The importance of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) has long been overlooked, but the current pandemic has started to make us acutely aware of the quality of the air we breathe. Air quality data is becoming increasingly accessible and people are finally starting to acknowledge and understand the value of good IAQ.
If you care about your overall health, it is logical to want to know about the quality of the air you are breathing. Consequently, people are beginning to demand more transparency when it comes to gaining access to air quality data.
Due to the development of fairly inexpensive sensors, several easily accessible products which are able to test air quality have come to market in recent years. Many of these devices are portable, so you can measure the surrounding air quality, whether you are indoors or outdoors.
One of the most popular of these is the ‘Flow’ sensor, developed by the Paris-based company, Plume Labs. This is a portable pollution sensor that uses a tiny fan to suck in air whilst a combination of lasers and membranes detect a range of pollutants. An app introduced in September enables the measurements to be broken down into particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in real-time. The ‘Flow 2’ sensor is currently priced at €199 (approximately £180), making it relatively inexpensive in comparison to other sensor technologies.
One of the most popular of these is the ‘Flow’ sensor, developed by the Paris-based company, Plume Labs. Their app enables the measurements to be broken down into PM, NO2, and VOCs in real-time.
Bosch’s BME680 sensor has been specifically developed for mobile applications and wearables where size and low power consumption are critical requirements.
There are also sites such as BreezoMeter and addresspollution.org which are a great source of outdoor air quality data.
As interest in air quality continues to grow, devices and websites such as these will become increasingly common.
Bosch’s BME680 sensor has been specifically developed for mobile applications and wearables where size and low power consumption are critical requirements. Once air quality sensors are incorporated into smartphones and watches, there will be even closer scrutiny. Rather like a fitness watch that monitors heart or sleep function, the act of checking air quality will become second nature and perhaps rather addictive.
There are also sites such as BreezoMeter and addresspollution.org which are a great source of outdoor air quality data. In May, property finder SearchSmartly partnered with addresspollution.org to become the first housing website to display local air quality ratings on every listing. They provide a free report that reveals the annual average levels of air pollution at a given address, and the potential impact that these levels can have on human health. This means that poor outdoor air quality could start to negatively impact house values and office rents, which is potentially problematic as external air pollution is not always representative of indoor air quality. Buildings can act as a buffer against the outdoor environment, and can also be orientated with openings and outdoor spaces away from pollution sources. Indoor air quality monitoring is undoubtedly a far more reliable way to evaluate the health of an indoor space.
As interest in air quality continues to grow, devices and websites such as these will become increasingly common. This will be a real opportunity for many of us to have a greater understanding of the quality of the air we are breathing on a daily basis. Once this awareness grows, it will inevitably lead to increased pressure for building owners, developers, and employers to improve the IAQ in their spaces. If employees and tenants can see that they are being exposed to high levels of pollutants, it seems likely that they will demand that steps be taken to remedy this, to ensure that they are working or living in a space with a healthy indoor environment.
In January 2020 the British Engineering Services Association (BESA) urged the government to introduce radical indoor air quality legislation to make measuring and monitoring IAQ in buildings mandatory. Perhaps as air quality data becomes more accessible to all, this pressure will mount, encouraging the government to introduce proper standards of measurement and monitoring, and to ensure that the improvement of IAQ is enshrined in legislation.
This poses a risk to developers and landlords in terms of both legislation and tenant relationships. As air quality monitoring becomes increasingly prevalent, those that fail to make changes to improve IAQ risk falling behind the competition and struggling with tenant attraction and retention.