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Air Quality Engineer
Air quality engineers work to ensure the highest-quality air is maintained and made available to people in all environments. Often, air quality engineers specialize in either indoor or outdoor air quality and work on issues such as emission control, contaminant removal, and workplace ventilation. Air quality engineers also review environmental assessments for proposed industrial projects and make recommendations for air quality and pollution control equipment.
At a glanceImagine you are sitting at your desk examining a three-dimensional computer model of a proposed new manufacturing facility that will build massive commercial air conditioning units for sale to high-rise office buildings around the world. You are an air quality engineer with a specialty in indoor air quality and you have been brought on to this project to design a ventilation system for the facility. During the manufacturing process, there are a number of chemicals used and fumes produced that are toxic if inhaled. It is your job to design a ventilation system that will not only protect the health of workers inside the facility, but also ensure that hazardous fumes are not being discharged to the environment. As an air quality engineer, you must consider a number of factors when designing the ventilation system for the new manufacturing facility. First, you will need to inventory the different kinds of fumes that could accumulate inside the building. This includes fumes that are produced during the manufacturing process as well as fumes from other sources in the building, such as cleaning supplies or certain office equipment. Then you must investigate the best method for collecting and disposing of these fumes, including investigating the appropriate regulations and codes governing airborne contaminants like those produced by the facility. This information will also determine the types of emission controls you will have to build into the system to minimize the impact of discharging the collected air to the atmosphere. The ventilation system you design must also ensure that fresh air is cycled through every corner of the building. As an expert on air quality, you contribute a vital piece to this project.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as an air quality engineer:
- Prepare air emission inventories and organize and interpret data from monitoring sites.
- Review air quality monitoring procedures and make recommendations for improvement.
- Develop source emission standards for specific industrial sectors.
- Prepare dispersion models and develop air-sampling methods.
- Review permit applications and evaluate regulatory compliance.
- Negotiate with regulatory agencies.
- Assess the condition and efficiency of contaminant-removal equipment.
- Evaluate test results and prepare necessary reports, including recommendations for changes and abatement strategies.
- Evaluate ventilation and air supply systems to ensure indoor air is safe.
- Prepare terms of reference and bid documents for equipment suppliers and consultants.
Work environmentAir quality engineers work in a variety of locations, including: In the office:
- Reviewing technical information
- Doing paperwork, analyzing data, and preparing reports
- Drafting plans and models
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, stakeholders, and government departments
- Presenting to clients assessment findings and recommendations for improvement and abatement strategies
- Researching new technology and advancements in air quality, and consulting with other air quality engineers and professionals
- Touring and inspecting sites
- Supervising installations
- Testing designs and recommending changes
- Taking measurements and recording data
Where to workThere are a number of places air quality engineers can find employment. They include:
- Environmental engineering consulting firms
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
- Colleges, universities, and research institutes
- Industrial facilities
- Public health agencies
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as an air quality engineer, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Computer Science
- Environmental Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Occupational Health and Safety