Spending more time indoors, whether you’re working in an office, warehouse, or any other business setting, the quality of the air can have a significant impact. Most people don’t think much past how a room smells or if the environment is comfortable when it comes to air quality. However, the air you are breathing can have a significant impact on your overall health and the health of all building occupants. In this article, we will go over tips to help improve indoor air quality for your business.
Why Is Air Quality for Your Business Important?
Indoor air quality is essential for everyone. Including companies, building managers, renters, and workers since it can affect building occupants’ health, productivity, and comfort.
In the United States, the majority of people spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. However, according to studies undertaken by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor settings can have higher pollution levels than those found outdoors.
High levels of indoor pollutants can increase our chances of being sick. Several studies conducted by the EPA and independent scientific committees have repeatedly identified indoor air pollution as a significant environmental health issue. While most buildings do not have significant indoor air quality issues, even well-managed buildings can occasionally have periods of poor indoor air quality.
According to an EPA report to Congress, better indoor air quality can increase productivity and reduce missed workdays. On the other hand, according to the EPA, poor indoor air quality costs the country billions annually in the loss of productivity and medical care.
Indoor Air Quality Factors
Unlike a desk or a leaking faucet, the quality of indoor air is a concept that cannot be easily defined. Instead, a dynamic interplay of multiple elements influences the kinds, amounts, and significance of pollutants indoors. These elements include pollution or odor sources, building ventilation system design, maintenance, operation; humidity; and perceptions of occupants. Furthermore, several additional elements influence the comfort or impression of the quality of indoor air.
Controlling the quality of indoor air requires three significant measures. The first step is to manage the sources of the pollution by removing them or separating them with physical barriers, air pressure relationships, or managing the schedule of their usage.
- Use ventilation to dilute contaminants and remove them from the building.
- Utilize filtering to remove contaminants from the air.
Pollutant Source Management, both Inside and Outside the Building
Pollutants can come from the exterior and interior sources, such as building maintenance, housekeeping, construction, pest control, new furniture, and activities from building occupants.
The most crucial goal of any program to improve indoor air quality is reducing exposure to air pollutants. Some of the significant contaminant categories are as follows:
Contaminants of Biological Origin
Excessive amounts of animal dander, bacteria, dust mite allergens, bacteria, molds, pollen, and viruses occur because of poor building maintenance, condensation, housekeeping, high or low humidity levels, standing water, or spills. Additionally, occupants and air ventilation can carry contaminants into a building. These indoor pollutants cause allergic reactions and trigger asthma attacks in an estimated 15 million Americans.
Chemical Pollutants That Impact Indoor Air Quality
Some examples of chemical pollutants include tobacco smoke, building product emissions, such as office equipment, floor, wall coverings, cleaning supplies, accidental chemical spills, and gases such as nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, which are byproducts of combustion, are all sources of chemical pollutants.
Particles are solid or liquid substances that are light enough to float in the air. The biggest of which can be seen in sunlight flowing into a room. On the other hand, smaller particles that cannot be seen are more likely to be hazardous to your health. For example, dust particles or other airborne particulates may be pulled into the building from the outside. They can also be created by building operations such as sanding drywall or wood, copying, printing, running machinery, and smoking.
A variety of variables determine how indoor air pollution affects residents. Some pollutants, such as radon, cause severe or even life-threatening diseases, like cancer, if the exposure is for a prolonged amount of time or high levels of pollution. Other pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, can kill within minutes. Some contaminants can harm your health in both the short and long term. For example, long-term exposure to tobacco smoke can lead to lung cancer. In contrast, short-term contact can cause discomfort and substantial respiratory issues in some people, notably small children.
When exposed to the same toxins at equal doses, people might respond significantly differently. Some people, for example, can suffer severe allergic responses to biological pollutants, while others do not. Similarly, even modest amounts of chemical exposure may irritate some individuals while others do not react. Exposure to things like cigarette smoke, fumes, or particles from other indoor pollution sources may induce more severe responses in those with asthma and other pre-existing diseases than in others.
Humidity and moisture
Controlling moisture and humidity is critical. If a building has high levels of moisture, mold and other pollutants can rapidly grow. Additionally, failing to dry materials that are water-damaged or correctly and maintaining equipment with water drain pans or reservoirs contributes to the formation and spread of harmful biological contaminants. On the other hand, low humidity levels may lead to dry eyes, sinus pain, and irritated mucous membranes.
