There is a known fact that the quality of air inside our spaces can be 2 to 5 times worse than outdoors? On average, humans spend 90+% of their time inside. It is a very worrisome statistic that, knowing the fact that there are at least 1.6 millions deaths every year all related to indoor air quality (IAC) complications. This may look pale, especially if you compare to the number of deaths caused by outdoor air pollution, which is 3.4 million. Now, for most facilities, imminent death is not the case, but the risk of serious health effects and numerous diseases are inevitable.
Air Quality: Is also linked to productivity and revenue loss.
In a study done by Harvard, subjects placed in an enhanced green building environment scored over 100% higher on cognitive tests than those in a poorly ventilated environment. In an additional Harvard study, researchers assessed worker performance in two closed environments – one with clean indoor air and one with polluted air. The results concluded that participants in a clean indoor environment showed an increase of up to 10% in productivity, which was then quantified as a $6,500 loss in productivity per employee.
Poor indoor air quality has also been shown to increase employee absenteeism by up to 30% in the workplace. This doesn’t just mean that your workers will be taking more sick days because of the air quality, but this actually equates to a loss of more than $1.8 million for a company that has 1,000 employees.
How to improve air quality for healthier, more productive spaces.
- Gather Data on the Air: The air we breathe is invisible, so there is no way of knowing whether your air quality is safe or contaminated. Use indoor air quality monitoring to track harmful indoor pollutants like fine dust, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon dioxide and more. These particulates and gasses pose a serious risk to human health, and can also provide valuable insights on building efficiency.
- Control Pollutant Sources: Source control involves eliminating indoor pollution at its source. Regular activities like painting, foot traffic, and machine operation can create pollution. However, sometimes significant indoor contamination occurs with anomalies like a chemical leak or filter blowout. If the source of pollution can be identified and removed, remove it from the premise. If this is not feasible, take the necessary precautions to ensure that these sources are properly sealed, stored away from human traffic, or ventilation is increased.
- Improve Ventilation: Another simple way to improve your indoor air quality is to bring more fresh air into your building. It is important to note that while increasing ventilation will help flush contaminated air, it will also lead to higher energy consumption. For this reason, indoor air quality monitoring is imperative. Some buildings like gyms, production facilities, etc. will require extra ventilation, while others will not. The only way of knowing is to have the data to support your decisions.
- Keep Track of Filters: Your HVAC system’s filters have a significant impact on your building’s air quality. Ensuring that you have the proper MERV rating for your air handling unit and system setup can significantly reduce pollution. HEPA filtration may be warranted in certain settings, such as healthcare facilities, for increased filtration efficiency.
- Make Sure Spaces are Clean: Carpets, upholstery, and furniture can trap and lock pollutants from your indoor air. Use a vacuum containing a HEPA filter to get the most out of your efforts. Through regular maintenance of your indoor environment, you can significantly decrease your pollutant levels.
- Monitor Humidity Closely: High temperatures and moisture create a breeding ground for biological contaminants and pollutants. Monitor your humidity closely to avoid costly situations like mold growth in your facility.
- Use Air Cleaners: There are many air cleaners on the market that claim to clean your indoor air but be wary. Most table-top devices do not have the same capabilities of particulate removal as higher-end products. In addition, many of these air cleaners are not designed to remove gaseous pollutants, so sensitive groups may find them not effective enough on their own.
- Don’t Get ‘Tested’: Indoor air quality testing is a great way of getting a read on your situation, but it hardly ever results in significant improvements made. You will receive the raw data on your air, but then you will not have a clear path forward. Using continuous monitoring will allow you to analyze trends over time to make informed decision on a regular basis.
- Consult Experts: If you are serious about providing clean air for both occupant experience and operational efficiency, bring in some help. In order to get the get the most out of your initiative, get guidance navigating industry guidelines, implementing new tech, or starting a new project. Do not hesitate to ask for help.
- Seek Improvement: It is well documented that proper indoor air quality management provides a wealth of benefits to occupant health, performance and comfort, but it does not stop there. Optimizing your indoor environment will lead to significant cost savings on filter maintenance, energy expenditure, and complaint management. Being proactive will allow for the full return to be realized.