Tips for improving indoor air quality (IAQ)

7th September 2016

We’re spending more time than ever indoors in the UK – it’s not uncommon to work more than 40 hours per week and some experts estimate that overall, we spent up to 90% of our time indoors.

Air pollution is known to cause a variety of short and long term health conditions, from eye irritation to Sick Building Syndrome, and has also been linked to more than 40,000 premature deaths every year in the UK.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is of particular importance in artificial environments, such as office buildings, where complex heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC) control air temperature and flow, but can be breeding grounds for bacteria and harmful particles if regular maintenance is neglected, causing health problems as well as affecting efficiency.

Design, operation and maintenance

An integrated approach will ensure a healthy working environment for the buildings occupants, from design and layout of the space to ongoing maintenance.  Consideration must be given to:

  • System design – ensure the HVAC system is sufficient to the number of people and amount of equipment in the building; review and modify in light of any changes to the building/workforce.
  • Outside air supply – an adequate supply is needed in order to dilute the pollutants released by equipment, building materials, furnishings, products and people.
  • Outdoor air quality – Outdoor air pollution is likely to affect the air inside nearby buildings.  Properly installed and maintained filters can trap many of the particles in this outdoor supply air, such as pollen, dust and carbon monoxide.
  • Airflow and space planning – If heat generating equipment, such as a computer, is placed under a HVAC thermostat, it might trick the system into delivering too much cold air because the thermostat senses the area is too warm.
  • Moisture and humidity control – Water can create a hospitable environment for the growth of micro-organisms such as molds or fungi, or harmful bacteria such as Legionella, which can cause serious health problems if it becomes airborne.  Humidity levels that are too low may cause irritated mucous membranes, dry eyes and sinus discomfort.
  • System maintenance – preventative maintenance programs and regular assessment of HVAC equipment will ensure the quality of indoor air, while at the same time safeguarding the building occupants and protecting against system breakdown.

Shared responsibility

Good IAQ requires the cooperation of both the building and facilities managers and the individuals who work in the building.  Everyday activities such as heating food in a microwave, or using the photocopier, can have a great influence on the air quality of a building by generating odors and pollutants.  Providing training programmes educating staff about the factors that affect IAQ will help to prevent any potential problems.

Things everyone in the building can do:

  • Pay attention to airflow when arranging the workspace, ensuring supply vents and grilles are not blocked by boxes and furniture.
  • Clean up spills promptly and report water leaks straight away.
  • Dispose of waste correctly and empty bins daily to prevent odors and biological contamination.
  • Make sure perishable food is stored properly i.e. not in desks or on shelves, preventing pests and maintaining hygiene.
  • Notify management immediately if an IAQ problem is suspected so that a timely solution can be reached.

At Guardian Water Treatment Ltd, we provided IAQ assessment, monitoring, treatment and air hygiene management services for a range of buildings, including office blocks, shops, hospitals and leisure facilities.

To find out more about our specialist Air Hygiene Services, click here.