Indoor air quality is an issue that is more and more concerning everyone of us. The link between what we breathe and its consequences on our health is now a tangible reality for each and every one of us.
How then monitoring and improving this IAQ inside offices and work spaces, where we spend on average a third part of our day?
The air is much more polluted indoors than outdoors
We are breathing an average quantity of 15,000 litres of air per day, and spend 90% of our time inside, among the office, transports and home. According to the World Health Organization, indoor air is 8 times more polluted than outdoors.
This can be explained by a lack of aeration or regular ventilation, which lead to a higher concentration of pollutants.
According to a study conducted by the Purdue University in 2019, this rate would be much higher for office employees working in open-plan work spaces. They would be breathing an air 10 to 20 times more polluted indoors than outdoor.
What is the current regulation about IAQ in offices?
- Maintain a minimal volume of air,
- Guarantee a renewal rate of 25m3/hour/individual
The article divides the premises into three categories, whose measures differ accordingly:
- Premises with “non-specific pollution”, that is to say premises where air pollution is only due to human presence,
- Sanitary premises,
- Premises with specific indoor pollution where the air can be contaminated by dangerous substances for the health, through different types (gases, steam, solid or liquid airborne).
Offices and open-plan work spaces are considered as premises with non-specific pollution. The law enforces the companies to be equipped with a manual or mechanical ventilation system, in permanent use.
As for dust, the French law establishes a maximum inhalation rate of 10mg/m3/person, for an average working day of 8 hours. This rate is of 5 mg/m3 for respirable dust fractions (that can enter the pulmonary tract and reach alveoli).
What’s more, organisms such as WHO, the ANSES (The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety) or the French Public Health Council give recommendations (called guidelines), which establish rates by pollutant type. Finally, during this current period of sanitary crisis (Covid-19), a national protocol was established in September 2020, regarding the return to the work place, and imposes additional instructions about air quality within the company.
What are the different sources of pollution on the work place?
Air pollutants can be divided into three categories: particles, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and microorganisms (viruses and bacteria). These categories are explained in further detail in this article.
In a company, these are the pollutants most likely to be found:
- Particles: dust (which can be moved over by ventilation, heating or cooling systems), pollen, hair, etc.
- VOCs and gases: they are emitted by the materials used at the time of the building construction. These can indeed keep on polluting the air many years afterwards. Among them, we usually find formaldehyde and benzene.
Furniture and office equipment are a source of VOC emission too, especially printer inks (hydrocarbon), or combustion devices (heating system, etc.). Finally, employees themselves can release some VOCs, by their living habits, such as wearing perfume, or using cosmetic or care products.
If smoking areas are proximate to the doors and windows, smoke particles can easily be found into the ambient air, just like the use of home fragrances can cause higher air pollution as well.
- Microorganisms: in a company premises, pathogens can come from a high humidity rate, or from an ill colleague for instance.
Finally, outdoor air can bring some other sources of pollution, because it enters the building, when opening windows for example. According to the environment in which are located the company premises, outdoor air can be more or less loaded with pollutants. Indeed, it will be much more polluted if the premises are located next to an industrial or agricultural area, an airport, main traffic roads, construction sites, etc.
The issue of coworking and open-plan work spaces, or meeting rooms and other shared areas is as follows: the higher the human concentration (number of people), the higher air pollution and CO2 rates too.
How to measure indoor air quality in offices?
To know the IAQ index in real time conditions, especially the CO2 carbon dioxide and/or pollutants concentration within a room, and thus ensure that you are respecting the rates, some measuring instruments exist.
What are the impacts of a poor air quality in offices?
Poor air quality in offices and open-plan work spaces will cause issues, both for the employees’ health and for the companies, from an economical point of view.
An air loaded with pollutants can cause many risks on the employees’ health. The most frequent ones will be a lack of concentration, fatigue, headaches, but also a higher dryness on the mucous membranes, or could cause irritations on the respiratory tract.
Moreover, for the people who are sensitive to this subject, poor indoor air quality could end up causing allergic, respiratory, ocular or rheumatologic pathologies.
The importance of the “aerating, ventilating, purifying” triptych
Aeration (also called manual ventilation), has numerous benefits. It renews the air and dilutes the concentration of certain pollutants, especially the chemical ones, within indoor air.
However, aerating to renew the air is not always possible in a company, because some offices have no windows, or these are locked, in order for the companies to respect technical, economical or safety standards. It is especially the case for office buildings.
