Five reasons to keep an eye on indoor air quality

Ergonomic office furniture, friendly colors, good sound, heat insulation, and balanced lighting conditions are always considered in a modern office workplace. One factor that is often overlooked when improving working conditions: Air Quality.

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Indoor Air Quality: What can be measured in the air?
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Bright rooms, friendly colors, ergonomic furniture. What about the quality of the air in office spaces?

The fact that office furnishings have a direct influence on people's well-being and consequently on their performance and economic success has been known for years.

More and more companies and institutions are focusing their attention on optimizing office equipment. Ergonomic office furniture, friendly colors, good lighting, perfect sound, and heat insulation are considered standard in modern companies.

One factor is often neglected in workplace design: Indoor Air. If you want to be sure, you have to measure the indoor air quality.

The influence of indoor air on health, performance, and well-being

Indoor air is already there when we enter a room. It surrounds us so naturally that we hardly give it a second thought. The perception changes when the "thick air" becomes noticeable or the first complaints arise.

Especially after moving into newly renovated rooms, office workers often complain of headaches or irritation of the mucous membranes and eyes. The symptoms do not always occur equally in all colleagues.

The complaints are unspecific and are not infrequently dismissed as a feeling of being unwell. Consider the quality of the room air as a cause for complaints. A room air measurement provides certainty.

1. Measure indoor air quality. Detect health risks.

Air quality results from the interaction and effects of chemical and biological substances in the air. It is influenced by the natural air supply through windows or by the supplied air from ventilation and air conditioning systems.

The number and behavior of employees also impact air quality. Substances released into the air by equipment such as computers, printers, and photocopiers are not insignificant, as are evaporations from furniture, floor coverings and wall paints.

Carbon dioxide and the tiny pollutant particles in indoor air are invisible. Scientific studies have been able to identify more than forty different substances when measuring the indoor air in ordinary offices.

2. Measure indoor air quality. Preventing illness.

When absenteeism due to sick leave increases and productivity decreases, indoor air quality may be a reason.

Indoor air problems and health effects

  • Dry indoor air: reddened eyes, dry skin, irritation of mucous membranes

  • Humid indoor air: increased sweating, breathing problems

  • Unpleasant odours: nausea, discomfort

  • High carbon dioxide content: fatigue, decrease in efficiency

  • Formaldehyde: respiratory diseases, irritation of mucous membranes

  • Mold spores: Allergies

  • Dust mites: allergies, asthma

  • Fine dust: respiratory diseases, lung cancer

  • Radon: lung cancer

  • Other air pollutants: allergic reactions, headaches, fatigue

With the help of a qualified analysis of the indoor air, you can get to the bottom of the causes of the complaints of your employees and reduce stress. Only those who know the causes can take effective remedial action.

3. Measure indoor air quality. Increase productivity.

Modern companies invest a lot in motivating their employees. Bonus payments, the provision of company cars, company health management, exciting team events, and more are on the agenda.

Forward-thinking company owners know that how much employees enjoy coming to the office also determines the success of the company.

Well-being in the workplace is inextricably linked to the indoor climate, odours and pollutants in the air.

Employees who complain of headaches and fatigue as early as midday will produce few creative ideas. If sick notes are piling up and managers notice a decrease in the team's performance, a room air analysis can provide the solution.

4. Measuring indoor air quality. Keeping an eye on oxygen concentration

People need oxygen to live. While the inhaled air has an oxygen content of about 21 percent, the exhaled air still contains 16 percent.

As soon as the oxygen content in closed rooms drops below 17 percent, the first signs of fatigue appear. The ability to concentrate on tricky questions and to think logically decreases. The error rate increases.

Lower oxygen concentrations cause headaches, nausea and dizziness.

Anyone who leaves the building after a day's work in a poorly ventilated office suddenly feels liberated in the fresh air. However, it is usually not the lack of oxygen but the excess of carbon dioxide that is the cause of the discomfort.

5. Measure indoor air quality. Avoid dangerous carbon dioxide concentrations.

Carbon dioxide, a colorless and odorless gas, is a natural component of indoor air in small quantities. Without this gas, there would be no living creatures on earth, because it forms the basis for photosynthesis in plants.

At the same time, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. In high concentrations, it contributes to rising temperatures and global warming.

Indoors, the CO2 concentration depends mainly on the following factors:

  • Number of people in the room

  • Activity of the people

  • Physical exertion

  • Length of stay

  • Room size

  • Air supply from outside

By the way, smoking indoors massively increases the CO2 content.

Why CO2 sensors alone are not enough

CO2 sensors monitor the concentration of carbon dioxide in rooms depending on other parameters. Nevertheless, they must always be combined with other measurement data in order to actually assess the room air in a reliable way.

Learn more
Why CO2 sensors alone are not enough

Representation of the carbon dioxide content

The concentration of carbon dioxide in indoor air is represented by the unit of measurement ppm (parts per million). The European standard EN 13779 specifies criteria for the evaluation of air quality:

  • Below 400 ppm: high indoor air quality

  • 400 to 600 ppm: medium indoor air quality

  • 600 to 1000 ppm: moderate indoor air quality

  • Above 1000 ppm: low indoor air quality

The use of indoor spaces with a carbon dioxide content of 2000 ppm is no longer considered acceptable from a health point of view.

How is CO2 produced?

CO2 is released naturally through human respiration. Employees in offices exhale about 18 to 20 litres of air per hour while sitting.

The carbon dioxide content of the room air increases considerably as a result. An adult excretes as much CO2 per day with the air he or she breathes as a small car does when driving a ten-kilometer route.

Investigations by the Institute for Occupational Medicine of the Employer's Liability Insurance Association have determined average CO2 concentrations of 780 ppm in offices. 1000 ppm, the so-called Pettenkofer number, is considered the upper limit for the carbon dioxide content of indoor air. Starting above this value, sensitive people can experience health complaints such as

  • Tiredness

  • Lack of concentration

  • Headache

  • Indisposition

  • Nausea

Indoor spaces with increased carbon dioxide concentration contain more aerosols and germs than fresh indoor air. This increases the risk of contracting influenza or covid-19, for example.

Carbon dioxide is invisible. Especially in rooms where many people work, it is important to measure the CO2 content of the air and to optimize the ventilation.

Conclusion

On average, people spend about 90% of a day indoors. Reason enough to pay more attention to the indoor air that surrounds us in our homes, at work, at school, at events or in our vehicles.

Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate, is the motto.

If you want to be sure, you can measure and analyse the quality of the room air with intelligent sensors. AIRICA supports you with its indoor air quality sensors and feedback devices to create an all-round healthy working environment.