Why indoor air quality is so important for healthy buildings and a healthy workforce
Indoor air quality is receiving a renewed interest as many offices and other organisations are reopening their doors post-lockdown. With ventilation and other criteria playing a key role in making a building Covid secure, facilities managers are seeking new ways to keep their buildings healthy to protect their employees’ health.
By law, you must maintain a reasonable temperature and meet minimum air quality standards. Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (WHSW), employers must make sure every enclosed workplace has adequate ventilation and fresh or purified air.
The regulations also state that any mechanical ventilation systems are kept clean, well maintained and in good repair. If the system is used to reduce contaminants that would otherwise be harmful, you’ll need an early warning of system failure in the form of a visible or audible alarm.
There are plenty of other reasons for organisations to focus on their indoor environment quality, too. Mould, dust mites and bacteria love damp, humid environments, and these can cause respiratory problems for inhabitants. They can also cause problems for the health of your building.
Smart sensors are a highly effective way to manage these issues, creating a safe, comfortable and healthy environment for your workforce.
Smart sensors offer real-time data, sent via a wired or wireless connection to your existing cloud platform, giving you accurate and clear insights into the air quality of your building. This means that you can adapt your heating, cooling and ventilation systems responsively, creating a comfortable, ambient working environment. It has the added bonus that you’ll be using only the energy you need – helping you be more energy efficient and saving costs in the process.
How smart sensors can monitor air quality
CO2. Using sensors to monitor carbon dioxide (CO2) levels can alert you to any increase, and ensure you’re providing just the right amount of ventilation. This is a key aspect of keeping your office Covid secure, reducing the risk of infection. There is increasing evidence that carbon dioxide levels are directly related to the airborne spread of infection, so using sensors to gather accurate, real-time information can support your building’s safety and automate control. For example, if CO2 levels are found to be rising, the sensors could trigger a room ventilation system.
High levels of carbon dioxide have also been shown to have a negative impact on brain functions. They can cause headaches and reduce the ability to process information and make decisions – so can impact on productivity, too.
Temperature. Smart sensors measure and monitor individual room temperature, with the data enabling you to automate your climate control, so the temperature remains consistent and comfortable. Too hot and people get sluggish. Too cold and they can’t focus on the task at hand.
Humidity. Using sensors to detect relative humidity levels means you can automate humidifiers and dehumidifiers to ensure levels across your buildings stay constant. The amount of water vapour in the air can be one of the main causes of discomfort in an office. High humidity levels can cause a room to feel thick and uncomfortable, causing energy levels to slump. It can also cause headaches, exacerbate conditions like asthma and stop smells from dispersing as quickly. The effects on the building itself can also be hazardous, with high levels of humidity leading to condensation and mould if left unchecked, which could lead to an even greater health hazard for staff. Too little humidity is also a bad thing, so it’s all about getting the balance right. If air is too dry it can lead to itchy skin, dry eyes and a sore throat.
Doors and windows. Smart sensors which show whether windows and doors are open can be vital in helping to control temperature fluctuations within rooms. They prevent windows being left open for hours when a room is empty, only for the next user to arrive and find they can’t get the room heated up quickly enough. Likewise, they can be used to make sure a room is sufficiently ventilated ahead of meetings. They can also be used to help ensure that automated climate control systems work properly, allowing you to instantly identify why there may be an unexpectedly high or low temperature in a room.
Occupancy. These sensors help you to see which rooms and workspaces are most used and automate climate controls accordingly. Using the data, you can identify unused areas that are being over-ventilated or over-heated, reducing spend. They can also help with comfort by preventing overuse and overcrowding in high-volume areas and ensuring a more even distribution of staff across all available workspaces – especially important for social distancing.
The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) launched its WELL Building Standard in 2014, designed to promote health and wellness of a building’s occupants. Some of its criteria are about maintaining comfortable and safe conditions, with indoor air quality a key focus.
Whether your organisation is seeking certification or not, using smart sensors to monitor your air quality is one of the best things you can do to support your employees’ comfort while they’re at work. Plus, you’ll be boosting productivity and saving energy – a win-win situation.