Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), working in partnership with Camfil, a leading global air filter manufacturer, have found that the quality of air in office spaces has a substantial impact on creativity.

The research demonstrated that elevated concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), had a negative impact on the creativity of individuals engaged in constructing 3D models using LEGO bricks.

The NTU team found that a potential enhancement of 12 percent in an individual’s creative potential could be achieved by reducing total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) by 72 percent.

Professors Ng Bing Feng and Wan Man Pun, who lead the research team and serve as Cluster Directors for Smart & Sustainable Building Technologies at the Energy Research Institute @ NTU, highlighted the importance of their findings.

“While most people would correctly associate indoor air quality with effects on the lungs, especially since we just emerged from a pandemic, our study shows that it could also have an impact on the mind and creative cognition, or the ability to use knowledge in an unconventional way,” said Professor Ng.

Professor Wan emphasized the effects of these findings in the creative industry, “This could have serious consequences for industries that rely on creativity for the bulk of their work. For instance, artists often use paints and thinners that release high levels of volatile organic compounds and may not know they need adequate ventilation to clear them from their workplace.”

“The findings also point to how making minor adjustments in the office, such as reducing the use of aroma diffusers or ensuring adequate ventilation, could positively impact employees and their productivity,” he stated.

This reveals how indoor air quality could impact the mind and creative cognition, or the ability to use knowledge in an unconventional way, the researchers said. They are currently investigating how such pollution impacts cognition by measuring brain activity.

Read more about the study here.

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