Welcome to our monthly snapshot of indoor air quality metrics, where our data experts collaborate with the marketing team to unveil valuable insights into the fluctuation of air quality within open office spaces. Our focus spans Germany and Switzerland, drawing from data we extracted from clients' biophilic office environments.
In our endeavor to promote healthy and conducive working environments, it is essential to emphasize the importance of maintaining indoor air quality within "green" ranges. Through the application of thresholds in indoor air quality (IAQ) monitoring, we strive to ensure that office spaces remain within the optimal conditions for well-being and productivity.
Why monitor Air Indoor Quality?
Keeping an eye on air quality could offer insights into why your team members may be experiencing reduced productivity or seeming less engaged during the autumn months. For instance, in a standard meeting room lacking proper ventilation, the presence of just three individuals can elevate CO2 levels to a point where it begins to affect their cognitive abilities. On a positive note, incorporating plants into your workspace can be a game-changer. Not only do they add a touch of greenery, but they also play a significant role in improving air quality. In fact, our research, detailed in the white paper, indicates that having plants in your working space can potentially lead to a remarkable 50% reduction of CO2, depending on the choice of plants, plant-to-space size ratio (plant density), and space occupancy pattern.
What are important KPIs for Overall Indoor Air quality?
Before we dive into the observation, let us explain important terms that will be repeated throughout this article: temperature, humidity, NO2, CO, CO2, TVOC, Fine Dust (PM2.5), and Ozone.
These 8 data points serve as the foundation for our Health and Wellbeing Support metrics.
The Health Support includes the Respiratory Environment (evaluated through factors like PM2.5, NO2, and CO), Neurological Environment (taking into account factors such as CO2 and ozone levels), Dermatological Environment (connected to elements causing skin irritations), and Cardiovascular Environment (often influenced by PM2.5 and CO).
The Wellbeing Support, on the other hand, involves Thermal Comfort (which incorporates temperature and humidity) and Productivity Support (impacted by factors like CO2, TVOC, O3, and PM2.5 levels). By consistently monitoring these elements, we aim to maintain a secure, healthy, and comfortable indoor environment for employees, ensuring consistent productivity levels month after month.
Figure 1: Explanation of indoor air quality parameters on IAQ Average Success Rates for September
Number of Sensor devices: 755
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
Air Quality Index metric of August: Germany and Switzerland
In the past month, our focus on monitoring indoor air quality in open office spaces across our entire client portfolio (300+ in Switzerland and Germany) has revealed a positive trend in meeting recommended standards for various parameters like CO2, PM2.5, CO, and O3, ranging from 80% to 100% compliance. This trend seems to be preserved in September as well.
The anticipated reduction in the fluctuation of thermal comfort has happened, as we stepped into the colder season, nevertheless overall comfort is not affected, as both the temperature and relative humidity stay within the green zone during the entire monitoring period.
As highlighted by our specialist in Research and Product Development, the levels of TVOC exceeded the recommended limits every now and then during the last month of August. However, with the arrival of autumn, there has been a noticeable adjustment in TVOC levels (Fig. 2). Reiterating from the previous month's report, climatic factors such as air temperature and humidity can influence the level of TVOC, with higher TVOC levels generally observed under higher temperature or humidity conditions. The transition to the cold season seems to have steered TVOC away from the critical zone, presenting a positive shift in our indoor air quality parameters. This adjustment is a promising development, aligning with our ongoing efforts to optimize and maintain a healthy indoor environment.🌿
Figure 2: Comparing IAQ Parameters from August and September
In contrast, NO2 levels present a different scenario as they persist in maintaining critical values. As discussed in the previous month’s report, seasonal fluctuations in NO2 concentration are expected, with the cold season often exhibiting higher levels due to increased heating use, reduced ventilation rates, and elevated outdoor NO2 levels. Assuming that external and internal sources, such as local traffic and combustion sources, remained unchanged during the months of August and September, climatic factors seem to be accounting for the observed pattern in NO2, similar to how they affected TVOC levels too.
Expert Q&A with Erfan Haghighi, Head of R&PD at Oxygen at Work
What is different from the previous month?
As mentioned earlier in the article, the general condition of indoor air quality has seen enhancements over the last month in contrast to August. Notably, improvements in indoor air temperature and TVOC levels are evident, primarily thanks to the shift in seasons with relatively cooler temperatures (still within recommended limits), which has led to a reduction in the generation and emission rates of TVOCs.
What is important to notice?
Given how strongly climatic factors drive indoor air quality patterns (seasonality effect), it is crucial to enhance and/or optimize heating and, especially, natural ventilation practices, as the latter bridges the indoor and outdoor environments. Incorporating efficient insulation methods and utilizing smart technologies for climate control can further contribute to maintaining a healthier indoor environment. Additionally, promoting awareness among occupants about the impact of outdoor conditions on indoor air quality can encourage proactive measures, fostering a more sustainable and comfortable living or working space.
As a takeaway, we want to specify that beyond just presenting raw data, our average observations serve as a showcase of how to interpret and understand the metrics displayed in IAQ dashboards. We believe that by illustrating these insights, we empower individuals and organizations to make informed decisions about their indoor environments.
Written by marketing representative Lala Rud