indoor air quality

In recent years, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board has consistently ranked indoor air quality (IAQ) within the top five environmental risks to public health. These comparative studies have also found that indoor air can potentially be 2 – 5 times more toxic than outdoor air, sometimes even reaching upwards of 100 times more toxic. Poor IAQ can be one of the silent leading causes of negative health symptoms in the workplace. This makes tackling poor indoor air quality a top priority for facility managers to protect themselves and their employees.

What is indoor air quality and why is it important?

Indoor air quality is a relatively simple concept. IAQ helps us understand the toxicity level of the air found within buildings. This relates to and affects health, comfort, and, for commercial facilities, work productivity. Since poor indoor air quality can affect employee health, morale, and productivity, indoor air quality is a top priority for facility and building managers. According to a 1989 EPA report to Congress, “… improved indoor air quality can result in higher productivity and fewer lost workdays.” The report also estimated that billions of dollars are lost each year due to poor IAQ. That said, it’s extremely important to keep IAQ high of mind. One way you can do this is through proactive facility maintenance.

What factors contribute to indoor air quality?

Aside from hiring Omni Facility Maintenance Services to ensure your commercial building remains safe, healthy, and compliant through proactive maintenance, one of the best ways you can understand the IAQ of your commercial facility is to learn about the contributing factors. Some of these factors are outlined and defined below:

Pollutant Source

  • Biological: Bacteria, fungi/mold, viruses, animal dander, dust mite allergens, and pollen.
  • Chemical: Emissions from office/building equipment, cleaning supplies, tobacco smoke, gasses (eg. carbon monoxide & nitrogen dioxide), and chemical spills.
  • Particles (solid or liquid substances that are light enough to float in the air with other particles): Dust, dirt, sand, and moisture.

Building Design

  • Equipment Maintenance: Proactive maintenance of your HVAC system is extremely important to maintaining proper IAQ. Preventative maintenance is strongly recommended to ensure proper ventilation. If you need help keeping on top of preventative maintenance, make sure to reach out to our team at Omni Facility Maintenance!
  • Ventilation: The quality and productivity of an HVAC system are partly based on building occupancy and the other equipment inside your facility. If these factors change, the HVAC system might not provide you with the proper ventilation and may require modifications.
  • Outside Air Supply: Outside air must be properly filtered by the HVAC system in order to trap pollutants such as dust, pollen, and gasses. If this isn’t done properly, it can negatively affect your IAQ.
  • Space Planning: The way you align your equipment and furniture could be impacting your IAQ. For example, if office furniture is restricting airflow by blocking a vent.

Moisture & Humidity

  • The excessive presence of moisture mixed with dirt and pollutants allows mold and other biological agents to grow. Overly high humidity levels can also lead to moisture damage to property and equipment.
  • On the contrary, too low humidity levels can also cause negative effects such as dry eyes/skin, sinus issues, and other minor health effects. Optimal humidity is between 30 – 50%.

How to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Your Commercial Facility

If you’re looking to improve your indoor air quality, below are Omni Facility Maintenance Services’ top tips!

Keep Your Facility Clean

When your workplace is consistently clean, it lowers the levels of allergens, dust, mold, and other contaminants. Additionally, avoiding cleaning materials with harsh chemicals will help prevent the release of chemical compounds.

Clean Your Air

Devices such as dehumidifiers/humidifiers and air purifiers/scrubbers can help keep your IAQ at proper levels. Another product you can use is photocatalytic paint; Activa Coating uses the power of photocatalysis to help clean the air of pollutants of any air that passes by its painted surface.

Maintain Proper Ventilation

HVAC systems and their filters should be cleaned regularly and checked to ensure they are in proper working condition. A dirty HVAC system with old filters has the potential to continuously spread pollutants back into your facility. Make sure that air vents are uncovered to allow air to flow freely throughout your facility. Opening windows and adding circulation fans can also contribute to increased ventilation. Lastly, having plants in your facility is a great way to have a consistent supply of fresh air.

Conclusion

Overall, the indoor air quality of your commercial facility should be among one of your top priorities. With the potential to negatively affect the health, productivity, and comfort of everyone within the facility, it’s important to treat IAQ as any other workplace hazard. While maintaining good IAQ may seem like an uphill battle at times, there are some quick and easy implementations that will get you on the right track. Partnering with a preventative maintenance partner like Omni Facility Maintenance Services to maintain proper HVAC functionality should be your first step.

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