As many companies plan a return to the office over the coming months, one issue gaining more exposure is air quality. There are several anxieties that staff have about coming back into the office, whether full or part-time, and air quality is a key concern.
Many of us have been working from home, with windows that open and a domestic central heating system. Offices work differently, with the airflow determined by a centrally controlled heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
Coronavirus has made people much more conscious of air quality in general, and with so much anxiety, concerns have to be taken seriously. Most HVAC systems are designed to replace all the air in a building every 20 to 30 minutes, pumping used air outside, and pulling in fresh. However, experts say that with Covid, the recommendation is to increase that to every 10 to 15 minutes.
The key to ensuring air quality is higher efficient filtration, testing and preventative maintenance ensuring cleaner systems and better air quality giving your staff peace of mind within their environment.
Air Handling Units & Heat Recovery units
Air handling and heat recovery units are the systems that bring fresh air into our office environments which are fitted with filters. Normally these filters are classed G as a standard filter and all units are fitted standard with this class of filter unless requested to be different.
For systems such as these, the way to improve the air quality is to increase the grade of filters fitted to the units and primary supply ducts. This will reduce the size of particles able to pass through the filters, increasing the air quality and purity.
Fan Coil Units
As air handling units and heat recovery units, fan coil units are also supplied with standard G class filters which can be changed for a higher grade Hepa filter. While all systems filter the air drawn in from outside, to reduce the dangers of pollution as well as airborne viruses, FCU systems rarely sufficiently protect against recirculated air.
Hepa filters installed to each fan coil unit will prevent particulates passing through the units before the air is recirculated, ensuring all air sources are constantly purified, making your office as safe as possible.
Other ways to improve air quality
Maintenance regimes should be increased from 3-4 to 5-6 tests per year. This will ensure your HVAC system is working properly and providing the maximum level of protection to you and your staff.
As well as installing hospital-grade filtration, these filters should also be changed more frequently to improve their performance, as well as an annual inspection of all ventilation to ensure it is working correctly.
Ducting should also be checked to ensure that it is clean and drawing correctly. Intake and discharge points should not be situated where they will cause vitiated air to be drawn into a system. Any dirty grilles or diffusers in your ceiling will be a tell-tale sign of ducting being dirty and below standard.
In existing systems, it may be necessary to extend the intake or discharge point to a suitable position. If this is not possible, the ducting should be cleaned thoroughly as frequently as possible to minimise this danger.
Improving Air Quality in Your Office
As Psychotherapist Danielle Sandler points out “with many people nervous about having to return to the office, employers have to take any concerns about air quality seriously. Never before have we seen so much anxiety. It's really important that firms are sensitive... when we do eventually transition back to the workplace."
While the path back to the office is different for every company, the concern about personnel safety is at the forefront of every back-to-work plan. The benefits of optimising air quality extend beyond merely keeping your people safe, to boosting productivity through lower CO2 levels. In an office where your people feel valued and safe, they can focus on their role, not their personal safety.
Concerned about air quality in your office? Get in touch to discuss your office with one of our workspace experts today.