Why should you learn how to improve air quality in your facility?

 

Poor indoor air quality is linked to disease, mortality.

When considering the amount of pollutant-generating activities that occur outdoors, it seems impossible the air quality inside our facilities can be 2-5 times worse than the air quality outdoors. However, it’s true, and it shows the importance in understanding how to improve your air quality. Now, if this isn’t a worrisome statistic to you, consider this: humans spend up 90 percent or more of their time indoors, leading to an immense effect on human health. So much so in fact, that there are more than 1.6 million deaths per year due to indoor air quality (IAQ)-related complications. This may pale in comparison to the 6 million deaths caused by air pollution in general each year, but shouldn’t our indoors be safe? Now, while imminent death is not the case for most facilities in developed countries, adverse health effects like irritation of the ear, nose, and throat; fatigue; dizziness; heart and respiratory disease; and cancer are all very real possibilities.

 

It is also linked to productivity, revenue loss.

Making sure you understand how to improve air quality in your facilities can go a long way in improving the comfort and productivity of the occupants of your building. 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 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.

In the same way that you can lose money through employee absence, you can lose big on damage to your equipment. If you do not have clarity within your air handling units, you will not be able to predict or proactively manage damage to your coils and ducts. This can mean thousands in repairs and maintenance.

In conclusion, it is not only imperative to properly manage your indoor air quality for the safety and comfort of your occupants, but also to raise your business’ bottom line and improve operational efficiency.  With this being said, let’s go over some modern strategies for how to improve air quality in your facilities.

 

Things You Can Do Right Now

Simple Improvement Strategies from the EPA

  1. Source Control: This strategy involves eliminating indoor pollutants at their source, as opposed to cleaning the indoor air that becomes polluted. If your facility contains chemicals or pollutant sources like gas stoves or upholstery, it is most effective to remove these from the premise. If this is not feasible, take the necessary precautions to ensure that these sources are tightly sealed or away from human traffic.
  2. Improve Ventilation: Another easy way to improve your indoor air quality is to bring more fresh air into your building. Opening windows and doors, running window air conditioners with the vent control open, and utilizing window or attic fans can drastically increase your ventilation rate. Make sure to take these extra steps when engaging in short-term, pollutant-generating activities like painting or installing equipment.
  3. Use Air Cleaners: There are many air cleaners on the market that claim to clean your indoor air, but be weary. 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.

Other Recommendations You Can Implement Quickly

  1. Keep Track of Your Filter Schedule: Your filters will eventually fill up and stop doing their job properly. This will not only compromise the quality of your indoor air, but will start to wear on your HVAC system. Make sure you have a schedule in place that is based on data… and stick to it.
  2. Make Sure Your Space is 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 and increase indoor air quality.
  3. Monitor Your Humidity: High temperatures and moisture create a breading ground for biological contaminants and pollutants. Monitor your humidity closely to avoid costly situations like mold growth in your facility.

 

Advanced Facility Management Strategies to Improve IAQ

Continuously track the status of your indoor air quality.

It is impossible to know if your air quality is healthy and clean, or even adequate, if you are not tracking the particles and gasses that pollute our air. The best way to do this is through combination of sensors, data analytics, and expert consultation. Many facility management professionals will assume that one-time testing or installing sensors is enough. This is not the case. When you pay that engineer or install those sensors, you are only getting an idea of whether your air quality is good or bad, nothing else. You can read that your PM 2.5 is too high, but what exactly does that mean to you? You can see a graph of the data collected from the sensors, but how does that help your solve the problem?

An easy way to get started is to use an “all-in-one” service like qlair that will not only monitor your indoor air quality, but identify critical areas and provide an effective mitigation solution for the problem at hand. Regardless of who you choose to help with your indoor air quality management, you should have these predictive tools in place to stay ahead of potential harm.

Use IAQ Sensors

As a facility management professional, it is common to set up tracking devices and sensors to protect just about every asset in your facility, so why not your air? We have discussed the consequences of inadequate air quality to your occupants and building efficiency, so this should be a no-brainer. Utilizing sensors, especially good ones, allows you to track your air quality to identify heavily-polluted areas. The power of knowing your air quality levels? How about stopping an asthma attack before it ever happens, with knowledge that a certain pollutant has risen to unsafe levels. Or perhaps finding out you can reduce ventilation by 25%, saving you thousands in energy costs each year.

Use Data in a Meaningful Way

Have you ever received an indoor air quality report and understood exactly what to do next, based on the data provided? Many of the facility mangers we speak to would say “absolutely not.” The thing is, analyzing data probably isn’t at the top of your to-do list, so we suggest outsourcing to an expert for that. If you use a service like qlair, you can receive actionable insights on what to do next given the state of your air quality and goals. For example, let’s say you are having a fine dust problem, qlair will pair your with an air purification provider to get you building back on track.

 

In Conclusion: Prioritize Your Indoor Air Quality

Whether you’re looking to increase your building’s efficiency or improve your occupants’ health and safety – improving your indoor air quality is the perfect first step. Assessing the quality of your air is important, but there is much more to the process than getting some test results back. Once you are aware of any problem areas in your facility, make sure to consult experts to utilize the proper mitigation solution. Then, using continuous monitoring and data collection, manage your indoor environment proactively instead of reactively.