Lots of people, just like myself, spend many hours a day in their office. Of course, an office should be an inspiring place; it’s the topic of most contributions to this hub. Obviously, we should incorporate more colours, textures and nature, but one thing is frequently overlooked: the quality of the air. The office can be a hazardous environment. Particulate matter, germs, volatile organic compounds and more can accumulate over time and threaten the health and wellbeing of employees.
Studies show that an estimated 80 percent of all workplaces are not sufficiently ventilated. Sometimes this is simply because it is not possible to open a window, or, in other cases, because people just forget to do it. Occasionally the outside air quality is even worse. Where there are ventilation systems installed, many are poorly maintained resulting in the air that gets pumped into the room being even more polluted than the air that was taken out.
Also, the role of the floor covering should not be underestimated. Although soft floor covering cannot actively clean the air, it can capture particulate matter and the germs attached and keep it safely stored until the vacuum cleaner comes by. A study by the German organisation for asthma and allergy patients, DAAB, showed that the amount of particulate matter in spaces with soft floor covering is 50 percent lower than in spaces with hard floor covering. A hard floor covering might look shiny and fresh, but –like many things in life- it is deceiving.
The influence of poor indoor air quality on the health and well-being of employees has been examined in many studies, and the results are clear: polluted air brings down productivity, it makes employees sleepy, worsens existing lung problems and can even cause other diseases.
Therefore, we call upon you architects and designers to make the health and well-being of the people working inside your buildings your number one priority. The majority of people spend most of their days inside buildings, whether it be at home or at work, so you can make a huge contribution to their health. You might not see clean air, but it is among the most essential things in life. After all, there is no choice in breathing.
And to our friends at Interface, I would like to suggest: Can we develop a floor that actively cleans the air?
This will be an interesting co-innovation project. Being an asthma patient myself, I promise I will be your first customer.