You can’t manage indoor air quality without measuring it first

Lots of people are selling products that are supposed to improve indoor air quality. They may be air purifiers, filter systems, complex green walls or even pot plants. Many claims are made, but how do you know whether the systems you are buying are doing what you need them to do? This is where air quality monitoring comes into its own.

(By the way – I’m not trying to sell you an indoor air quality monitor, or any form of air purifier. However, I can help your business set up an IAQ monitoring project and even help you on your way to gaining a RESET certification for your buildings, which will also help you with WELL and Fitwel certifications – please get in touch if you want to know more).

Why monitor indoor air quality?

Good indoor air quality is often thought of subjectively.  Human perception of good air quality is difficult as our senses evolved to deal with environments that were unpolluted.  As long as we could detect smoke, which suggested an immediate threat (or, conversely, the possibility of a cooked meal and convivial company), air quality was not much of a concern to our plains-dwelling ancestors.

Inside buildings, we often only notice an issue with air quality when it directly affects our comfort. We might describe the air as heavy, fusty, stale or stuffy. Stuffiness (often as a result of elevated carbon dioxide from our exhalation, combined with warm temperatures and high humidity) can be alleviated by opening a window. Carbon dioxide (and airborne viruses, such as Covid-19) inside the building is diluted by bringing outside air in, and humidity and temperature might also be made more comfortable.  This improvement to our comfort, achieved by a perceived improvement to indoor air quality, is not the whole story.

Opening the windows might risk exposure to other harms that are not readily detected by human senses.  Fine particulates, volatile organic compounds or various oxides of nitrogen or sulphur are not usually detectable by human senses, so how do we know whether they are present?

Only by using calibrated IAQ monitors that measure, record and report key parameters of air quality can you then set out to manage air quality and reassure the users of the building that their safety and comfort is being looked after.

Without data from air monitoring, any management of indoor air quality is pretty-much based on guesswork, which is inadequate for the proper management of risk in a building.

My new white paper explains how and why organizations should develop an indoor air quality monitoring and management programme, which you can download here.

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