Research endorses better air quality for healthier and more productive offices

New research from the University of Southampton shows that improved awareness of poor indoor air quality could lead to healthier and more productive offices.

In a recent report commissioned by DEFRA, Dr Stephen Snow from Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) makes several recommendations on how to address indoor air quality based on evaluations on social and behavioural factors that affect the air quality in offices.

Indoor air quality is one of the leading causes of reduced cognitive performance in offices but receives very little attention in comparison to outdoor air quality. Fatigue, headaches, dizziness and coughing are all symptoms of poor indoor air quality, which can all have a negative impact on productivity in an office.

The research placed a specific focus on the sphere of influence of occupants for their office’s air quality, instead of exploring engineering solutions and building performance, which the users have no control over.

Some of the key recommendations included investing in low-cost office sensors which are ambient and viewable with a quick glance and highlighted the potential rewards of this approach. It also suggests that IAQ campaigns could focus on prompts for regular active breaks from seated office work and offer insights into applicable behavioural models to guide future interventions.

“Because we become acclimatised to the space we’re in, cognitive performance can be impacted by inadequate ventilation prior to awareness of the declining indoor air quality,” Stephen explains. “This report outlines opportunities for how indoor air quality visualisations might be designed to inform and support healthier ventilation practices in naturally ventilated offices.”

Furthermore, as part of a secondment through Public Policy Southampton and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Impact Accelerator Account funding, Dr Snow’s research was used in the REFRESH project which was led by Principal Investigator m.c. Schraefel to show how social factors could affect interactions with building controls like windows and radiators, along with the design of air quality monitors.

Read the full report here.

Read about the REFRESH project here.


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