Maintaining good indoor air quality is an essential factor that many business owners carry out in their commercial buildings. Clean air is crucial for the health and well-being of your employees and occupants to produce quality work. However, studies found higher levels of air contaminants in several indoor environments than those found outside.
These pollutants can cause short- and long-term health issues, reduced productivity, and increased absenteeism. Due to the adverse effects of poor indoor air quality, you must examine the areas in your commercial space where the air quality is at its lowest, identify the pollutant source, and improve your property’s overall indoor air condition.
Why is Good Indoor Air Quality Important?
Indoor air quality is a significant concern that you need to assess since it can directly impact your business. Whether you’re an employee, office manager, or commercial building owner, ensuring the cleanliness of the air you breathe should be mandatory since most Americans spend up to 90% of their time living or working indoors.
Poor air quality paved the way for sick building syndrome (SBS), which describes a series of acute health issues and discomfort that had no identifiable medical diagnosis linked to time spent indoors. Common symptoms of this syndrome include:
- Headaches or migraines
- Throat irritation
- Allergic reactions such as the runny nose and watery eyes
- Unexplained feeling of discomfort
- Poor concentration and focus
- Breathing issues
- Dry and itchy skin
In addition to air quality, you can also attribute SBS symptoms to insufficient lighting and outdated computer screens. These symptoms are also temporary and often disappear when you leave the contaminated building. Sick employees eventually lead to low revenue; that’s why maintaining clean air should be a mandatory practice that you need to initiate.
Types of Air Pollutants in the Workplace
The primary step in promoting good air quality is identifying the common air pollutants in your workplace. These particles may come from cleaning services, pest removal, renovations, furnishing, the activities of the occupants, and building maintenance. To determine the source of air contaminants, here are the three primary sources of air pollution:
1. Biological contaminants:
These contaminants refer to bacteria, molds, dust mites or allergens, animal waste, and excessive pollen levels. You can attribute the presence of these biological particles to substandard cleaning, food and water spills, humidity, or brought by occupants and unkempt filtration systems. Some of the health issues related to biological contaminants are allergies, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses.
Particle contaminants are solid and liquid substances suspended in the air. Most of these microscopic particles are difficult to see without a magnifying device, while you can see some through the visible sunbeams inside the room. While they are generally harmful to your health, those that aren’t visible are more hazardous such as dust and dirt from multiple activities in the office.
3. Chemical contaminants:
Chemical pollutants refer to tobacco smoke, emissions, cleaning agents, chemical spills, and combustible gases such as carbon monoxide, which is not only hazardous to your health but a concern for fire safety as well.
When identifying the air pollutants in the workplace, consider each pollutant’s level of risk. For instance, exposure to carbon monoxide is a threat to occupants’ health and lives. These contaminants have different danger levels, and it is up to you and your facility manager to eliminate these risks.
5 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality
Everyone must participate and contribute to ensure the success of your efforts to improve the air quality in the workplace. Maintaining air cleanliness requires assessing multiple systems in your business, such as HVAC, cleaning methods, the layout of the space, and waste management.
Here are five ways to enhance the air quality in your commercial space:
1. Assess Building Ventilation System Design and Maintenance
Your HVAC system is a critical tool for establishing clean air distribution and ventilation throughout your building. Since the system is responsible for circulating air, it is essential to assess its quality and determine whether you need to replace or condition the system if air pollutants are a concern.
Since most commercial HVAC systems are complex and extensive, it is best to hire professionals to oversee system assessment and check if your current office arrangement is ideal or detrimental to indoor air quality.
In addition, the process of ventilation includes bringing fresh outside air inside the office. It is crucial to ensure that the air supply is adequate, not blocked, and doesn’t bring external pollutants such as dust or pollen. Ideally, you need to set up regular maintenance with insulated exterior steel access doors within the facility and outside.
2. Add Specialized Air Purifying Equipment
If you find that certain gases, chemical pollutants, or viruses affect indoor air quality, you may need to equip your commercial space with an efficient air purifying system. A powerful air purifier can effectively remove harmful air and virus particles, eliminate mold, contains a HEPA filter, and comply with the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating.
Adding an air purifier in the office significantly enhances indoor air quality and prevents the need to replace or renovate an existing HVAC system. Most cleaners require no installation and can decontaminate up to 200,000 square feet, which is helpful in emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
3. Monitor Moisture Control
Controlling the humidity and moisture in occupied spaces is necessary since biological contaminants can grow and thrive in moisture and dirt-filled places. However, low humidity levels may cause your employees to experience dry and irritated eyes, sinus issues, and sore throats.
When it comes to a commercial office setting, setting the proper humidity level can sometimes be difficult, depending on the number of occupants. Depending on your needs, install a humidifier or dehumidifier to address this issue. Other factors affecting moisture levels include water-producing appliances such as refrigerators and ventilation devices and cleaning drain pans from humidifiers.
4. Set Occupant Policies
One of the primary carriers of air contaminants in your workplace is the building occupants themselves. Although this is natural and unavoidable, limiting the number of pollutants that they bring by setting up policies can significantly eliminate the effects of sick building syndrome.
If your employees can’t avoid wearing perfumes, ask them to wear mild-scented colognes. This is needed, since some employees may be irritated by strong smells. Remind them also to store and dispose of their food appropriately and that a cleaning schedule must be in place to remove garbage efficiently.
It is also necessary for you to comply with various regulations initiated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Both agencies created a list of recommendations to ensure that commercial businesses can comply accordingly.
5. Consider Space Planning and Improved Workspace Design
Some elements in your current workplace design can adversely affect indoor air quality. For instance, blocked vents may force the HVAC systems to work in overdrive, leading to unfiltered air distributed to internal occupied space. Cleaning the ducts must always be a part of the building’s regular maintenance.
In addition, examine the existing layout of the office to identify the areas that require remodeling. Desks and other furniture must be away from windows and vents. Also, a heat-generating source should not be underneath a thermostat. You can install large windows to encourage natural ventilation and air-filtering indoor plants.
Reducing Air Pollutants in the Workplace
Preserving a satisfactory level of indoor air quality in your building is necessary to reduce health risks and unnecessary revenue loss due to the sick building syndrome. There are several actions that you can undertake to reduce SBS effects. However, the process of controlling air pollutants comes down to these strategies:
1. Identifying the pollutant and its source.
2. Eliminating the source by removing it from the space, isolating it from the occupants, or thoroughly cleaning the contaminated area.
3. Diluting the pollutant and removing it through ventilation.
4. Install air purifiers to help clean the air.
Remember that improving air quality is a shared responsibility. Establish ownership and accountability in the workplace through meetings or training so that everyone is aware of their contribution. Let your employees know that good indoor air quality is pivotal to everyone’s health and that they can highly benefit from breathing clean air inside the workplace.
In case you have any architectural, structural, and MEP design including fire sprinkler design requirements, or need to design your home renovation project including structure, and HVAC design, feel free to contact us. We provide you with the full permit set design + T24 for your request.
Chris Jackson is an experienced Business Development Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the construction industry. He is currently employed by Best Access Doors, an access door supplier in the US and Canada. He has been working for the company for more than 12 years now. His area of expertise is in Negotiation, Roofers, Sales, Project Estimation, and Facility Management (FM)