Newell offers perspectives on healthy indoor environments


Ty Newell presented two talks to the ASHRAE chapter in Madison, WI.

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Ty Newell with alumnus Ron Wroblewski.
Newell (left) with alumnus Ron Wroblewski.

Professor Emeritus Ty Newell recently presented two talks for the Madison, Wisconsin, chapter of ASHRAE, the society whose focus is to advance sustainable technology for the built environment. MechSE alumnus Ron Wroblewski (BSME ’82) serves as President of the ASHRAE chapter.

In his technical talk, “Moisture Management in High Performance Homes,” Newell discussed the importance of moisture management in today’s highly sealed and insulated homes to avoid creating unhealthy (moldy) indoor environments.  

His dinner talk, entitled “ASHRAE’s Acceptable Ventilation is Unacceptable,” focused on the need to formulate building ventilation standards that are based on human health. Buildings with “smart” ventilation and high efficiency filtration are energy efficient, healthy, and productive. Both talks were hosted by the Madison office of Strang, Inc.

“Strang’s offices, the first “Well Gold Certified” in Wisconsin, are the perfect example of where our buildings need to be—active fresh air ventilation with no more than 800ppm of carbon dioxide, and MERV13 high efficiency particulate filtration,” Newell said. “Health and productivity are worth a lot. Human health is much more valuable than energy, but in smart designed buildings, you can have both!”

Newell said today’s ASHRAE ventilation standards (both commercial and residential standards) are more building-centric than human-centric. Healthy, human-centric indoor environments, such as Strang’s, have been shown to reduce indoor air quality dissatisfaction by half (25% dissatisfaction to 12%), reduce sick days by 40% (sick day reduction from 2.5 days to 1.5 days), because doubling fresh air flow and improving air filtration has the same impact as the influenza vaccine on sick days, and improve cognition productivity by more than 10% (better decision making, improved information organization, increased creativity, and 6 other areas of cognition metrics).

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This story was published February 28, 2022.