Concerning aeration means, most of the buildings are equipped with a controlled mechanical ventilation system, with single or double flow. This one aims at removing indoor air to release it outdoors, while renewing the air of the room with air coming from outside.
The main benefits of ventilation are the dilution of pollutants, the reduction of the humidity rate, and the decrease of the CO2 concentration.
However, there are some drawbacks in the action of mechanical ventilation, that need to be pointed out:
- Its renewal efficacy increases according to its speed, meaning that a high airflow will also increase energy consumption. Same thing if outdoor air is cooler than indoors, the heating system will compensate the temperature gap by heating more.
- As they are, in most cases, situated on the building ceilings, ventilation systems are little effective against particles. Indeed, if some of them are suspended in the air, most are much closer to the floor. However, very few ventilation systems are equipped with a particle filter. What’s more, they have no action against viruses and bacteria
As for heating and/or cooling systems, which provide thermal comfort to the employees, they can however create some issues regarding air quality, and foster the increase of the pollution rate inside work spaces.
The cooling system can also bring more pollutant volatility (pollen, dust). In addition, cool air makes viral particles more persistent.
To sum up, a good ventilation system is essential in the work place, because it reduces the CO2 rate in indoor air and dilutes the pollutants. However, it is not efficient enough to remove them. This is why air purification acts as an additional solution. It completes the “aerating, ventilating, purifying” triptych.
How will a professional air purifier clean indoor air?
The professional air purifier resolves the different issues caused by ventilation. When installing the controlled mechanical ventilation system, this one is set up to renew the air according to the number of persons who occupy the room in general, in order to maintain a rate which complies with the regulation.
However, this number can easily increase and exceed the capacity which has initially been planned, especially in meeting rooms and other frequented areas (such as reception, break room, canteen, etc.).
The action of the ventilation system will thus be insufficient, unlike an indoor air purifier such as EOLIS Air Manager. It automatically adapts its operating speed according to the indoor air pollution degree, regardless of the number of people there is inside the same room.
A professional air purifier will not have any impact on the temperature nor the humidity rate of the room, unlike heating and cooling systems. When drying the air, these ones can cause discomfort for people (dryness of mucous and eyes).
What are the benefits of a professional air purifier in work places?
For employees, working in an environment where the air is pure participates in improving their quality of work life (QWL), as it has a direct impact on their comfort and wellbeing inside the company. Indeed, they will benefit from higher concentration and will be more performant, what will reduce sick leave.
The REHVA study, Guidebook: Indoor Climate and Productivity in Offices states short-term sick leaves decrease by 10% when there are half as much pollutants in the air. Moreover, a better air quality leads to an 11% increase of the productivity rate, according to the French Ministry of Health and Solidarity.
Equipping its premises with professional air purifiers can also be used in your CSR approach. Healthy air indeed is a key lever for employee satisfaction.
EOLIS Air Manager completely responds to this strategy, has it is eco-designed, 100% made in France and its safety has been proven.
An additional health reassurance issue during the Covid-19 crisis
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the issues related to air quality have taken a new turn: IAQ diagnostic, IAQ monitoring… becoming a major employees’ preoccupation in the context of the continuity of the economic activity.
Some professions require to be physically present in the work place, because working from home is not always possible, or sometimes, it is not at all. This can particularly be true for the production, technical, administration, sales, accountability, or management and executive departments.
The Institut Pasteur conducted a study on the major places of infection with SARS-CoV-2. It reveals that among infections outside households (that is to say 65% of infections where the person considered to be the source was known), 29% are happening on the work place. The study also states “shared offices were also a major cause of infections in the work place”.
A professional air purifier will protect your employees’ health, as well as your potential visitors (partners, suppliers, clients, hiring interviews).
EOLIS Air Manager is the only professional air purifier whose efficacy has been tested and proven against coronaviruses, at 99.6%. The device could get these results thanks to its medical-grade HEPA filter, developed to purify the air in any environment. A French independent laboratory carried out the tests.
In addition to barrier measures (wearing a mask, applying physical distancing, washing hands regularly), EOLIS Air Manager reduces the virus propagation in the air, by catching and destroying it thanks to its exclusive filtration system.
It thus responds to the employees’ preoccupations, who fear the virus transmission on their work place, but also to bring it back home.
Equipping your premises with EOLIS Air Manager is a long-term investment, that will help you look with higher serenity towards the continuity of your economic activity and your staff returning to the office.