Why should you improve indoor air quality in the first place?
Poor indoor air quality is linked to disease, mortality.
Did you know that the air quality in our buildings can be 2-5 times worse than outdoors? And that humans, on average, spend over 90 percent of their time inside? This is troubling enough alone, but even more so when considering that more than 1.6 million deaths per year due to IAQ-related complications. Now, while imminent death is not the case for most facilities, the risk of adverse health effects and disease are very real possibilities.
It is also linked to productivity, 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 who breathe clean air while they worked 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.
So, how can you improve indoor air quality? Here are 10 strategies to get you on track:
10 Steps to Improving Indoor Air Quality for Good
1. Establish a baseline for indoor air quality health with data.
The air we breathe is invisible, so it can be nearly impossible to identify problem areas with confidence. This lack of insight typically leads facility managers and building operators to hold off on taking action until an occupant complains or a piece of equipment goes down.
This is clearly not the most effective way to manage your indoor air quality. We’re looking to improve indoor air quality for good, which requires a proactive approach backed by cold, hard data.
Indoor air quality monitoring is the best way to begin tracking harmful indoor pollutants to identify trends and areas that need improvement. These particulates and gasses pose a serious risk to human health, and can also provide valuable insights on building efficiency.
But what air quality parameters should you be monitoring exactly? Here’s a list:
- Particulate Matter (PM2.5 & PM10)
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
2. Control indoor air pollution at its source.
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.
3. Improve ventilation to ensure adequate fresh air levels.
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.
4. Keep track of filter performance and replacement dates.
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.
5. Make sure spaces are clean to reduce pollutant emissions.
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.
6. Monitor temperature and 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.
7. Consider introducing air cleaning machines for extra help.
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.
8. Don’t really on annual or one-off air quality testing.
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 decisions on a regular basis.
9. Consult true experts in indoor air quality management.
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.
10. Seek continuous improvement with real-time data.
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.
In Conclusion: Prioritize the air you breathe.
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.