Building Ventilation Systems – Design, Maintenance, and Operation
Maintaining or improving indoor air quality necessitates quality maintenance of a building’s heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) system, the architecture and design of the space, and pollutant source control. HVAC systems encompass all equipment required to heat, cool, and ventilate the building, circulate air about the structure, and filter and clean the air. These systems have the potential to significantly influence how contaminants are dispersed and eliminated. However, HVAC systems can also pollute in some situations, such as when air filters become clogged with dirt and moisture or when microbiological growth occurs due to unmanaged moisture inside air ducts. Because of the significance of the HVAC system, proper indoor air quality management entails paying attention to:
Design of a ventilation system
The air delivery capacity of an HVAC system is determined in part by the equipment in the building and the maximum capacity of people the building can hold. Therefore, when portions of a building are utilized in a way they were not designed for, the HVAC system will most likely require modifications to accommodate these changes. For example, if a facility designed for storage is transformed into a space for people, the HVAC system may need to be modified to provide more filtered air.
Air supplied from the outside
In any office setting, an adequate amount of outside air generally provided through the HVAC system is required to neutralize the pollutants emitted by equipment, building materials, furniture, goods, and people. Comfort is dependent on the distribution of ventilation air to inhabited places.
When external air pollutants such as pollen, dust, and carbon monoxide are present, they can impact indoor air conditions if they come in through the building’s ventilation system. Many of the particles in this external air supply may be trapped by highly efficient filtration products. However, more advanced filtering equipment may be necessary to control chemical or gaseous contaminants.
Planning your space
The placement and use of office equipment and furniture can impact the amount of air delivered to an inhabited room. For example, placing equipment that generates heat, such as a computer, beneath a thermostat may trigger the HVAC system to cool the air because the thermostat detects that the area is too warm. Partitions and furniture obstructing air registers can also impact indoor air quality and must be considered for airflow.
Maintenance of Equipment
It is essential to meticulously maintain HVAC equipment to ensure air is being properly distributed through the building and to ensure high-quality air. Preventative maintenance procedures are in place in all well-managed facilities to assist in maintaining the correct operation of heating and cooling systems.
Pollutants can travel throughout a building by moving through spaces like elevator shafts, stairwells, and voids in walls. As a result, special ventilation or other control techniques may be necessary.
Factors Influencing Productivity and Comfort of Occupants
Aside from the elements that directly affect the number of pollutants people are exposed to, various environmental and human factors can influence how individuals perceive air quality.
- Bad odors
- The temperature is too cold or hot
- Airflow and velocity – stuffy or drafty
- Glare or heat from sunlight
- Glare from overhead lights
- Overcrowding of furniture
- Workplace or household stress
- Workplace ergonomics
- Noise and vibration levels
- Office equipment selection, placement, and use
Activities that Everyone in the Building Can Participate In
The tenants of a building as a whole have a significant impact on the indoor air quality. Daily activities that we take for granted, such as using a microwave or a copy machine, can produce foul odors and contaminants. Occupants can assist in the prevention of issues by being aware of air quality and taking steps to improve indoor air quality. Below are some actions you can take:
- Do not obstruct any air vent returns to avoid unbalancing the HVAC system or interfering with the ventilation of an adjacent office. Airflow may be affected by any object near a supply vent or air return. Follow the protocols at your workplace to contact building maintenance if your space becomes too cold, too cold, drafty, or stuffy.
- Follow building policies regarding smoking and only smoke in designated places.
- Clean up any water spills as soon as possible, and report water leaks immediately. Water provides an ideal habitat for mold, fungus, and other microorganisms to grow. Some of these bacteria might create health concerns if they get airborne.
- Throw garbage away in a timely and proper manner. Occupants should dispose of garbage in proper containers that are emptied each day to avoid smells and biological contamination.
- Never keep perishable foods in your workplace or on shelves, and store food in proper containers. Also, it is a good idea to clean refrigerators regularly to avoid foul odors from food left too long. Finally, keep kitchens and eating spaces clean and sanitized as needed to avoid pests and preserve hygiene.
- If you suspect an indoor air quality problem, notify your building or facility management right away. This assists management in swiftly determining the source of the issue so that a timely remedy may be established.
The good news is that many common indoor air quality issues can be prevented or easily fixed. By maintaining good indoor air quality practices, being diligent in taking proper care of HVAC equipment, and using high-quality commercial filters, you’re headed in the right direction to improve indoor air quality for your business. We hope you found this article helpful! At Filti we are dedicated to providing quality filtration products that improve indoor air quality. For more information on Filti and our products, contact us today!