Students gain hands-on experience assessing indoor air quality for Parkmill

By Bassam Alduhaim, B.S. mechanical engineering and Student Fellow of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions

The Parkmill building, located on the west side of South Park Blocks, is due for some upgrades. As part of our Green Building Summer Internship for the Living Lab Program, students assessed indoor air quality and energy efficiency Parkmill. It was built for the General Extension Division (GED) of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education in 1957, predating the establishment of procedures and standards for air and environmental quality, which is why these assessments are essential for making improvements.

Today, the Office of Graduate Studies and the School of Gender, Race and Nations are located on the first floor of Parkmill, and their employees who typically work around 40 hours per week are occupying the space for longer periods of time than the building was designed for. Hot temperatures during summer months, high levels of CO2, and dust accumulating on the furniture are known issues in some areas of the building.

During our internship with PSU’s Capital Projects and Construction, we had the opportunity to utilize point-in-time tools and data-logging sensors provided by the Green Building Research Laboratory and the Building Science Lab to Advance Teaching (BUILT) in order to provide a detailed snapshot of indoor air and thermal quality in designated office spaces located on the first floor of the building. The purpose of on-site testing, occupant questionnaires, and supplementary secondary research was to understand the indoor conditions that were associated with occupant comfort levels in the work space environments.

After analyzing the data after the duct cleaning, we noticed that the PM concentration decreased, and more air flow was recorded. Anonymous survey responses also indicated some improvement in the occupants’ comfort level.

This internship made possible by the Institute for Sustainable Solutions was a great opportunity to have real world experience. We had the chance to work with professional engineers and architects, apply what we have learned in school, and contribute to sustainability activities here on campus. It was beneficial for us to learn more about LEED certification, American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) codes, duct cleaning, and many other aspects of green building as a starting point for entering the sustainability field.

Learn more about PSU's Living Lab program.

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