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What is Indoor Air Quality?

30th May 2022

What is indoor air quality?

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is affected by a combination of factors leading to potential harm to health and wellbeing. In this article we answer some of your most commonly asked questions on the topic.

Does poor indoor air quality cause sick building syndrome?

The exact cause of sick building syndrome is not known. However, it is believed to be a combination of factors including poor indoor air quality as well as other factors including poor lighting and workplace layout.

What factors affect IAQ?

Gases, for example carbon monoxide, particulates such as dust or dirt, microbial contaminants like bacteria.

I suspect the air quality in my workplace is poor, is there a way to prove this?

There are tools which can be used to measure the levels of certain contaminants. There are companies out there that can be employed to do this for you and provide a report.

Is my employer obliged to maintain a good indoor air quality?

Yes, although specific limits on particular contaminants aren’t specified. The obligations are covered under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and various Approved Codes of Practice advise on what measures should be reasonably put in place.

The air conditioning system in my office smells. Is this causing bad indoor air quality?

Possibly, yes. The smell could be caused by a build-up of bacteria within the air conditioning unit, which in turn could be due to a lack of maintenance. Office comfort cooling systems should be maintained, including cleaning and disinfecting cooling coils and filters, at least twice a year – sometimes more often in certain environments.

Do indoor plants help the air quality? 

Plants can certainly help with the levels of CO2 in your building. They can also add humidity to a room which can also help with the quality of air. So in short, yes, indoor plants can play a part in improving your indoor air quality.

Does my AC unit provide sufficient fresh air?

It might not provide any at all, unless it has an inbuilt or separate ventilation system. Building Regulations stipulate how much ventilation should be provided and offer guidance on the various methods of achieving it.

What if I open the windows?

This would certainly help with providing ventilation, possibly enough to satisfy the recommended amount. However, it is unfiltered and therefore could be bringing in contaminants from outside.

So if I can’t open the windows?

A mechanical ventilation system would therefore be recommended. This would filter out contaminants from the incoming air and also extract the room air to keep the office fresh.

Would the ventilation system prevent the spread of COVID-19?

It would certainly help mitigate the spread – the more fresh air the better – but please bear in mind that viruses are typically 100 times smaller than bacteria and most ventilation systems don’t have filters with a high enough efficiency to prevent them circulating.

Who can tell me what I should be doing?

Your air conditioning maintenance service provider should as a matter of course be advising you on this as part of the service and maintenance contract.

I haven’t seen any advice from our contractor

Not all air conditioning contractors have experience in providing ventilation systems. Here at EMS we provide full HVAC services including ventilation design, installation and maintenance. We would be happy to take a look at your requirements and provide you with some recommendations.

Get in contact with EMS Ltd here.

Further Reading

Take a look at how we helped one company in Hereford with ventilation modifications in this case study here.

For more information about our ventilation systems take a look at our main ventilation page here.

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