Few things can sour a day at the office like musty, polluted, or muggy air. The quality of the air we breathe both indoors and outdoors not only impacts our health, but also our mood, cognition, concentration, and productivity. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that most Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors, where the air can be two to five times more polluted than the outside air.
Luckily, some steps can be taken to ensure you and those around you breathe better. Here are a few ways to keep your facility’s airflow quality high.
MANAGE THE SOURCE OF POLLUTANTS, BOTH INDOORS AND OUT
Pollutants can be found in a surprising number of places, infiltrating your indoor spaces in often unexpected ways. Three of the most common causes are:
Adequate maintenance and cleaning procedures can alleviate most biological contaminants. Address water spills immediately, maintain proper humidity and ensure that the HVAC system is working at optimal levels to ventilate the air. This can prevent bacteria, viruses, mold, fungi, dust mites, animal dander, and pollen from wreaking havoc on employees’ health.
Avoid a literal toxic work environment by eliminating the presence of tobacco smoke, vapors from vape pens, emissions from office equipment, and chemicals from cleaning products. Address chemical spills immediately and make sure detectors are in use to alert occupants to the presence of harmful gases, such as carbon monoxide.
Solids or liquids light enough to be suspended in the air can be almost microscopic. A concentration of particles can happen easily during construction and restoration projects, so it’s worth considering temporary containment systems if spaces will be occupied by people during the construction process.
HOW TO EFFECTIVELY IMPROVE INDOOR AIR QUALITY FOR EVERYONE
Several easy-to-implement actions can improve and maintain indoor air quality.
Control the source.
A well-maintained HVAC system with proper filtration and ventilation remains one of the top ways to combat poor air quality. Regularly clean upholstery, carpeting, and all hard surfaces. Also testing the air in spaces with gas-burning appliances or equipment in enclosed areas ensures emissions are not an issue.
Without adequate ventilation, concentrated carbon dioxide levels can make people tired and lethargic. Make sure the HVAC system is appropriately configured for the expected occupancy in each space.
Maintain proper moisture and humidity.
Moisture can be one of the biggest enemies of commercial structures. It can lead to mold, which can thrive and spread if humidity levels are too high. Side effects can include sinus issues for occupants of a building where moisture and humidity exist outside the ideal range of 40-60% relative humidity. Anything below this range allows viruses, such as COVID-19, to linger in the air and survive longer.
Bring in the outside air.
Fresh air plays a key part in the quality of indoor air. Without fresh air circulating through the HVAC system, interior spaces can become stuffy and humid, and odors can develop. By cycling in a minimum of 5-10% of outside air, indoor pollutants are allowed to naturally dilute.
Install and maintain filters.
Install quality filters with the highest Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV) possible. This will trap outdoor pollutants and particles that can be hazardous.
Check thermostats and vents.
Make sure air vents remain free of furniture, equipment, boxes, and other items that could obstruct airflow. Do the same with thermostats. If blocked, thermostats will not accurately determine the temperature of the space, causing the HVAC system to work inefficiently.
Test the air regularly.
Hire an Indoor Air Quality specialist to periodically test the air for proper airflow and ventilation, humidity levels, mold, odor sources, and other potential pollutants that could adversely affect the working environment for you and your tenants.