Here’s Why Your Office Has Poor Air Quality – And How To Fix It
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, the top five causes of indoor air quality problems are:
- Lack of Ventilation and Fresh Air
- Lack of Proper HVAC Upkeep
- Flooding, High Humidity, and Excessive Dampness
- Debris from Remodeling or Construction
- Contaminated Air Brought into the Building
Of course, these apply to plenty of commercial and residential places, not just offices. But, office buildings are more prone to some problems than other spaces.
For instance, most offices today don’t have windows that open. That means you’re cutting out a lot of fresh air and relying on your HVAC system all year.
That’s at least a little different from, say, retail shops, where people are walking in and out all the time, circulating air. Or, warehouses that have large bay doors that open for loading.
If you have a building with multiple tenants, fresh air doesn’t make it far past the lobby, if at all.
And, after a while, that starts to affect workflow and productivity. It’s so widespread it’s even got a name.
What is Sick Building Syndrome?
Sick Building Syndrome is a variety of symptoms that make a building’s occupants feel ill. In offices, it results in missed work days and lost productivity.
You’ll hear employees complain of allergy- and even flu-like symptoms.
We’re talking irritated eyes, noses, and skin — congestion, sneezing and coughing. And in severe enough cases, some people get dizzy or nauseous.
Usually, no one can pinpoint the exact causes. But, a telltale sign is that most people feel better once they leave the building.
It slows things down. After all, who works their best when they feel miserable?
And, people start taking more days off work. They feel sick, so they stay home. Or, they’re making doctor’s appointments.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to avoid SBS or turn the tides if it’s taken hold.
How can I test the air quality in my office
First, you’ll want to get an idea of your office’s air quality. From there, you can work on ways to improve it if necessary. The best way to do this is by testing the indoor air quality in your office.
These detect allergens such as pollen and dander along with radon, carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke, asbestos, formaldehyde, and other chemicals.
You can buy air quality testers its to do it yourself. But, at the commercial level, your best bet is a professional assessment.
For this, a company temporarily installs sensitive instruments throughout the office. They’ll take air samples for anywhere from 24 hours up to a week.
Then, you’ll get a report listing the pollutants and their levels. From there, you can decide what steps you need to take.
Does an air quality test detect mold?
Yes, an office air quality test will detect mold. It’s present in the air in the form microscopic spores that you can inhale. Breathing these in high quantities can negatively affect your health.
The problem is that mold grows in damp, dark places. That often means areas of the office you can’t see: behind the walls, in crawl spaces, and other out-of-the-way spots.
But, the spores can easily travel throughout the office. And, they’ll often circulate through the HVAC system.
Exposure to too much mold triggers upper respiratory problems and asthma-like symptoms in healthy people.
Meanwhile, those who already have respiratory problems, allergies, or asthma will notice their symptoms are much worse than usual.
Even just excessive dampness in the air can trigger these problems. It’s usually the result of a leaky pipe or roof, or inadequate insulation somewhere.
But, odds are, those things are happening “behind the scenes.” Unless there’s water coming through the ceiling after a storm, you may only notice the symptoms rather than the actual problem.
Fortunately, mold detection can help point you toward something that needs fixing.
Five easy ways to improve indoor air quality in the office
Improving the air quality in your office requires some corrective measures along with making some permanent changes in the space. Some are small efforts while others involve more of an investment. Five strategies are:
- Keep vents and ducts clear
- Invest in air purifiers and better air filters
- Get rid of all waste properly
- Have the air professionally cleaned
Your heating and cooling system plays a role in keeping the air clean. As air circulates, it passes through a filter that traps many pollutants.
But, if you’ve blocked a vent with a desk, printer, or any other office fixture, then the system can’t do the job.
When those vents are unblocked, the system can better filter the air.
Air filters in an office work just like the one in your home. And, like those, you can also upgrade them.
Better filters will trap smaller particles than standard ones. If your office has air quality problems, then you want one with a higher HEPA – high-efficiency particulate air – rating.
That means it will trap particles still small enough to pass through regular filters. The only downsides are that they cost a little more. And, they will affect your energy efficiency.
Since they block more particles, air also can’t pass through as easily. So, your system uses a little more energy to circulate the air.
The next step is installing air purifiers. You can get standalone models to treat problem spots. Or, a bigger one connects to your HVAC system to treat the entire office.
These work in the same way as filters: Air passes through them, and they trap contaminants before releasing the now-clean air.
One big difference is that the purifiers can trap more types of particles. Since that’s its main job – the filter is one small component of a larger system – there’s more customization.
Food and other waste
This is a preventative measure, but it’s an important one: Make sure all the trash gets thrown out and taken away properly.
A common problem in offices is food left out or garbage left for too long. When this happens, all sorts of bacteria and biological contaminants can thrive and circulate.
You’d be surprised what a difference in air quality this can make.
Air Scrubber Plus for Offices
If the air quality in your office is poor, then you need to take some more assertive measures. At Bovio, we use the Air Scrubber Plus for actively cleaning the air in homes and commercial spaces.
These devices use UV light waves and NASA-developed technology to reduce up to 90 percent of airborne contaminants.
We install them directly into your HVAC system. So, it’s not another device taking up space. Nor is it something you need to worry about turning on or off.
And, it helps your heating and cooling system run more efficiently.
If your testing didn’t reveal any significant problems, you could start with those smaller practices. That’s clearing vents and cleaning out trash.
If the results weren’t great, then it’s time to think about upgrading filters or investing in purifiers or air cleaners.
Either way, improving your air quality will make a noticeable difference – both in terms of comfort and productivity.
If you’re concerned about the air quality in your office building, Bovio can help. With decades of experience in HVAC and air cleaning in South Jersey, we can help you make the improvements your property needs. Contact us today for a consultation.