Author, James Owen, Technical Services Manager
As we begin to take stock of the last 12 months and the impact on society as a whole, one quantifiable positive result of lockdown has been the impact on our climate. Restrictions on air travel and a reduced number of people commuting has led to an improvement in air quality, with IQAir’s 2020 World Air Quality report for 2020 noting a positive change in 84% of countries. Coupled with the fact more of us have been spending time outside, standard of air quality, both outdoors and indoors, and the impact they have on our health is set to become a major focus.
With a wider return to the workplace on the horizon, businesses should be putting air quality at the top of their workplace agenda. We know that poor quality air leads to the spread of germs and infections, while good quality air has the power to boost our mood and energy levels. Improving the quality of air in the office through efficient, up-to-date and technologically advanced mechanical and engineering has the power to improve business productivity but most importantly it works to keep the workforce safe and happy too.
A high supply of oxygen increases levels of alertness, whereas CO2 is responsible for drowsiness and headaches. As humans, we intake oxygen and expel CO2, so the absence of a constant supply of fresh air and good ventilation into the workplace is critical and can create an atmosphere that contributes to tiredness and lethargy.
Controlling levels of moisture in the air is also key. Excess moisture leads to the development of mould which can cause sneezing, red eyes and exacerbates the effects of asthma. Similarly, indoor air that’s too dry can irritate the skin.
Air control is a feature of mechanical and electrical within workplace design that has previously been primarily concerned with energy efficiency. However, hygiene is expected to become more of a focus as people return to their offices. In the past, an efficient way of maintaining good quality air in an office would be via a recirculation of existing air, which may not be so popular as people are more aware of the spread of illnesses.
This is an area where we are working hard to provide reassurance for our clients, by providing air quality solutions that mitigate these concerns. For example, we’re having more conversations about features such as UV filters that emit light to fight and kill germs and odours than we were even one or two years ago.
Our sensory experience within a space is also dependant on the quality of air that is maintained within it. As the workplace becomes a destination space designed to cater for a range of activities, our air quality provisions have to follow suit. Exercising, cooking and socialising within the workplace can harbour smells of food and body odours, which many people find either unpleasant or an unwelcome distraction. Mechanical features that have previously been installed in restaurants or takeaways can now be utilised within the workspace, to extract the aromas we create around our daily working lives, to create a pleasant experience for everyone.
What might come as a real surprise to people living in metropolitan areas is that air quality indoors is often worse that outdoors. In London for example air quality indoors is around three and a half times poorer than the air quality outdoors, and it’s important to continue to research the latest developments in technology to improve this. Bipolar Ionisation has the potential to mitigate or reduce the spread of bacteria or viruses throughout a space as the introduction of electrically charged ions into the air may be able to inactivate infectious particles. Additionally, bio filters that biologically degrade pollutants will become necessity, rather than an optional feature of the workplace.
In our recent project with PARK NOW, we installed CO2 sensors in meeting rooms which monitor levels of CO2 within the space. A fan kick-starts automatically once a certain level of concentration is reached, which is then extracted in order to keep alertness high, and increase feelings of wellbeing and productivity.
An exciting opportunity presents itself as a focus on health and wellbeing takes a centre stage within the workplace. At Peldon Rose, in-house mechanical and electrical experts look forward to creating and welcoming our clients back into spaces that truly offer the best working environment.
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