We all spend 100% of our time breathing air. Indoor air quality usually isn’t the most pressing issue on everyone’s minds, but it plays a vital role in health, comfort, and productivity. Ventilation is one of the most important engineering controls in office and school environments, and good ventilation can save energy while improving indoor air quality.
Good ventilation reduces air contaminants, expels CO2, draws in fresh air, and controls temperature and humidity. ASHRAE recommends buildings reduce CO2 levels to no more than 700 parts per million (ppm) above outside air levels (which equates to about 1,200 ppm total).
Temperature should be between 70°F and 75°F and humidity between 20% and 60%. However, a humidity above 40% can help reduce airborne contamination from viruses. So, what’s the point of following these guidelines? Here are six main benefits of good ventilation and air quality.
1. Improve Comfort for Employees
No one likes to go to an uncomfortable work environment and shiver or sweat at a computer all day. People spend much of their lives indoors working. If the indoor air quality and temperature is at a comfortable level, they are more likely to be relaxed. Focusing on the tasks of the day is easier in a comfortable environment. Of course, you don’t have to make your office building as comfy as a spa, but a basic level of comfort goes a long way to improving morale and productivity, which is our next point.
2. Improve Employee Productivity
Good air quality and ventilation support concentration, decision making skills, job satisfaction, stamina, energy, and much more. It’s not just that employees won’t be bothered by being too hot or cold or being in a stuffy atmosphere. Lower levels of CO2 and higher levels of fresh air and oxygen help the brain perform at its peak potential.
One Harvard study found a direct link between better air quality and better decision-making performance. Specifically, air with low levels of CO2 (600 ppm) enabled participants to work and strategize at a higher level. The study also found that workers in green-certified buildings scored higher on cognitive function tests than workers in standard buildings. Comfortable air temperature also contributed to higher productivity.
So, is it worth it to upgrade an HVAC system or increase ventilation to see these gains? Well, Harvard estimated that doubling ventilation rates can cost about $40 per person per year. At the same time, it estimated that the increased productivity could benefit companies an extra $6,500 per person per year. That’s well worth it.
3. Reduce Sick Time
Bad indoor air can cause eye irritation, inflammation, and difficulty breathing for some people. It can also make some existing health problems worse. Poor air quality is also associated with sick building syndrome, a situation in which employees or students report experiencing different symptoms when inside a building but not when spending time away from it. That’s why ventilation is so important.
Ventilation systems can help people stay healthy. For example, doubling ventilation in a previously low-ventilated building has been shown to decrease sick time by 35%. Similarly, there’s a correlation between higher ventilation and lower absence rates in classrooms.
In 1983, Lockheed Martin moved one of its teams into a new building designed around improved natural light, airflow, and energy efficiency. The company found absenteeism dropped about 15%, and the increase in productivity more than paid for the cost of the building in the first year.
4. Create a Pleasant Space for Customers and Clients
The worst thing is to show up for a meeting or interview and start sweating because the indoor climate is too hot or stagnant. Instead of focusing on the conversation, all you want is to get relief. It might be hard to describe exactly what’s off, but it’s certainly noticeable when you get into a stuffy office room that doesn’t have good ventilation.
Instead, use your building’s ventilation system to put people at ease. A comfortable atmosphere helps prospective clients and partners relax, and that’s a great thing. A good ventilation system will help reduce odors and keep the indoor air feeling fresh, as well.
5. Regulate Energy Costs
Managing energy bills is always a concern, and heating and ventilation does take up a considerable amount of energy. However, there are ways to balance energy costs and the health benefits of good ventilation. Here are a few techniques you can use:
- Energy recovery ventilation: Energy recovery ventilation systems (ERV) transfer the temperature and humidity from exhausted conditioned air to incoming fresh air. This can conserve energy while allowing for higher fresh air intake.
- Demand-controlled ventilation: CO2 sensors can calculate optimal airflow in real-time and adjust the ventilation accordingly. A room with 50 people will need more ventilation than one with three people, so the system will send more air to the first room.
- Variable-speed compressors: A variable-speed compressor can have hundreds of different speed settings. Combined with variable blowers, a system can control airflow and temperature to a precise degree with less energy.
To make sure you’re getting the benefits of good ventilation along with energy savings, it’s a good idea to get an HVAC inspection to assess your system.
6. Control Humidity
Another benefit of good ventilation systems is the ability to control humidity. ERVs can recapture some of the moisture in the humidified air, which decreases the energy required to humidify fresh air. Keeping humidity levels between 40% and 60% can reduce mold, mites, fungi, bacterial growth, and viruses. This can prevent health problems and allergic reactions, as well.
Great Things Come from Good Ventilation
The air we breathe is important. With good ventilation, you can improve comfort and productivity, reduce sick time, relax clients, reduce energy costs, and control humidity. These benefits can affect many aspects of your company for the better.
Get in touch with us to assess your heating and ventilation system to see if it’s running at its full potential.