Because of the coronavirus pandemic, businesses are paying more attention to compliance with regulatory requirements on health and safety in the workplace. With people spending most of their time indoors, the legal and ethical responsibility to provide safe and healthy buildings fall on the owners. That means adopting approaches that will minimize the risk of occupants’ exposure to harmful environmental factors that affect health, comfort, or productivity. 

Conventional regulatory methods of indoor air quality monitoring and management are usually based on the assessment of single substances or chemicals such as carbon dioxide (CO2) or particulate matter (PM2.5), among others. This is why you will find a number of low-cost indoor air quality sensors that are specifically focused on the measurement of these substances. 

Whilst CO2 monitoring is essential to address ventilation issues and is the minimum safety requirement standard for indoor air quality management, this alone does not provide sufficient assessment for health and safety. The combined effects of substances present in the air should be taken into consideration and monitored in a systematic way.

Air is a mixture of odorless and colorless gases and substances. In a typical indoor environment, the air gets recycled continuously causing it to trap and build up pollutants. Heavy concentrations of these gases and particulate matter are the primary sources that lead to poor indoor air quality. This could be caused by any or a combination of these factors:

  • poorly maintained heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems
  • insufficient ventilation
  • building, cleaning, and operating materials
  • vehicle emissions from outdoors, and more.

In addition, sub-optimal ranges of temperature, humidity, and air pressure can also influence the build-up of these harmful pollutants. Environmental factors such as light and sound also have effects on the comfort and performance of occupants and should be considered when taking indoor environmental quality into account.

In a changing world, it pays to use tools and solutions that would enable you to have a comprehensive view of the conditions so that you can promptly take action. It is therefore critical for building owners to understand the interaction among different environmental quality factors, spaces, and occupant activities and habits that affect health and safety. Moreover, studies have shown that the combination of these factors can also determine the risk of virus survival and transmission in the air. Monitoring all the important indoor air quality parameters as part of an overall solution – not just CO2and PM – is paramount to minimizing the risk of exposure and infection, as well as ensuring the well-being and productivity of occupants. 

Good indoor air quality is an investment for a sustainable future, and governments around the world are heeding the call of organizations like the United Nations to adopt more stringent air quality standards. The Council of Environment Ministers of the European Union (EU) has formed a commission to study and recommend better regulations on guidelines to assess and monitor the combination effects of chemicals and pollutants. In Southeast Asia, countries like Singapore and Taiwan are also implementing regulations that broaden the scope of indoor air quality management. The future is all about ensuring health and safety, and businesses need to go beyond the rhetoric and institutionalize such practices.