A big concern when it comes to indoor air quality (IAQ) in the workplace is knowing if the air we’re breathing is good or bad. Oftentimes, it takes very clear and obvious signs such as a foul smell, smoke, or visible stains before building owners and managers act on air quality issues. Chances are by the time these signs occur, occupants have already started experiencing negative health effects.


The “too little, too late” reactive approach that is usually taken by property owners and business leaders can be costly as it impacts not only health, well-being and productivity but can also lead to legal liabilities and diminished market value.

A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates over 30 percent of new and remodeled commercial buildings may have unusually high rates of occupant complaints about indoor air quality. A state-owned office building in Connecticut, USA, which has been a subject for a landmark study on Sick Building Syndrome spent over $6 billion on renovations in an effort to pass inspections and government certifications but still remained unoccupied and unsellable for over two years.

A building’s performance is not all about operational and energy efficiency. More importantly, it should be measured by how it supports occupants’ performance, health, and well-being. Managing indoor air quality is key to ensuring a healthy indoor environment that fosters quality of life and work performance and it starts with effective measurement and monitoring.

You can only manage what you can measure: The 3 key metrics of IAQ monitoring

IAQ monitoring is the quantitative measurement of air quality indicators or of their concentration levels in an indoor environment continuously using properly calibrated and reliable devices accompanied by sophisticated software. There are three important metrics to consider in IAQ monitoring:

  1. Comfort metrics, which give a general indication of air quality such as temperature, humidity, levels of oxygen, and carbon dioxide (CO2). In indoor environmental quality (IEQ) monitoring, factors such as light and noise are included in this metric.
  2. Chemical metrics cover gases and substances that are emitted by various sources within or around the indoor environment such as volatile organic compounds from building materials and equipment, formaldehyde from treated wood or cleaning materials, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from coal, gas, or oil combustion and carbon monoxide (CO) from motor vehicles or gas stoves.
  3. Particle metrics, which cover concentrations of particulate matter coming from a mixture of solid and liquid droplets such as dust, ash, and condensing vapors among others.

Monitoring all these metrics in your indoor environment provides you with data that can present you with a clear picture of the air that you’re breathing, and helps you to resolve specific issues that affect performance, health, and well-being.

Data-driven, data-informed actions as a result of continuous real-time IAQ monitoring

Access to reliable, accurate, and sufficient data is critical to making informed decisions that lead to effective and appropriate actions. This is the essential value of real-time IAQ monitoring. With continuous real-time IAQ monitoring, building owners and business leaders can create a profile of their indoor air environment.

Poor IAQ is a result of the increased and sustained proliferation of pollutants in the air and addressing the real causes and sources of indoor air pollution cannot be achieved with random manual checking or periodic audits. Using single-point measurement instruments (such as CO2 or PM monitoring devices) is also not efficient because they only track isolated metrics and do not give a complete picture of the air quality conditions in your environment.

Real-time IAQ monitoring identifies and alerts you to specific air quality issues when they occur so you can promptly address them. The detailed information enables you to make a critical evaluation of the impact of indoor air quality on health and well-being and the data captured and recorded over time presents valuable insights that can help:

  • Predict trends to mitigate risks, prevent air quality issues from recurring, and allocate resources efficiently for future improvements;
  • Reduce and avoid costly and unnecessary building or office repairs or retrofitting–develop a proactive approach to maintaining a healthy indoor environment.

The AI capabilities behind the software of IAQ monitoring solutions are also able to provide you with deeper insights and predictive analysis capabilities. Some of these systems can also be integrated with your existing building systems to automate building control so that issues can be prevented before they even occur.

Co-working space created a safer environment using proper air quality monitoring solutions

A co-working space in Singapore wanted to create a healthier and safer environment for its members and have it as part of its strategy for business growth. Through proper monitoring and analytics, they were able to identify various issues that caused discomfort among their members, cause for underutilized spaces, and even identified issues that caused drowsiness and feelings of nausea.

They immediately took action to address these issues by replacing broken thermostats that caused overcooling. Preventing overcooling helped them reduce their energy costs.

They were also able to identify high concentrations of gases, which they feedback to the landlord. The data allowed them to have a fact-based discussion instead of a “he said, she said” type of discussion. The numbers allowed them to pinpoint issues and address issues collaboratively.

The co-working space also conducted various activities that optimized space utilization and also enhanced the precision of their facilities management.

The case study above shows that IAQ monitoring and management solutions are indeed powerful tools. When used correctly, they can lead to better indoor environments that provide safer and healthier working conditions for your employees, customers, and occupants.

Dustin Jefferson S. Onghanseng is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of uHoo, a global company that develops environmental monitoring and management technology to create healthier, safer, and more sustainable homes, workplaces and buildings.

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