly?

Our engineers proactively monitor filtration, ventilation rates, temperature and humidity levels for an optimized workplace environment. Additionally, indoor environmental consultant UL performs onsite Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) testing that goes above industry standards. IEQ testing evaluates air, water and cleaning effectiveness in the workplace community.

What new technology is Irvine Company currently exploring?

We’re evolving our protocols in keeping with the latest guidelines, including reviewing ASHRAE’s positions and recommendations from Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) consultants. We’re also exploring technologies, like UV lighting and bi-polar ionization, to support indoor air quality.

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