The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a renewed focus on wellness in the workplace, helping to replace absenteeism with presenteeism as one of HR’s biggest bugbears. But more importantly for public health, it has sparked a drive towards indoor air quality standards in countries around the world.
After spending years designing regulations around food hygiene, sanitation systems, water systems and other health and safety-related hazards, legislators are now turning their attention to airborne viruses and the many other aspects of poor air quality that lead to ‘sick building syndrome’.
In the UK, existing regulation on indoor air quality is set out under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Act of 2002. But advocacy groups say that this is outdated, and in need of an update, and that authorities should avail of the “opportunity to take concerted action on tackling toxic air within workplaces throughout the UK”.
And while the US Environmental Protection Agency does not officially regulate air quality in buildings – yet – it strongly encourages activity to monitor indoor air quality and offers comprehensive advice on strategies to manage it.
Data-driven indoor air quality standards
Data-driven standards in certifications support the drive to regulate indoor air quality in buildings.
IoT technology such as our own indoor air quality monitoring solution provides building managers with data on CO2, PM 2.5s, VOCs, temperature, and humidity, affecting staff well-being.
The data sets support well-being and sustainability certification applications. They provide insights for companies to improve workplace air quality, employee health, well-being, and productivity.
RESET® is one such set of standards, assessment tools and services which helps building managers and other stakeholders make their workplaces smarter, safer and more sustainable by collecting and continuously monitoring accurate and reliable data through smart sensors.
It is the world’s first sensor and performance-driven programme for the built environment. Building managers use it, as well as other building certification standards such as LEED, WELL and GRESB, to demonstrate their green credentials.
Increased visibility will begin to affect indoor air quality regulations
The organisation’s president, Stanton Wong, says full regulation on indoor air quality is far from mainstream today. But he reckons a sea change is on the horizon.
“Moving forward, regulations around indoor air quality will be more ubiquitous because there is increased visibility around the topic. Increased visibility will generate increased interest, and this interest will start influencing regulations” says Mr Wong.
“The big push for indoor air quality regulation will be two-fold: concern over future viral pandemics and their impact on human health, and climate change. During Covid-19, government regulations required increased fresh air, despite empty buildings, which seemed technically logical but operationally nonsensical.
“With dual considerations for healthy indoor spaces and lowering carbon usage, regulations will focus on the intersection between air quality and energy,” he adds.
Effective pieces of research
Mr Wong has witnessed a surge in air quality interest, primarily due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Initially, the RESET® Air Standard faced low interest due to the difficulty in linking air quality as a health metric to ROI in indoor spaces. The Harvard study linking air quality to productivity is influential, but obtaining concrete ROI numbers remains challenging for the industry.
“Multinational companies with offices in China initially became interested in air quality data due to high PM2.5 outdoor pollution. We established the standard to raise awareness that indoor air quality can be worse than outdoor air due to toxic VOCs. To address this, organizations should implement indoor air quality monitoring in addition to outdoor monitoring.
“At this point, there was little global interest, especially in the Western world, regarding outdoor air quality. That is, until Covid-19. The recognition of virus transmission indoors made indoor air quality a global health issue.”
A benchmark for indoor air quality standards
The drive towards regulating indoor air quality may result in widespread regulations. Mr Wong emphasizes the crucial role of standards and certifications in developing these regulations. They help promote best practices, provide a roadmap for implementation, and serve as benchmarks for regulators. Standards and certifications ensure compliance and improvement of indoor air quality. Smart sensors provide accurate data for indoor air quality, supporting standards and certification bodies like RESET®.
RESET® believed that for indoor air quality to become important, it required more visibility and accessibility. Therefore, the best practice was to have systems in place to automatically collect high-quality data in a standardised way. Since every building and space is different, the data is extremely valuable for optimising solutions. Additionally, the data can be used for reporting, automation, and awareness building,Mr Wong, RESET® President
An ecosystem for continuous monitoring
When the RESET® Air Standard was first established, there was no ecosystem for continuous monitoring. Indoor air quality consisted of one-off spot tests and solutions that couldn’t be measured over time.
Initially, continuous monitoring of indoor air quality was most accessible in China due to their hardware and software solutions. RESET® Standard requirements heavily influenced the development of the hardware and software solutions.
“When interest around indoor air quality began to expand globally, the RESET® Air Standard helped to establish a baseline of requirements for data quality that targeted the hardware, software, and installation implementations. This made communication between clients and solution providers significantly easier and drove the development of hardware and software solutions for monitoring,”Mr Wong, RESET® President
A breath of fresh air for the built environment
As a leading solution provider in indoor air quality monitoring, ZiggyTec is proud to be a RESET®-accredited data provider. We congratulate RESET® and similar organizations for their efforts in preparing for upcoming sector regulations.
Standards providers and regulators ensure economic actors act in the best interests of customers, staff, and the public. It’s reassuring to have tap water treated to standards for safe drinking and lunch sandwiches prepared in clean, hygienic kitchens.
It might have taken a global pandemic to focus minds on a long-standing health and safety concern. If indoor air quality regulations become widespread, it will benefit the built environment and its occupants.
Learn more about the fantastic work that RESET® is doing in helping built environments become healthier and more sustainable.
Book a call with ZiggyTec to discuss your indoor air quality monitoring requirements.