If you work in a commercial office building, chances are you’re reading this blog from your home while you contemplate the inevitable return to a full office schedule. Perhaps you’ve become accustomed to remote work and are hoping to move to a hybrid schedule. Before you start packing up your files from your kitchen table, the first thing you should do is have a conversation with your landlord about indoor air pollution and learn how your landlord is investing in indoor air quality solutions.
The quick spread of Covid-19 has proven that contemporary air purification solutions are simply ineffective at removing airborne pathogens and supplying safe, healthy air to breathe in indoor spaces. But pathogens are only one dimension of the sources of indoor air pollution. Other sources of indoor air pollution are linked to short- and long-term health effects, from dizziness to cancer.
There is no bigger deal than the quality of the air you breathe, and your landlord has a moral imperative to supply clean, safe, healthy air for their tenants. Here’s why you should care about your office’s indoor air quality, and how you can go about opening a dialogue with your landlord. Convince them to improve the indoor air quality and supply a healthier space for you when you return to the office.
What causes indoor air pollution?
Indoor air quality is affected by a combination of pathogens and environmental factors. In fact, indoor air pollution can be up to 5 times more concentrated than outdoor air. On the pathogen side, these can be things like viruses and bacteria. On the environmental side, sources of indoor air pollution can be everyday things like cleaning solutions, smoke from cooking, mold, carbon dioxide buildup, and even air pollution from outside. The long-term health effects of inhaling pollutants are linked to things like increases in rates of cancer, heart disease, strokes, and reductions in fertility.
Poorly ventilated spaces also cause an increase in indoor air pollution due to poor filtering of the pathogens and pollutants. Think of a river: standing water is going to be the dirtiest, and the stronger the current, the quicker pollutants are carried downstream, keeping the river clean. Similarly, the quick spread of Covid has shown that the air in spaces with conventional air purification systems are much like standing water when it comes to filtering pathogens and pollutants from the air. Air quality in small, enclosed spaces like an office can deteriorate very quickly.
There are short term health effects to poor indoor air quality as well. Offices without good IAQ see absenteeism at rates up to 35% higher than offices which have invested in quality air. Remember those sick days you had to take because you went home early after randomly and suddenly catching a headache and feeling dizzy? It may have been caused by poor indoor air quality.
How do you improve indoor air quality?
If you can’t measure it, you can’t change it. The first step to improving indoor air quality is setting up a baseline, to understand what’s in the air you’re breathing. At minimum, this would require your property management to invest in an indoor air quality monitor, but the monitor would only tell you the quality of the air.
The next step is to invest in an air quality optimization program based on data. This is extremely important. You’ll need information about the pollutants in your air, to achieve your air quality goals.
Without comprehensive, real-time monitoring and optimization of indoor air quality, these pollutants and pathogens can quickly spread through an indoor space, especially a space that is poorly ventilated, and contaminate the air despite your office building’s existing HVAC system.
How to ask my property manager to invest in IAQ
Begin with convincing your landlord to invest in a modern indoor air quality system, and make sure they understand what IAQ is. Be persistent. Ask them if their building is WELL certified and push them to get a WELL certification if it isn’t.
Convince them to invest in an indoor air quality program based on real-time pollutant data. If they say it’s too expensive, remind them what’s at stake. This isn’t trivial. This is air. This is health. This is what you’re breathing in as you read this blog. It’s what you’re going to spend a third of your life breathing in at the office, and it’s the same air your landlord also must breathe. There is no such thing as too expensive when it comes to the quality of your air.
Enlist the help of your office mates and other tenants in putting pressure on your landlord. If the air in your building is contaminated, you can’t just refuse to breathe. Educate each other. Be relentless with your asks. Humans are an indoor species now. We spend 90% of our time inside. Don’t let them stall you, and don’t let them cut corners on the quality of your air. If you would rather drink water from a BRITA than a faucet, then demand air just as clean and healthy.
Cohesion’s indoor air quality program monitors and optimizes air flow to minimize pollutants. Learn more about the program.