This Thursday is Clean Air Day 2019, a UK initiative which aims to tackle and raise awareness of the important global issue of air pollution. As well as the obvious environmental implications of pollution caused by greenhouse gases, the day also highlights the health impacts of poor air quality. Many people may unknowingly be faced with the consequences of poor air quality on an almost daily basis, with the office meeting room harboring high levels of carbon dioxide.
When a large group of people spends a long time in an enclosed space without proper ventilation, CO2 levels rise as people breath out. As a higher number of workers are packed into smaller spaces, this may be detrimental for productivity.
Every time we breathe in, we inhale about 400 parts per million of CO2, and when we breathe out, we exhale 40,000 CO2 ppm. According to Siemens, As CO2 levels in a room increase from 1,000 ppm to 2,500 ppm and beyond, our basic activity declines by 35%, the ability to use information drops by 60% and initiative decreases by 95%. This means that a crowded meeting room may have a significant impact on cognitive ability.
Clean Air Day: How technology could combat meeting room CO2
The normal atmosphere in a working meeting room is between 1,500 and 3,000 ppm of CO2, which can lead to higher levels of tiredness, with higher levels causing nausea, dizziness, and even vomiting.
This may cause productivity, as employees’ focus and alertness may drop from being in this environment, particularly as the amount of space per worker has dropped from an average of 56 square metres in 1970 to around 14 square metres per person today.
As well as productivity, this may increase the number of sick days employees take, as in the winter, meeting rooms are typically heated, creating a dry perfect for the spread of viruses such as colds and flu, which are more prevalent when humidity is low.
Jonathan Copley, of Siemens Smart Infrastructure explains:
“In our efforts to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we have almost hermetically sealed modern buildings. The air can quickly become toxic. Even if there is a ventilation system, it is often poorly maintained and with inadequate settings. Controlling the CO2 levels can produce anything from 2 to 18% improvement in productivity. Controlling humidity can significantly reduce the spread of viruses.
“The solution starts with putting in a few, inexpensive sensors, so that you know what is happening in offices and meeting rooms. Control may be as simple as opening a window for a while or setting the ventilation controls higher and temperature lower. Installing proper air quality control systems can quickly be paid for through increased productivity, lower employee turnover and a happier workforce”.
This Clean Air Day, he advises that employers should be proactive in reducing high CO2 levels in their offices:
“Top tips for getting top quality productivity from your staff? Keep CO2 levels below 1,000ppm. Manage humidity levels to between 40 and 60%. If you work in a big city or industrial area check for Fine Dust particles which can cause respiratory diseases. Make sure people are working in daylight or daylight equivalent lighting, you’ll get fewer problems and absenteeism. Monitoring is easy. Fix the problems only if you have them!”