Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Investigating Uncertainty in the Relationship between Indoor Steady-State CO2 Concentrations and Ventilation Rates



Andrew K. Persily, Constanza Molina, Jones Benjamin


The steady state concentration of occupant generated carbon dioxide (CO2) is used in some applications as an indicator of compliance with a required ventilation rate. These applications assume that the CO2 is at a uniform concentration in the space being considered, and that the outdoor concentration, ventilation rate, and CO2 emission rate are all constant. Emission rates are often derived using an equation in the ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook, which is poorly referenced and not based on current principles of human metabolism. A newer model was recently proposed that is based on these principles and considers the emission rate to be a function of age, sex, body mass and metabolic rate. This paper investigates uncertainty in CO2 emission rates of US children of 4 to 19 years of age using this new model. The analysis is informed using government-published weight-for-age percentiles and sex ratios, and representative values of child metabolic rates in schools. However, since the metabolic rates are unavailable in probabilistic form, a distribution about an assumed mean value is applied. A Monte Carlo approach is used to generate probability density functions of CO2 emission rates for infinite populations of children and for school classes of 20 students for a range of age groups. It shows that the individual emission rate increases with age and that there is significant variance about the mean value; the standard deviations are at least 20 % of the means. Mean emission rates for classes of 20 students also vary with age group. A 95 % confidence interval for 20 school age children is found to be (4.1,4.3) cm3 s-1 per person. The uncertainty in a class mean emission rate decreases as the class size increases. A global sensitivity analysis is used to determine that the most important model input is body mass and that metabolic rate is statistically significant. This means that standards and guidelines can use existing body mass data used by health services to determine ap
Proceedings Title
41st AIVC - ASHRAE IAQ joint conference
Conference Dates
September 14-16, 2020
Conference Location
Athens, GR


carbon dioxide, indoor air quality, standards, uncertainty, ventilation


Persily, A. , Molina, C. and Benjamin, J. (2022), Investigating Uncertainty in the Relationship between Indoor Steady-State CO2 Concentrations and Ventilation Rates, 41st AIVC - ASHRAE IAQ joint conference, Athens, GR (Accessed July 22, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created May 4, 2022, Updated November 23, 2022