The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has been awarded $1.5 million in grant money from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to conduct a three-year research project on ventilation and indoor-air quality (IAQ) in retail stores.

ASHRAE’s project, Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality in Retail Stores, is one of 27 projects funded by the NIST for measurement science and engineering research. The NIST Measurement Science and Engineering Research Grants Program, made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provides $34.12 million in grants to higher-education, commercial, and nonprofit organizations in 18 states. The project will be conducted through ASHRAE’s research program.

Little information has been published about air-quality and ventilation rates in retail spaces in the United States. Ventilation requirements for retail and other space types have been set largely by data for commercial office buildings.

Given that there is approximately 14.6 billion sq ft of retail space in the United States in which people shop up to 24/7, it is vital that ventilation systems operate as efficiently as possible while maintaining good IAQ.

Through the study, ASHRAE is seeking to improve the energy efficiency of ventilation systems in retail stores while maintaining air quality by establishing a method to determine the relationship between ventilation rates and IAQ using measured ventilation and pollutant-concentration data. Specifically, the project will provide a quantitative basis for improving energy efficiency while maintaining air quality by increasing maintenance frequency and reducing ventilation-rate requirements.

Existing pollutant and ventilation-rate data, on which ventilation requirements for retail spaces are based, largely come from measurements in office buildings, which may not be appropriate. The project will conduct measurements in up to five retail-building types: general merchandise, department, supermarket, restaurant, and home improvement/hardware.

The results will provide a more rigorous basis for the ventilation-rate requirements in retail spaces and incentives for improved maintenance if it can be shown that clean and dry spaces will lead to lower pollutant concentrations and improve the perception of good air quality. Ultimately, the project will establish a methodology for collecting real-world ventilation and air-quality data.