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air quality and bad decisions

Jonathan Copley
Jonathan Copley

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05 August 2019 | Jonathan Copley

Sensors in offices can improve productivity, says Jonathan Copley.

Pack people into a meeting room and CO2 levels rise while their cognitive abilities decline. Meeting rooms are often not good environments for making important decisions.

Every time we breathe, we inhale about 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 and exhale 40,000 CO2 ppm. As the CO2 in the room climbs from 1,000 ppm to 2,500 ppm and beyond, our basic activity declines by 35 per cent, our ability to use data drops by 60 per cent and our initiative crashes by 95 per cent.

The atmosphere in a working meeting room is between 1,500 and 3,000 ppm of CO2. And opening the window could exacerbate the problem.

And when a meeting room is heated in winter, the atmosphere can become drier, perfect for the spread of viruses such as colds and flu, which hang in the air when humidity is low. Meeting rooms concentrate the problem but offices generally can suffer. 1970s office workers had an average of 56 square metres of space each. Now this is typically down to 14 sq m per person.

In our efforts to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we have almost hermetically sealed modern buildings. The air can become toxic fast. Even if there is a ventilation system, it is often poorly maintained and with inadequate settings. Controlling the CO2 levels can produce anything from 2-18 per cent improvement in productivity. Controlling humidity can significantly reduce the spread of viruses. 

The solution starts with putting in a few inexpensive sensors, so that you know what is happening in offices and meeting rooms. Control may be as simple as opening a window or setting the ventilation controls higher and temperature lower. Installing proper air quality control systems can quickly be paid for with increased productivity, lower employee turnover and a happier workforce.

Jonathan Copley is marketing manager, room automation,at Siemens Smart Infrastructure