Office meeting rooms with high indoor CO concentrations have the same effect on you as drinking 2 pints of lager before the meeting. Find out how to leverage sensor technology and improve the air quality in your work environment.

Nowadays, people spend over 80% of their time in enclosed spaces, such as offices, in which specific microclimates exist. These environments quite often deviate from optimal conditions. The quality of the air we breathe while at work is extremely important for our efficiency. Furthermore, various types of pollutants, including CO₂, as well as improper ventilation of the room can lead to respiratory diseases and allergies, and can lead to increased absences from work. However, the negative effects of air pollutants in the office can be effectively reduced. How can it be successfully done? Let’s take a look!

No More Canaries in Coal Mines...

Over the years, methods for detecting the high indoor carbon dioxide concentration have evidently changed. How?

In the past, and especially in the British tradition of early twentieth century, it's almost hard to believe that canaries were used in coal mine to detect carbon dioxide and other toxic gases harmful to humans. Fortunately, today these golden-yellow birds have been replaced by electronic devices and sensors which are able to reliably and accurately provide real-time measurements of carbon dioxide concentrations.

o.koebler "Canary"

In the late twentieth century, increased indoor carbon dioxide accumulations became a significant issue particularly in airtight spaces, with more and more workers/employees reporting physiological discomfort and reduced intellectual performance. These circumstances gave birth to a new term called sick building syndrome. The issue became not only an important debate among the medical community, but also among employers and building owners. A search for better solutions began: to ensure the best possible working environment in terms of health and productivity for their employees.

How high indoor CO₂ concentration affects our health?

A recent study conducted by professors from the Harvard School of Public Health, the University Massachusetts at Amherst and the Corporate Health, Safety and Environmental Affairs shows that a high indoor CO₂ concentrations in an office environment is dangerous, harmfully affecting health conditions and resulting in physiological changes in the human body. A typical level of CO₂ concentration in occupied spaces with good air circulation amounts to 350-1,000 ppm. An indoor CO₂ concentration exceeding 5,000 ppm increases the transcutaneous carbon dioxide level in human’s body, and thus an employee is exposed to such symptoms, including: general discomfort, sleepiness, etc. It negatively affects intellectual and physical effort and impairs decision making. Do these effects improve employee productivity? Obviously not!  

o.koebler "Breathing Ideas"

Improving indoor air quality by monitoring

A good employee is a healthy employee! Therefore, accurate indoor air quality monitoring is a significant factor in the development of “healthy buildings and working environments.” 

An article from Edaphic Scientific’s Why you need to measure CO₂ inside buildings lists 7 reasons why monitoring indoor carbon dioxide is crucial. Aside from ensuring healthy office spaces, indoor CO₂ monitoring may be also used to improve energy efficiency. According to Edaphic Scientific’s research “many facility managers are increasingly turning towards monitoring CO₂ for Demand Controlled Ventilation (DVC). Ventilation units can automatically set air intake on the assumption of maximum occupancy rate of a room or office. However, occupancy is often intermittent and unpredictable therefore leading to over-ventilation and energy inefficiencies. Monitoring CO₂ levels and automating ventilation to intake air at pre-defined CO₂ levels will lead to ventilation when it is actually needed.” The study of Emmerich and Persily from 1997 even provided evidence that monitoring carbon dioxide for DVC may save between 5 and 80 % on energy costs compared with a fixed ventilation strategy.

The level of indoor CO concentration can obviously vary from place to place. A Business Insider article on high indoor carbon dioxide presented a study conducted by researchers from Harvard, SUNY and Syracuse, showing that gyms, shopping centres, cafes with soft drink vending machines or libraries are often

noted as places with higher indoor CO₂ concentrations where it would be advisable to use CO₂ sensors for ventilation control.

Monitoring the indoor CO₂ as a new trend in the working environment?

Today, measuring levels of indoor CO₂ concentration may seem to be a new trend to most people, who being aware of the danger it may bring, are looking for the best solutions. It’s very important to choose the best control and monitoring system, which allows us to see accurately and in a real-time monitor the quality of the air in the room. Currently there are a several types of electronic detectors on the market, including: handheld instruments, transmitters, displays or data loggers connected to LCD desktops. Out of all options available, LCD data loggers with built-in sensors are shown to be the most accurate - providing a digital monitoring and recording system for measuring temperature, relative humidity and CO concentration. Air quality data (CO, humidity and temperature) can be statistically evaluated to map and optimize the air condition. These smart devices equipped with internal sensors may be integrated with a dedicated software and via Wlan or Bluetooth can transmit conditions to smartphones, providing real-time information on the current indoor air quality. Sensorberg makes it happen! Sensorberg’s Access Hubs can be integrated with BLE-enabled CO sensors and enable building owners to control and optimize the air quality in their offices. The responsive building interacts with its users and will suggest them e.g. to open a window. Furthermore Sensorberg can enable buildings to independently steer the air quality with the use of actors. Additionally, employees and guests are assured that the environmental working conditions are fully and accurately monitored.

We hope this article has underscored the importance of air quality in your work environment and how easy it is to improve your office spaces with modern sensor technology. Breathe easy.