Work is increasingly playing a central role in our lives, and as a result we are spending more time at the office than ever. Many people would be surprised to see just how much work goes into maintaining a healthy working environment, especially when it comes to HVAC systems and indoor air quality.
A recent Wall Street Journal article reveals how environmental sensors have grown in sophistication and availability. These are tools that building managers and owners can use to get real-time data on the air quality of their building. The rise of these sensors can lead to cleaner, healthier and more productive workplaces in the future, but for the time being, they’ve revealed just how dirty the air in our office buildings can be.
Even a 670-square-foot office with only 15 employees – a fairly small office by most standards – can achieve CO2 levels around 1,000 parts per million (ppm) in less than 8 hours. This is more than 2.5 times the CO2 levels in the atmosphere, and high enough to cause a 15% decrease in cognitive performance of workers. Conference rooms and meeting rooms can get even worse. Often, conference rooms that are frequently used can reach 3,000 ppm – a major drain on productivity.
This problem is only made worse by the fact that volatile organic compounds, emitted from furniture and carpets, combine with CO2 to create an environment that can potentially make workers even more tired and unproductive. Plus, in many major cities, opening the window is not an option as too much toxic smog would be let into the office.
The solution could be HVAC systems that respond to CO2 levels as well as airborne particulate matter to keep indoor air quality at its purest. These systems would work by pumping in fresh air while filtering out pollutants in a dynamic, responsive way.
The WSJ article notes how this HVAC system is remarkably similar to ones used on spaceships – where people are trapped for years and years in the same place.
You can read the rest of the WSJ article to learn more about the what the latest environmental sensors are finding in our office buildings, “Why Office Buildings Should Run Like Spaceships.”