What's Your IQ on IAQ & IEQ

Articles about intelligent, smart, or green buildings often mention obscure and sometimes confusing acronyms, such as IAQ (indoor air quality), and IEQ (indoor environmental quality). Are IAQ and IEQ the same thing? Many people confuse the two, but they are different, though overlapping, concepts.

Indoor Air Quality is actually a subset of Indoor Environmental Quality. IAQ focuses on, not surprisingly, air. IAQ is a measure of the building’s interior air in terms of the occupant’s potential health and comfort. Nasty chemical, physical, and biological contaminants can cause symptoms ranging from discomfort to serious illness. Potential contaminants can include things like dust, cigarette smoke, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, radon, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and various other chemical compounds from outgassing of building materials and cleaning supplies. Careful selection of building materials and cleaning agents, as well as having air filters and sufficient ventilation increases air quality. Ideally, the quality of the indoor air should be equal to or even better than that of the air outside the building.

IAQ is about what we breathe. IEQ, more comprehensively, is about what we breathe, see, hear, and feel inside a building. IEQ includes IAQ as well as other physical and psychological aspects of life indoors. IEQ is a measure of multiple aspects of an indoor environment on human health and performance, including indoor air quality, lighting, visual quality, acoustics, and thermal comfort.

IEQ is a critically important credit category in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system. The largest components of IEQ (IAQ, thermal comfort, and lighting) are greatly enhanced by a BAS (Building Automation System), which nearly every green building has.