The pandemic brought air circulation within buildings from a non-interesting conversation starter to a top-of-mind concern that keeps building operators and owners alike up at night. With potential new regulations in the UK around this topic, it’s worth taking a closer look at why indoor air quality matters and how technology can help in meeting new requirements.
If you haven’t heard, there are new UK government proposals that address building ventilation systems. Some requirements in these proposals include the on-demand potential for 50 percent higher rate of fresh air than existing minimum standards and the ability for ventilation systems to prevent air recirculating between different rooms. Adding cleaning or filtering technology in place would cancel out the recirculation requirement, but this type of technology is not normal in buildings that could be impacted by these new regulations such as public buildings, hotels, theatres, malls, gyms, concert venues, and many more. These proposals are a direct result of occupants demanding and expecting more from their buildings’ HVAC systems due to the link with viral transmission.
The costs of these improvements are arguably outweighed by the positive benefits provided by quality indoor air quality (IAQ). High IAQ has shown to increase occupant health as well as increase productivity according to academic research. Tests conducted on participants showed a 10% increase in productivity which was quantified as a $6,500 increase in productivity per employee. Related, workplace absenteeism has been shown to increase 30% in environments with poor IAQ.
Beyond productivity, the health benefits of clean, fresh and well-ventilated air have been proven, too. Unfortunately, Public Health England estimates that air pollution is responsible for between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year in the UK, costing the NHS and private healthcare sector £20bn annually. To address this, an independent organization called IAQ UK was formed with the aim of “raising the agenda of indoor air quality within the home and workplace” and focuses on the UK, the country with the highest asthma rates in the world.
As new variants of COVID-19 are discovered, there is no time more urgent than the present to improve IAQ in indoor environments and especially in offices as people start going back to the office. In addition, buildings are urged to improve the energy efficiency of their spaces to hit targets set by standards like BREEAM and LEED. But this isn’t a simple thing to do and, related, a stat from IAQ UK says that 73% of facilities managers have installed a fake thermostat to reduce air complaints. Fortunately, the technology exists that this doesn’t need to be the way things are done.
The elements included in IAQ status cannot be collected via one type of sensor. To truly measure IAQ, building teams need to focus on levels of particulates, carbon dioxide, oxygen, and VOCs but also the quantity of air that is circulated and recirculated within various HVAC channels. Teams also need to watch air temperature and humidity levels for occupant comfort. Watching each individual type of data is inefficient and probably impossible for large buildings like commercial offices where there is a lot of space to manage. Additionally, an important part of a thorough and accurate high-level IAQ is that it needs to be monitored throughout the entire building. Monitoring one space and considering it safe or optimized for occupant health doesn’t mean that the rest of the building is safe. This requires monitoring and data collection of all spaces within a building from the lobby to the elevators, office spaces and restrooms. These individual spaces and various sources of data need to come together in one dashboard for building teams to accurately and efficiently control the entire building.
Airthings & Envio Systems
Working to make buildings comfortable, safe, and inspiring for workers is complicated and stressful, which is why Airthings has partnered with Envio Systems to make the journey to smart and healthy buildings simplified. The Airthings for Business solution is set up in a matter of minutes. The wireless monitors run on long-lasting batteries, and allows you to track and monitor CO2, temperature, humidity, airborne chemicals, radon, light, occupancy, virus risk, mold risk, and pressure. The monitors connect to a hub that gives you instant access to your indoor air quality data which you can view in a simple and customizable dashboard, on a screen on the wall, or easily connected via API into your other systems.
Envio Systems is a complete and affordable IoT system for commercial buildings that offer real-time dashboards that integrate and simplify numerous data sources and systems. The continual monitoring and analysis, allows Envio’s system to learn, predict, and optimize your indoor environment in real-time to enable the interactive and fully autonomous building of the future. This means that your occupants know when an environment becomes unfavorable in real-time, instead of days or weeks later when the damage has already been done.
Make your indoor environment a healthier place to be, get in touch with us.