How to Test and Improve Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in Your Building

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Indoor air quality (IAQ) is an important part of creating a healthy and productive workspace. When indoor air is polluted, it can create several negative effects on people who spend time in that space.

Poor IAQ can cause irritation of the nose, throat, and eyes, as well as headaches, difficulties breathing, dizziness, nausea and a general feeling of sickness. Some studies have shown that there is a correlation between poor indoor air quality and low employee productivity.

To test your building’s IAQ, you need to analyse various elements present in the indoor environment. Although there are various ways to test your building’s IAQ so that you can determine what adjustments need to be made, not all are created equal.

This article will explain the contributing factors or poor indoor air quality and how you can test your IAQ so that you can make necessary changes for a safer, more productive workplace.

 

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Why is indoor air quality important?

The air inside your building is just as important as the air outside it. Air is the medium through which many pollutants are spread, so it is extremely important to test and monitor air quality to ensure a safe and healthy environment for your employees and building occupants.

If you are not testing your building’s IAQ and making adjustments as necessary, you could be putting yourself and your other people at risk.

The effects of poor indoor air quality on people’s health could range from discomfort to serious health problems, and if people are experiencing health issues such as difficulty breathing, nausea, and headaches as a result of poor air quality, it could be having a significant impact on your business. 

Employees who are experiencing symptoms of poor air quality may not be operating at full capacity which could lead to missed deadlines, lower quality work and an increased risk of injury or sickness. All of these factors can impact your bottom line but, above all, the health and wellbeing of your employees.

Also, an often overlooked point is that guests who are in a building with poor air quality might decide not to come back. As such, indoor air quality is an important part of creating a healthy and productive workspace.

While HSE states that the source of fresh air supply should not be contaminated by external sources, like traffic and industrial processes, it goes a lot deeper than that.

 

indoor air quality
Poor indoor air quality is known to cause drowsiness, headaches and other symptoms.

 

What can you do to improve indoor air quality?

The first step towards improving the air quality in your building is to understand the factors that affect it. Here are the main components of indoor air quality and what you can do to improve them:

Source control: Source control is the best way to reduce pollution. Simply put, it involves identifying and eliminating the pollution and pollutants at the source. Common sources of pollution in indoor environments include dust mites, bacteria, fungi, viruses, chemicals, as well as pests and vermin. Chemical pollutants could also come from within the building itself, like fabrics and furnishings which gradually release gases and vapours; this is called “offgassing”.

Ventilation: Another way to improve air quality is through ventilation, which is part of all HVAC systems. Ventilation systems remove stale or polluted air and replace it with fresh air. This helps to reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the indoor environment, along with other airborne pollutants. 

Filters: While ventilation helps to get dirty air out, filters help to keep dust and other pollutants in the air from re-entering the space. Filters are especially important in commercial buildings because they can help to reduce bacteria and viruses, too. 

Humidity: Humidity levels in indoor environments can be controlled by installing a humidifier or dehumidifier. Humidity levels in a building should be between 40% and 70% according to HSE. 

Temperature: Temperature is also a factor that affects air quality. For example, bacteria and fungi thrive at temperatures above 20 degrees celsius. Also, people are more likely to get sick if they are working in an uncomfortably warm building. For these reasons, it is important to control indoor temperatures.

 

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How to measure humidity and temperature

Measuring humidity and temperature levels in your building can be done with a hygrometer or thermometer. If you are testing humidity levels, you will need a hygrometer. Hygrometers measure the amount of water vapour in the air. To test your building’s humidity levels, place a hygrometer in a visible place in your building.

If you are testing temperature, you will need a thermometer. There are many different types of thermometers, so be sure to choose one that is appropriate for indoor environments. Some thermometers that measure air temperature are not great at assessing thermal comfort as there are a range of considerations to make, such as humidity, activity, personal preference and lighting. However, to identify a reasonable temperature, you can always follow HSE guidance.

 

How to monitor CO2

Another important factor in air quality is CO2 levels. Carbon Dioxide or CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It is natural and can be completely harmless…in small quantities. As levels of CO2 rise it can affect sleep and productivity. It’s a natural byproduct of human and animal metabolism, most commonly produced when we exhale, but indoors its levels can concentrate, especially in spaces with minimal ventilation.

Levels of CO2 in a building can be monitored to provide feedback on how efficiently your ventilation system is working. To measure CO2 levels, you can use a CO2 meter or a CO2 sensor. These devices measure CO2 levels by detecting changes in gas concentration or measuring CO2 levels directly. Some sensors are generally more accurate than simple meters, but they are more expensive because of this. 

 

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What are indoor air quality sensors?

Ultimately, the best way to test your building’s air quality, and all the things we’ve discussed above, is to use an air quality sensor. Air quality sensors are devices that scan the air to determine whether it is healthy.

There are many different types of air quality sensors, some just for a single pollutant, others that measure a range of things, like humidity, particulates, temperature, lighting and so on.

The type of sensor that you choose depends on what you are trying to monitor, and your goal for monitoring your indoor air quality in the first place. If you want to find the best air quality sensors, you should consult with an indoor air quality professional. 

With air quality sensors, it’s easy to monitor indoor air quality on a consistent basis, enabling you to identify problems early on and make adjustments before they become serious issues for you, your staff and your business. All in all, air quality sensors are the best way to test your building’s indoor air quality.

 

It’s time to improve your indoor air quality

Indoor air quality is vital for creating a healthy and productive workspace. Indoor air pollution can have serious detrimental effects on the health and wellbeing of all your building occupants. The best way to improve your indoor air quality is by installing air quality sensors, measuring and testing, and then making improvements to your indoor environment.

Healthy buildings create healthy employees, so don’t delay any longer. See how Beringar can help you improve your indoor air quality. 

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Mark Sorsa-Leslie

A Chartered Surveyor with a passion for technology. Developed a range of computer applications to support my work in real estate in the UK and 5 business start-ups so far. Over the last 25 years I have developed solutions ranging from eLearning platforms to IoT sensors and have been the bridge between business people and technology people throughout my career.

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