Indoor air quality will play a significant role in the future of the workplace. Real-time monitoring will be key to maintaining optimal environmental conditions and keeping workers safe.
Those of us in the heating and ventilation business understand the importance of indoor air quality to workplace safety. The public is also gaining a better understanding of how mechanical systems help spread viruses through aerosol transmission. They have valid concerns about IAQ and safety in the workplace. As it becomes more clear that COVID-19 and its many variants will be with us for the foreseeable future, this puts an even brighter spotlight on issues of indoor air quality. One big question for employers right now is how this new normal will affect the future of the workplace.
The Negative Impact Of IAQ
Workplace safety is a top concern for office workers throughout the world. These concerns affect where people seek employment and how long they’ll stay. This is due to the many mental and physical health risks posed by poor indoor air quality. For example, poor IAQ may dull cognitive abilities. For office workers, building-related illnesses (BRI) and respiratory problems often result from repeated exposure to pollutants indoors.
While aerosol transmission of viruses is a huge concern, it’s not the coronavirus alone that impacts health indoors. Other allergens and pollutants pose a threat to health as well. That includes mold, bacteria and volatile organic compounds found in commercial cleaners and used in the construction of furniture and building materials.
When pollutants impact air quality, increased absenteeism and lower productivity among employees result. Over the long-term, the consequences get more serious as repeated exposure could lead to respiratory and heart diseases, and cancer which raises questions of liability for employers. These are all compelling reasons for employers and building owners to look forward to the new future of IAQ in the workplace. Of course, addressing these issues requires employers to commit to creating safer IAQ. When improving IAQ is the goal, monitoring environmental conditions is another step to attaining it.
Effective IAQ Monitoring
The shared goal of creating safer workplaces requires a special focus on IAQ. This means the usual methods of testing, cleaning and disinfecting but also the monitoring of indoor environmental conditions. IAQ monitoring is an effective part of creating and maintaining safe indoor air. The remote sensors used by these systems provide data on airborne particulates. The system uses sensors to record CO2 levels that allow for adjustments to the air dilution/exchange rate. Relative humidity readings provide facilities managers and stakeholders with environmental risk assessments for microbial growth.
The system also tracks a host of other environmental conditions such as temperature, dew point, total volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and formaldehyde. It does this through an all-in-one module that plugs into an outlet or is hardwired into the wall.
An IAQ monitoring system uses sensors configured through a phone-based app. Collected data, displayed on a browser-based dashboard provides real-time data to a remote team connected to the local network or a dedicated cellular router. Recent improvements to smart IAQ monitoring technology include the use of artificial intelligence (AI) swarms of other Wi-Fi-enabled products such as air purifiers. This makes it possible to program these connected devices to turn on and off to prevent potential problems. The system is also designed to import third-party standards set by organizations such as ASHRAE, LEED and OSHA.
Monitoring alone is not the solution, however. It must be used in combination with testing, cleaning, disinfecting and other smart air cleaning technology. If companies want to attract and retain top talent, workplace safety issues must be addressed and air quality is high among these concerns.
The Future Of IAQ In The Workplace
Looking forward to a future of safe workplaces free from the threat of virus transmission and pollutants requires a proactive approach. Therefore, real-time monitoring is one way to prevent problems before they occur. It is going to play a significant role in the future of the workplace both in this country and around the world.