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The IAQ and Energy Impacts of Reducing Formaldehyde Emissions in Commercial Building



Lisa C. Ng, Andrew K. Persily, Steven J. Emmerich, Kevin Y. Teichman


Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in buildings are designed to provide thermally comfortable conditions and to maintain acceptable indoor air quality (IAQ). At the same time, the operating costs of HVAC systems are often a large percentage of the total energy consumption of buildings, which constitutes 40 % of the primary energy consumed in the U.S. As efforts are pursued to reduce building energy use, some of which may include reductions in outdoor air ventilation rates, it is even more important to consider the impacts of these measures on IAQ. While IAQ involves many different contaminants and sources, formaldehyde is of particular importance given its wide use in the production of composite wood products, such as those used in manufacturing furniture. Also, based on the health effects of exposure to formaldehyde, California has regulations on emissions from composite wood products, and federal regulations are expected in 2013. To better understand the IAQ and energy trade-offs of various approaches to reducing indoor formaldehyde concentrations, a series of simulations was performed using the multizone airflow model, CONTAM, in two low-energy commercial reference buildings developed by the U.S. Department of Energy. Annual airflow and contaminant simulations were performed using assumed emission rates of formaldehyde in these buildings. The impact of low-emitting materials and changes in ventilation rates on formaldehyde concentrations and energy use were evaluated to investigate how both low-energy and IAQ goals can be met.
Proceedings Title
Conference Dates
October 15-18, 2013
Conference Location


commercial buildings, energy, emissions, formaldehyde, indoor air quality, ventilation


Ng, L. , Persily, A. , Emmerich, S. and Teichman, K. (2014), The IAQ and Energy Impacts of Reducing Formaldehyde Emissions in Commercial Building, ASHRAE IAQ 2013, Vancounver, -1, [online], (Accessed February 26, 2024)
Created February 11, 2014, Updated February 19, 2017