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Impact of Indoor Environment Quality at Workplace

9 min read
Published on 06 December, 2022

The term "indoor environmental quality" (IEQ) describes how conducive a living, working, or learning space is to people's health and well-being.

Particularly in the wake of Covid-19, most people on earth remain confined to their homes. And preventive measures should be taken to reduce the transmission of viruses and germs.

Hence, it reaffirms why indoor environmental quality should be a top concern for every building and interior space for businesses and property owners.

Now, since employees spend most of their time indoors, it concerns their health. So, a comfortable and secure workplace is a top priority for every organization.

In this article, you will learn about the significance of indoor environment quality (IEQ). You will also see how raising air quality standards may impact your company's operations and workforce.

What is Indoor Environment Quality?

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IEQ refers to all factors that affect a building's air quality, thermal conditions, and ergonomics. IEQ can be addressed by improving the quality of life, safeguarding human health, and lessening stress and potential harm.

"Prepare and prevent, don’t repair and repent.” – Anonymous.

Four primary physical parameters to determine indoor environment quality—

  • Thermal comfort

  • Indoor air quality

  • Visual Comfort

  • Aural comfort

A better indoor environment can improve inhabitants' quality of life. It can raise the property's resale value and lessen building owners' liability.

IEQ significantly impacts employee health, productivity, and well-being. Benefits included are increased productivity and financial and spiritual wellness. These are beneficial at both individual and organizational levels.

Why is IEQ Important for Buildings?

The most crucial factor in evaluating IEQ in buildings is lowering energy consumption. The main causes of the increase in building energy use are-

  • Lighting

  • Electronics

  • Ventilation

  • Water heating

  • HVAC systems

"Your employees learn by example. If they don't see you practicing good safety habits, they won't think safety is important.” – Electrical Construct.ion & Maintenance.

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And all of them are impacted by the actions of the residents. So there should be a few strategies to increase employees' health and productivity.

And not everything is about energy consumption because human costs play an important role too. Human costs such as salary and medical benefits exceed the operating costs of an office building

IEQ aims to create welcoming and exciting surroundings for residents. This also helps lower the possibility of health issues connected to the building.

Employees should make sure to use certain strategies to promote health and productivity. The strategies must include great interior experiences for employees. It must also consider ways to conserve energy, water, and materials.

  • About 41% of the energy used in the United States in 2014 was used in residential and commercial structures.

Factors Affecting IEQ

Many factors affect indoor environment quality. Some are indoor air quality (IAQ), noise, temperature, indoor lighting, and cleanliness measures.

All these elements combine to form IEQ, highlighting the significance of the quality of a building. In return, these influences the health of those who work or live there. There are many more considerations than just providing the occupants of the buildings with clean air.

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Indoor settings are more complicated. Residents in buildings may be exposed to various contaminants, such as gases and particles:

  • People smoking tobacco near or inside the building.

  • Mold resulting from wet building materials.

  • Radon or methane emissions from the building's foundation soil.

  • Residents' breathing raises carbon dioxide levels and might bring in germs.

  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) vaporize at ambient temperature and cause health problems. These can be released from paints, coatings, adhesives, sealants, and furniture.

  • Combustion processes in heating and cooling systems. Also, fireplaces, stoves, and cars parked in garages or near entrances.

  • Combustion mechanisms in kitchen stoves, fireplaces, and HVAC systems.

  • Contaminants produced by particular procedures employed in labs, hospitals, and manufacturing.

Health Issues

Architects and construction firms are currently prioritizing the IEQ of the building. However, a sizable percentage of the populace still needs to be more informed about IEQ.

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IEQ is crucial for sensitive locations like schools, colleges, nursing homes, senior care facilities, etc.

“Working safely is like breathing – if you don’t, you die.”– Jerry Smith.

More than 80% of residents of urban areas are subjected to air pollution. The levels at these places exceed the world health organization's (WHO's) acceptable air quality criteria.

