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August 2023: Office Air Quality Insights

We collect air quality data in our clients' offices across Switzerland and Germany, as part of our ongoing commitment to turning unhealthy workspaces into healthy spaces.

Our internal experts continuously analyze this data to provide you with insights and contrast on important indoor air quality (IAQ) factors. So, as we dive into August's air quality assessment, let's first unravel the main questions.

Why is it important to measure indoor air quality?

The air we breathe is a silent influencer, capable of shaping our health, comfort, and productivity in ways that often evade immediate notice. Poor IAQ can lead to various health issues, including respiratory problems, allergies, and even long-term conditions like asthma. On the other hand, an environment with green plants is shown to reduce fatigue and headaches by 37% and decrease employees' sick leave by up to 60% (more about this in chapter 3 of our white paper). Employees are more likely to perform at their best when they work in a comfortable and healthy environment. And lastly, it's essential to monitor IAQ to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations, especially in workplaces. Read more about how plants help our mental health here 🪴

What is being measured to determine indoor air quality?

We are measuring 9 indoor air parameters (fig. 1), such as temperature, humidity, NO2, CO, CO2, TVOC, Fine Dust (PM2.5), Overall IAQ, and Ozon. Which will be processed into our Health and Wellbeing KPIs. Health support parameters include the Respiratory Environment (measured by parameters like PM2.5, NO2, and CO), Neurological Environment (which considers factors like CO2 and ozone levels), Dermatological Environment (related to factors causing skin irritations), and Cardiovascular Environment (often influenced by PM2.5 and CO).

Wellbeing support parameters include Thermal Comfort (involving temperature and humidity measurements) and Productivity Support (which can be affected by factors like CO2 and TVOC, O3, and PM2.5 levels). Monitoring these parameters helps ensure a safe, healthy, and comfortable indoor environment for employees and manages to stay on the same productivity level from month to month.

Overal Indoor air quality consists of such parameters: Health Support and Wellbeing Support. Health support includes Respiratory, Neurological, Dermatological, and Cardiovascular environment. Wellbeing support includes Thermal control and Productivity support
Figure 1: Explanation of indoor air quality parameters

Data foundation

Number of Sensor Devices: 710

Air Parameters: CO2, Humidity, Temperature, NO2, Fine Dust, TVOC, Ozone, CO, Overall IAQ.

KPI Parameters: Health Score, Wellbeing Score, Safety Score

Filters applied: From Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. excluding lunch, Open Office Spaces

Colors and their meaning

Expert Q&A with Erfan Haghighi, Head of R&PD at Oxygen at Work

What is different from the previous month?

I've noticed similar observations to those reported in July. The positive aspect is that our continuous monitoring of indoor air quality parameters consistently shows an encouraging trend, with most parameters, such as CO2, PM2.5, CO, and O3, meeting recommended standards at a rate of 80% to 100% (fig. 2). Nevertheless, as in the previous month's report, we occasionally observed temperature, TVOC, and NO2 levels exceeding the desired limits. This highlights the need for specific interventions in these areas to maintain consistently optimal indoor air quality.

What does it mean then?

We anticipate that temperature fluctuations occasionally exceeding the recommended standard (approximately 15% of the time) will become less common as we transition into the colder season. Nevertheless, this underscores the importance of paying closer attention to and potentially making adjustments to our climate control measures, especially when the weather gets warmer. On the other hand, the persistently elevated levels of TVOC and NO2, exceeding the recommended limits (occurring approximately 20% of the monitoring period), demand focused strategies, such as optimal ventilation practices and source control, to consistently achieve optimal conditions.

What are the potential root causes for critical values in nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds?

Indoor NO2 levels, influenced by both indoor and outdoor sources, are significantly impacted by elevated outdoor concentrations, primarily originating from local traffic and combustion sources. Factors like traffic density and proximity to roadways play a crucial role in this regard. Moreover, the infiltration of NO2 through attached garages is a pertinent consideration. Additionally, NO2 can also be generated as a byproduct of other indoor air pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in cleaning products, paints, and solvents, particularly when they undergo reactions with ozone present in the indoor environment. Seasonal fluctuations in NO2 concentration are expected, with winter months often exhibiting higher levels due to increased heating use, reduced ventilation rates, and elevated outdoor NO2 levels.

Graph to see Air parameters in August inside the office
Figure 2: Productivity support, Dermatological environment

Indoor TVOC levels can be influenced by a number of factors, including the type of building materials and furnishings, the activities that take place in the built environment, and the climate. For example, carpets and furniture made with synthetic materials emit more TVOC than those made with natural materials. Cooking, smoking, and using cleaning products can also release TVOC into the air. Additionally, air temperature and humidity can also affect the level of TVOC, with higher TVOC levels generally observed under higher temperature or humidity levels. The combination of high temperature and high humidity (like the past two months) can have a synergistic effect, meaning that the level of TVOC can be even higher than the sum of the effects of temperature and humidity alone.

What is important for our clients?

The good news is that a significant portion of the monitored duration demonstrated positive outcomes in terms of indoor air quality. More importantly, the elevated levels of TVOC and NO2 (occurring approximately 20% of the monitoring period) didn't have any adverse effects on the health and well-being metrics. The rating tools we have developed, in accordance with national and international standards such as ISO 7730, EN 15251, and ASHRAE 62.1, have been designed to be more pragmatic than the standards (read more about specific to Switzerland standards). They enable adaptive alerts and alarms to ensure the health and comfort of occupants. Our health and well-being metrics specifically take into account not only the concentration level and its deviation from the recommended threshold but also the exposure time, as well as other factors when interpreting the health consequences.

Dr. Erfan Haghighi, Head of R&PD invited to contact us, we want to collaborate with scientist and share data with them.

In wrapping up, let's stay engaged and keep a close eye on the situation with TVOC and NO2 levels. Remember, meanwhile, we invite you to explore the solution: the benefits of green plants in boosting air quality. By embracing more greenery in our surroundings and staying committed to monitoring air quality, we can not only prevent any further increase in pollutants but also nurture a healthier, cleaner environment for everyone.

The keys were pressed by a marketing representative: Lala Rud


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