Designer indoor air? Absolutely. And it’s serious business. The business of dehumidifying air so microbes don’t have a cozy breeding place. Filtering air to rid it of potentially harmful gases, fumes and carcinogens. Scrubbing air to block pollutants, molds, funguses and biological hazards. Heating and cooling air to meet the needs of the people and equipment. Think of designer air as indoor air that maximizes comfort and safety while minimizing potential risks.
While the idea of improving indoor air quality is not new, the need to be able to control interior air quality has steadily gained supporters and has recently taken on heightened significance. Fortunately, there is a company – Dectron Internationale – that has been addressing these issues for more than a decade. This multi-divisional enterprise designs and manufactures custom air-treatment systems that take the concept of air quality far beyond centralized heating and air-conditioning to the reality of air engineered and maintained for optimal safety and comfort.
Dave Lucas, vice president of sales and marketing explains, “We tailor the air to the particular environment. We take a holistic approach that deals with the relationship of the humidity to the other elements in the air, with what’s in the air coming in from the outside and with recapturing water, heat and cooling from treated air.”
Hospitals, schools, museums, airports, offices, factories, government buildings and petrochemical plants are among the types of structures that have invested in Dectron air-treatment systems to manage their indoor environments. A presidential library and a number of high-profile homes – including the Texas governor’s mansion and the Canadian Prime Minister’s residence – also are on the list.
Dectron Internationale is unique in its ability to design and manufacture all the major components of a state-of-the-art indoor air system. That ability is the result of Dectron’s structure, which is a grouping of five companies, each with a long history of producing quality air-treatment equipment. Brought together by Ness Lakdawala, president and CEO, to form Dectron are:
• Circul-Aire: air purification equipment (35 years); PM Wright: manufacturer of electric heaters since 1921.
• Dry-O-Thon: dehumidification equipment (25 years).
• IPAC 2000: precision air-conditioning industrial products (30 years).
• RefPlus: refrigeration equipment (10 years, founded by Lakdawala).
• ThermoPlus Air Inc: specialty heating and cooling units (15 years, founded by Lakdawala).
Dectron became a public company in 1998. Revenues reported for 2001 were $34 million. The business is headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; a sales office/training center is in Roswell, Ga. The employer of 450 people, Dectron operates six plants. Total manufacturing space is 500,000 square feet, with the U.S. plant in Niagara Falls, N.Y., measuring 135,000 square feet.
It is, however, the final product produced by the diverse plants that is unique because, as Lucas points out, “We have maximum quality control. We make our own heat transfer elements, sheet metal, heat exchangers, condensers, electric heater coils, filtrations and controls.” In fact, no company in the industry has more technology under one roof – an attribute that has made Dectron the winner on more than one project bid.
Two Circul-Aire executives team up to describe the major elements of a Dectron air-control system. Brian Monk, vice president of sales and marketing, and Harry Topikian, vice-president of operations, discuss the features that maintain air quality in even harsh environments – such as manufacturing plants located in extreme weather areas in South America and Southeast Asia.
To begin, Monk points out that the central air system has two parts: particulate filtration for materials such as pollen, dust and microorganisms, and gas-phase filtration for gases from emissions, fuel and hydrocarbons. Topikian notes, “The particulate filters can capture spores measuring 0.3 microns in diameter. To give an idea of the size, the diameter of a human hair is 100 microns.”
According to Monk, adding gas-phase multi-mix media (chemically engineered granules) filters out even smaller sizes – .001 to 100 microns in diameter – which spells bad news for viruses. “We tailor the multi-mix to the application. Our in-house lab has five chemists who assess the requirements of the location and the situation and make the filter media mix.” Monk says Dectron provides customers an annual free analysis of the multi-mix media to monitor its effectiveness.
Commenting on the company’s expertise in this area, Topikian says, “We pioneered gas-phase filtration back in 1967 for the pulp and petrochemical industries. Then we adapted it to corrosion control in process equipment. Eight or nine years ago we started providing filtration for 911 emergency centers and airports. Now we measure our air-scrubbing ability in parts per billion range.”
In keeping with the company’s emphasis on humidity control and temperature regulation, applied engineering techniques are used to design those portions of the system. These components may be produced as independent parts or as elements of a plan designed in conjunction with the architects.Finally, the energy recovery systems are put in place to recapture warm air or pre-cool air before it enters the system. Monk asserts, “Using tempered air can have significant financial payback and has the beneficial result of reduced energy consumption too.”
An Inclusive Strategy
Lucas discusses the future of Dectron in terms of air-quality issues. “Indoor air quality goes beyond protection from environment, catastrophe and terrorists. There are health issues such as the hypersensitivity to chemicals and contaminants that we are seeing more and more. And the increased rate of asthma development that studies show is related to the indoor environment.”
The marketer projects that the company will double its business in the next two years, partly as a result of air-purification systems being developed to deal with the potential for biological warfare. Along with Monk and Topikian, Lucas insists that growth will be based on maintaining the quality that has become Dectron’s hallmark. “We provide a high-end product for a niche market. Mass production is not what we do.”
On the subject of quality, it’s worth noting that Dectron designed the air-control system that regulates the environment in the room where the Stars and Stripes of the early 1800s is displayed in Washington, DC.