Poor IEQ also leads to "sick building syndrome" in many conventional structures. Numerous studies and surveys show a clear link between low IEQ and the number of employee sick days in a building.

Below are a few signs of poor indoor environmental quality (IEQ)-

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Sneezing

  • Cough

  • Skin Rashes

  • Cold

  • Nasal congestion

  • Red Eyes

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness

  • Certain allergies

  • Irritation of skin, eyes, nose, and throat

Low IEQ may negatively impact the cognitive abilities of the brain, and children's brain development may be delayed as a result.

6 Best Ways to Improve Indoor Environment Quality

Controlling air pollutants at their source is the greatest strategy to avoid indoor pollution and enhance IEQ. Creating adequate ventilation through operable windows. Also, using ventilation ducts would be the next line of defense.

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Ensure that your AC ducts are routinely cleaned correctly as well. Here are several ways to raise a building's IEQ standards:

1. Good Design

Architects and engineers must develop the right structure. It should include proper ventilation and access to direct sunshine.

Doing so will help the building prevent breeding grounds for mold, algae, allergies, or bacteria. Apart from that, moisture levels inside the building should be controlled or eliminated.

Engineers must understand the value of sunlight and clean air. They must choose low-emitting, less dangerous components.

Office environments should have less than 9ppm Carbon Monoxide levels.

2. Thermal Comfort

Thermal comfort affects our health, productivity, mental clarity, and, of course, the people around us.

Uncomfortable feelings cause our mood to deteriorate. Extreme temperatures inside are unhealthy, especially for aged, ill, or weak people.

It is difficult to forecast an ideal temperature and humidity range. Because thermal comfort frequently varies depending on individual and environmental circumstances.

Nevertheless, this is crucial. Understanding comfort is essential for managing energy use and improving workplace productivity.

3. Water Quality

Water storage systems must be sealed and kept up to code. Water temperatures should be maintained at ideal values to prevent the growth of fungal infections.

Inspections of the water quality should be done frequently. Water tanks should also be cleaned at least once a year to guarantee a clean water supply.

4. Proper Lighting

Any building design should consider daylighting. Daylighting is an excellent light source and is energy efficient. It is best to combine high-performance artificial lighting, like tubes and bulbs, with natural light.

Avoid using dark paint on the walls to increase the reflection of natural light and reduce glare. Priority should be given to creating safer conditions for those with poor eyesight.

5. Noise Reduction

Noise is another aspect of IEQ for maintaining a good indoor environment. The building should be designed to reduce the amount of noise that enters living rooms from the outside. The design should encourage the lowest possible noise levels, and the walls should have soundproofing.

6. Reduce Exposure to Magnetic Fields

Transformers, microwaves, radios, and other appliances produce electromagnetic fields or EMFs. EMFs are thought to cause cancer. However, proof for this claim still needs to be included.

At the moment, there are no official government recommendations on EMFs. Still, facility managers and designers should research how to cope with residents' exposure. They should make every effort to minimize this exposure.

Also Read: 6 Essential Steps for Workplace Hygiene

Green Buildings

While discussing IEQ, we must include the infamous green building concept. Nowadays, this is a blooming concept, and everyone is talking about going green. Eventually, everyone will need to join the green movement, whether they like it or not. The reason for this is that at our current rate, the earth cannot support us.

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Now, let's look at what green building means and how it helps improve IEQ and the health of occupants residing in the building.

The ideal green building is a project enabling you to protect your surrounding while producing a building that would serve a purpose.

Everyone will benefit from a healthy environment during the building's construction and operation. The good part is that there won't be any harmful impacts on the surrounding water, land, resources, or energy. This is the actual definition of a green building.

What qualifies a structure as a "Green Building"?

The design team for a green building should consider the environment and the resident's quality of life. Several elements can turn a structure "green." These consist of the following:

  • Efficient use of resources such as energy, water, and others

  • Using sustainable energy sources like solar electricity

  • Efforts to reduce pollution and waste, such as recycling

  • Satisfactory indoor air quality at work.

