Five Tips To Improve Indoor Air Quality
There’s a great story about an Air Force general and his facility manager. When being presented with a PowerPoint about some facility issues, the general stated the following:
- You’re air to me.
- I need you to be there, but I don’t want to see you or think about you.
- I just need to know, to believe, that you’re there.
- However, if I am thinking about you, then we both have a problem.
Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is a serious problem for generals and non-generals. It is invisible to a human eye but can easily influence the health and productivity of a workforce. Studies show that air pollution-related illness results in roughly $150 billion in losses. Amazingly, the United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that the concentration of pollutants indoors is often 2 to 5 times higher than outdoors.
Better air means better decisions. Several years ago, researchers from Harvard University conducted a study to see how IAQ affects “knowledge workers.” The results showed that breathing better air led to significantly better decision-making.
Improving IAQ requires a bit of thought and commitment. Here are five actions that will make a real and noticeable difference.
1. Entrance matting: Improved IAQ can be as easy as adding entrance mats to your facility. It is a common misconception that the mats are only used to reduce risk of slips and falls. They also help prevent dirt and dust from getting into the building. It is crucial that mats throughout a building should be cleaned on a regular basis. Dirty mats only help spread pollutants in the facility.
2. Vacuuming frequencies: While it is clear that carpets serve to trap dust, walking over a dirty carpet actually contributes to the elevation of dust and other pollutants into the air. This is especially dangerous for vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, people with asthma and individuals with difficulties breathing. It is key to employ proper vacuuming frequencies which vary depending on a facility’s size. It is also important to ensure that the cleaning crew uses the HEPA vacuums and commonly accepted cleaning practices.
3. Dusting practices: Dusting seems a very straightforward task at first thought. However, it is crucial that employees use proper equipment and techniques. Otherwise, they risk simply scattering the dust without any significant improvement to the surface. It is important that the cleaning crew uses a microfiber cloth which absorbs the dust and minimizes escaped particles. With a microfiber cloth there is no need to use any chemicals; a great benefit to tenants with allergies to chemicals.
4. HVAC maintenance: Maintenance of HVAC systems is a key factor to ensure healthy IAQ. If a company doesn’t have enough resources to invest in the new HVAC systems, there are other solutions to consider. For example, they can use an older system but increase the frequency of filter replacement. Another solution is to consider more effective filter options. However, the biggest problem in the industry is the lack of HVAC technicians. Many trade schools report their programs being under enrolled. This results in a decreasing supply of HVAC professionals. It may seem like an easy task to change a filter, but it becomes quite a challenge when there is not a specialist available to do it. This causes many facility teams to postpone their scheduled preventative maintenance for indefinite periods of time.
5. Cleaning of non-traditional surfaces: Today many businesses prefer to occupy the so-called “modern” office with the exposed pipes in the ceilings and other attributes resembling a city loft atmosphere. Those designs look trendy and attract younger employees. However, it is important to keep in mind that those nontraditional surfaces often require unique cleaning procedures as well. Otherwise, they end up being the biggest (and the fanciest) dust collectors in the building.
It is essential that industry professionals educate their customers on the impact cleaning services have on the productivity in the workplace. This is an impact that can be as important as the air we breathe.
Laurie Sewell is president and CEO of Servicon, a Culver City-based provider of maintenance services to Fortune 500 companies in the aerospace, hi-tech, commercial real estate, and healthcare industries. She has held positions on international, advisory and editorial Boards in her industry and was a stakeholder in the development of the GS-42 Green Seal standard.