New technology brings fresh air to the office

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We spend 90 percent of our time indoors where the air can be two to five times more polluted than outside. Find out why and how employers are using the latest technologies to improve the air we breathe at work.

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New technology brings fresh air to the office

In recent years, air pollution has become a major public health concern in cities around the world, resulting in a raft of new policy measures to tackle the issue. But the problem has not only caught the attention of governments – companies too are taking note. And as the evidence linking indoor air to a variety of health and performance outcomes mounts, many are looking more closely at the quality of the air their staff breathe in.

The problem with indoor air
While most people worry about the air out there – studies suggest that it’s the air in here – in the office – that we should really be worrying about. Not only do we spend 90 percent of our time indoors, according to the EPA, the air inside can be two to five times more polluted than outside.
There are many reasons for poor indoor air: poor ventilation is a major culprit but studies suggest that the amounts of chemicals in the workplace is also on the rise – emanating from printers, copiers, and other products like floor and wall coverings, paints, furniture and even cleaning products.

Productivity is at stake
The serious impact that indoor air can have on our health has been known for some time: “sick building syndrome” for example was identified in the 1980’s. Today however, a growing body of research suggests that the impacts of poor indoor air can often be more subtle, but can nonetheless seriously hinder our comfort, attention span and productivity at work. The World Green Building Council for example found that productivity improvements of between 8 – 11% are not uncommon as a result of better air quality.

Technology is a game changer
Figures like these are only one reason why interest in this is on the rise: the market for health and wellness products and services is growing and advances in technology enable us to track everything from the hours we sleep and the calories we eat to the steps we take. Technology too, is making it increasingly viable to monitor the quality of the air we breathe. And why is this important? Well, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

JLL takes the lead
We are working with a number of tech partners to develop wireless sensors that track a range of air quality parameters, and communicate these in real-time via online dashboards. We’ve already installed these at our own offices and are gaining valuable insights about our indoor environment.
We’re also helping a growing number of clients monitor the air quality in their offices. Perhaps unsurprisingly, appetite in this area to date has come mainly from large tech companies for whom workplace quality is a key strategy in the burgeoning war on talent, and co-working space companies whose business it is to create comfortable, productive workspaces.

The future is fresh
In future all businesses are likely to face more pressure over indoor air as sensors get cheaper and easier to use and data becomes more available. We’re already seeing personal and portable sensors like Foobot and Netatmo emerge and more companies are sharing their air quality data through platforms like QLEAR. Eventually though, sensors will simply be wrapped into building management systems, enabling buildings to become living, breathing things – constantly adjusting and optimising our indoor environment and comfort. Now there’s a fresh thought.

Article written by Corin Wates and edited by Laura Jockers in JLL’s Upstream Sustainability Team

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