  • Utilizing non-toxic, moral, and ecological materials

  • A structure that allows for environmental adaptability

Any building can be considered a "green building" if it has the above characteristics.

Also Read: Impacts Of Green HR Practices On Employees And Sustainable Business

Why Go Green?

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You will discover many things you can do to assist you in getting started if you want to start going green. You can take baby steps along the road rather than diving without any precautions. The following actions can be taken to reduce the negative impact of poor indoor environmental quality:

  • Reducing waste, pollution, and environmental deterioration.

  • Using resources wisely, including water, electricity, and other things.

  • Enhancing productivity while safeguarding occupant health.

Benefits of Green Building

Greener methods can help us maximize the benefits of both economic and environmental performance.

“Obedience is the mother of success and is wedded to safety.”– Aeschylus.

The greatest benefit comes from combining green buildings with eco-friendly design and construction. The following are the advantages of green buildings:

1. Improved Indoor Environment: Quality of Life

Residents and employees who live or work in green structures have positively impacted their health. According to research, effective workplace ergonomics programs lower staff turnover by 87% and the prevalence of MSDs by 61%.

Employees experience low-stress levels and better quality of life because of interior design features. Which includes improved lighting sources, thermal conditions, ergonomic features, and upgraded air quality.

2. Increased Efficiency

Increased_efficiency

Green buildings have a greater capacity for efficiency. They can lessen the environmental impact on resources. Hence, protecting and preserving them for future generations.

3. Carbon Footprint Reduction

Large corporations are increasingly choosing green initiatives. Everyone is contributing their bit to reduce the carbon footprint on their level.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that buildings are responsible for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US.

Large companies and landlords ensure that improving sustainability offers a chance to benefit the corporate world and society.

4. Saves Water

Water efficiency is yet another advantage of sustainable construction. Installing specially designed systems to purify water is one way of recycling water.

These advancements safeguard future access to clean water sources. Thus, save this essential natural resource.

5. Better Health

Residents of green buildings benefit their health. This benefit is due to the safety of the building materials used in their construction.

As an illustration, environment-conscious firms prohibit using plastic by-products harmful to nature. Toxic compounds like carcinogens bring on significant breathing problems and increase cancer risk.

Also Read: 5 Best Green Office Design Ideas That Boost Employee Well-Being

IEQ vs. IAQ

People often confuse IEQ with IAQ, but they are different. Let's have a look at both.

  • Indoor Air Quality: "Indoor air quality" refers to how a person's overall health and productivity are impacted by the air inside a building or facility. This involves removing harmful pollutants that are created or enter the place being used from the outside.

  • Indoor Environment Quality: The term "indoor environmental quality" is much broader. IEQ encompasses various elements that impact a building's occupants' health and well-being. IEQ involves improving air quality, good lighting, acoustics, and thermal conditions. The quality of life for building residents improves with a higher IEQ rating.

Conclusion

“Safety is not a gadget, but a state of mind.” – Eleanor Everet, Safety Expert.

Regularly checking a company's IEQ is critical to increasing employee productivity. IEQ monitoring and occupant perception will be crucial as workplace welfare continues to rise to the fore.

Workplace safety is a very important responsibility. Creating a secure and risk-free work environment requires cooperation from businesses, human resources departments, safety teams, and employees. Besides indoor environmental conditions, the workspace and architectural aspects impact occupant satisfaction.

Employee building-related illnesses can be avoided or treated by minimizing the sources of indoor environmental pollutants. Improvements in IEQ will assist workers in lowering medical costs. It will help reduce the number of sick days taken and lower employee turnover. Workers should get a medical assessment for a diagnosis and treatment if their symptoms are persistent or worsening.

This article is written by Daina Barman who is a content writer and marketer at Vantage Circle. Besides being an epicure trying to cook every dish possible, she likes to dance her way around everything. To get in touch, reach out to editor@vantagecircle.com

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