Alan Macklin, Technical Director at Elta Group and Chairman of the Fan Manufacturer’s Association
With everything that has happened this year, there is a bigger focus on indoor air quality (IAQ) than ever before. As businesses look at how to safely reintroduce staff to offices and other places of work across the UK, here are four top tips for facilities managers to maximise IAQ:
1. Read the room
The purpose of a building often changes over time, and yet far too often the original infrastructure remains unchanged. This includes ventilation, and facilities managers must ensure that air circulation systems are fit for purpose, and matched to the requirements of the building.
This isn’t just about purpose either, because even if an office has always been an office, there are other factors that affect the ventilation requirements, such as occupancy levels or the internal layout of a building. So if you used to be one man and a computer but are now a thriving 100+ employee company, or you’ve gone all feng shui into an open-plan office, consider whether the ventilation needs to be upgraded to match.
2. Location, location, location
Another important thing for facilities managers to consider is where the building is located. In a busy city centre, the ventilation requirements are likely to be different to what they are for a rural facility. One of the best ways to know exactly what you’re dealing with is to conduct a survey and measurement of CO2, humidity, and temperature levels in a building.
Alongside understanding the specific usage of a building, this will help facilities managers get to grips with what they need from their ventilation system in order to achieve good IAQ. Given the implications of unhealthy air, including a reduction in concentration levels and associated health concerns to building occupants, this kind of assessment is crucial.
Once facilities managers know what ventilation they require, they can look at either optimising their current system or installing new equipment. This could be as straightforward as repositioning supply and extract grilles, or it might require a more extensive upgrading or replacement of the ventilation system, including demand control functionality.
There are a range of options available to improve IAQ, and as staff return to work for the first time in months, it is important that ventilation is a priority. We’ve provided some Covid-specific tips on reopening workspaces in this blog here, but as a general rule of thumb, facilities managers should always align ventilation systems with the unique requirements of a building.
4. Window of opportunity
The final tip for improving IAQ is a simple one, but in certain circumstances opening a window can help to ensure good air circulation. This is dependent on the location, because being above a busy road is likely to increase levels of nitrous oxides and other toxic pollutants, which makes mechanical ventilation far more effective. But as a quick and easy short-term solution in more rural settings, natural ventilation has an important role to play.