The Role Of New Sensors In Managing Indoor Air Quality

Lean air is a foundation for a healthy workplace. It is essential for increasing productivity, comfort, well-being, and health of occupants. It can also help to reduce illness or absenteeism. Indoor air quality management (IAQ) is about two things: providing fresh, clean air and controlling common pollutants such as toxins and allergens.

There are many building codes and safety standards that support healthy indoor air quality in commercial spaces. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing increased public attention and media coverage to indoor air quality. This raises a critical question for tenants and commercial real estate owners: Are the existing standards and practices adequate?

Signature Workspace’s current strategy is to answer this question using data. To assess the effects of our design on indoor air quality, and operational decisions, Signature Workspace uses data pulled over months of trial and error to conclude the answer to the hypothesis. This is especially important as industry practices change over time. Signature Workspace has a global commitment to providing safe, healthy spaces to our members, employees, and visitors.

What Is The Best Indoor Air Quality?

The tiny particles and gases emitted by many sources can pollute indoor air, making it stale or contaminated. Smoke from outside can cause indoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution can also be caused by humans. Therefore, minimum building air turnover requirements are set to eliminate nuisance odors and bio effluents.

These pollutants can be controlled in four ways that will ensure good indoor air quality. These measures are used by Signature Workspace to maintain good indoor air quality.

  • Two strategies are related to the HVAC system. This is responsible for cleaning and replacing used air through ventilation.
  • Source control is the third strategy. It aims to prevent the use of polluting materials and activities in the first instance.
  • To avoid mold growth and the accumulation of allergens or toxic substances on surfaces, it is important to maintain clean, dry, and hygienic spaces.

Low-Cost Sensors

These four strategies are part of standard practice for buildings that have been well managed to keep good air quality. Commercial real estate is improving the management of buildings to address a higher level of concern, not only from COVID-19 but also from wildfires or outdoor air pollution.

The only way to verify indoor air quality was through cumbersome tools. To measure the levels of gases and particles in the air, you had to collect them over several hours or days and wait until it was analyzed in a laboratory. It also required a skilled specialist to transport loud, heavy, and expensive instruments into and out space.

It is now possible to see indoor air quality at unprecedented spatial, temporal, and financial scales using new, small-sized, low-cost sensors. This is especially important in these times of disruption in commercial realty. Low-cost particle sensors can count and weigh all particles in the air, but they cannot distinguish between types of particles such as the COVID-19 virus. These sensors can provide data that will help to ensure that new practices are efficient and have positive health effects, taking into account the particular conditions of a given environment.

Signature Workspace has been pioneering the use of innovative sensor technology since 2017. Continuous indoor air quality data is now collected from thousands of devices. The aggregated data is being used to understand the factors that affect the indoor air quality of our buildings. Our initial efforts have supported the development of policies and protocols for the collection, reporting, and use of this new type of data.

Considerations When Using Sensors

Sensor data is insufficient on its own. Sensor networks are not a way to improve the spaces of building owners or operators. They increase productivity and well-being by utilizing the right data in the right way. They need:

  • Contextual Data, also known as “metadata”, Information on the building, population exposed, and measurement quality.
  • Discernment The ability to interpret the data and determine how good a space actually is. Because sensors are more widely distributed and widespread than traditional measurements, the interpretation of these data requires new scientific knowledge. However, they are less reliable when we only consider one measurement point.
  • The ability to act: The ability to connect data with building controls and to decision-making processes

It’s not that building operators lack guidance and knowledge. They have too much. A standard RESET air has been established by the green building industry. It provides a solid foundation for the proper use of sensors in buildings. It is not so difficult as it seems that there are many guidelines and rubrics to measure and score indoor air quality. Companies are increasingly creating their own policies and programs, choosing the best elements to fit their needs.

It is early days for IAQ sensors to be used in commercial real estate. There are questions not only about their safety but also about their potential value and risk. How can industry professionals account for elements of air quality that are important for our well-being, but cannot be reliably or inexpensively measured? How can we ensure that we are able to make the necessary changes to our infrastructure in the future, with technology constantly improving? Signature Workspace looks forward to working together with other experts and early adopters of sensors to answer these hard questions. Together, we can implement indoor air quality data collection, response procedures, and spaces that are more beneficial for humans and the environment.

This post was written by Tara Kintz. Tara is a director at Signature Workspace. Signature Workspace, owned and operated by Cantor Fund Management, offers services and amenities such as private offices, flex space, co-working space, virtual offices, meeting/conference rooms, and more. Click here for more information.

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