Breathe life into your office design
Air quality is crucial to our health. Yet according to the International WELL Building Institute, air pollution is the number one environmental cause of premature mortality. It contributes to 50,000 premature deaths annually in the United States and approximately 7 million, or one in eight premature deaths worldwide.
Given how much time we all spend in offices, it pays to think about improvements that can be made to internal air quality through effective office design. If employees breathe in contaminated air, they potentially increase their risk for health problems such as asthma, allergies and other upper respiratory illnesses. Evoke Projects looks at the new WELL Building Standard and offers some tips for improving air quality during your next office fit-out or office refurbishment project.
How do office designs affect air quality?
By-products from building materials used during an office fit-out or office refurbishment can have an impact. For example, volatile organic compounds (such as formaldehyde) can be emitted from furniture, flooring and carpets. If you ask for material safety data sheets, you will be better informed of any air quality risks.
Contaminated work areas from chemicals or unsanitary practices will affect air quality. Bear in mind that printers and photocopiers use chemicals, so it’s not just ‘industrial’ workplaces that can have chemicals in the air.
Indoor air is also affected by outdoor pollution. The International WELL Building Institute tells us that even distant sources of pollution can have a huge impact on the more than 15,000 litres of air we breathe every day. This is because ambient air diffuses easily.
Measuring air quality
It is impossible to eliminate all sources of air contamination, and it is difficult to measure all potential contaminants. The WELL Building Standard recommends carbon dioxide measurement as a guide towards general pollutant levels. If it is above recommended levels, there is a good chance that there are general air quality issues within your office design.
For details of the air quality required to meet the WELL Building Standard, click here.
Throw open those windows
If the outdoor air around your building is good quality, the simple act of opening windows can freshen up the indoor air and reduce carbon dioxide levels and volatile organic compounds.
Improve ventilation and air filtration
Good ventilation and filtration will go a long way towards improving air quality in your office. The WELL Building Standard states that “dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS) remove the constraints associated with linking heating and cooling with ventilation, so that optimal air quality and thermal comfort can be independently achieved. A properly designed DOAS can save energy compared to conventional systems while always supplying the appropriate amount of ventilation.”
While a complete change of air system is probably outside the terms of your commercial lease, you could look for a DOAS system if you are moving office or suggest this system if you know there is a substantial office fit-out on the cards for your landlord.
Many offices have recirculated air systems, and you can maximise their effectiveness by ensuring regular servicing of filtration systems so that filters are maintained and updated as required.
Add a printing room to your office design
Printers and photocopiers can contribute to the production of ozone, and despite paper-reducing schemes, offices often rely heavily on these workhorses. To minimise the impact, next time you undertake a new office fit-out, consider an office design that has a separate printing room with a self-closing door. Use an exhaust hood so that air is expelled rather than re-circulated, and look for low emission printers and copiers when it’s time for replacement machines.
Buy low emission office furniture
Next time you undertake an office fit-out or office refurbishment, or even if you are just replacing or buying a few new furniture items, look for products that minimise volatile organic compound content limits, formaldehyde emission levels and the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Clean, clean, clean…
If a work area could become unsanitary, it is important to adopt a cleaning protocol that disinfects these areas effectively. Talk to your cleaning service provider about protocols for different office areas. Remember that cleaning products can generate their own air quality problems, so good ventilation is essential. The ideal office design will have a locked storage area for any chemicals.
A new office fit-out or office refurbishment is a great start to improving air quality. Why not breathe life into your new office design and call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692?