Building occupants more concerned about indoor air quality

A healthy indoor environment has always been desirable for building occupants, but it’s increasingly become a top concern, according to a recent study by Honeywell. The Building Occupant Survey Report polled 3,000 office building workers across the United States and other countries. Results of those surveyed show that:

  • 82% are more concerned about indoor air quality (IAQ) because of COVID-19 77% agree that indoor air is less healthy to breathe than outdoor air
  • 65% are ready to leave their job if their employer doesn’t take steps to create a healthier indoor environment
  • 55% said it’s important that they be kept informed about the air quality in their building

These results demonstrate the importance that building occupants place on IAQ — to the point where it could become a key factor in where employees choose to work. It also emphasizes how critical it is for building owners and facility managers to take steps to improve the health of their indoor environments and communicate those efforts to building occupants.

Diagnose the health of your indoor environment

How do you know if you have good indoor air quality? The following are some of the leading causes of poor IAQ:

  • Chemical contaminants from indoor sources such as adhesives, carpeting and cleaning agents.
  • Biological contaminants such as bacteria, mold and viruses can breed in ducts or wherever water accumulates.
  • Inadequate ventilation can result in the buildup of contaminants, reducing indoor air quality.

Take complaints about poor IAQ seriously. Walk through the problem area to detect potential problems:

Are there any signs of mold growth or water leaks, such as brown stains on the ceiling? Is carpeting dirty, old or worn? How is it cleaned and how often?

Outside, are fresh air intakes located near dumpsters or other potential sources of pollution?

By asking yourself these and other types of questions, you can identify IAQ problems and take steps to solve them.

How to solve IAQ problems

Every building is different, but the following measures are a good place to start improving your indoor environment.

  • Increase ventilation. ASHRAE recommends minimum air flow rates ranging from 5 to 20 cubic feet per minute (cfm) per person plus 0.06 to 0.18 cfm per square foot, depending on facility type.
  • Ensure airflow. Keep vents free from blockage by furniture or equipment and position partitions or other barriers so they don’t restrict air distribution.
  • Fix leaks. Water accumulating anywhere in your facility can lead to the growth of mold and mildew. If you see signs of mold growth, take steps to eliminate it immediately.
  • Remove pollutants. Clean and replace filters. Vent contaminant source emissions outdoors. Move solvents, cleaning agents and other potential pollutant sources to well- ventilated areas.
  • Clear the air. Use high-performance MERV 13+ air filters. Neutralize or kill contaminants using germicidal irradiation or plasma ion generators.

If problems persist, contact a qualified HVAC professional. Make sure to communicate to employees and other building occupants about your efforts to improve IAQ. That way, you’ll not only have a healthier indoor environment, but happier people as well. If your facility is in need of upgrades to HVAC or other systems, your local electric cooperative offers Power Moves® rebates for qualifying energy efficiency upgrades. Contact your co-op’s energy advisor for details.