Building Controls, Heating and Cooling, Safety

Most People Remain Concerned About Air Quality Amid COVID, Want Data

People would feel safer with more data on indoor air quality (IAQ) during these trying times, according to a new survey ordered by measurement tech company Vaisala. The survey, which included over 4,000 respondents in the United States, France, Germany, and Finland, was conducted in summer 2021 and studied people’s concerns regarding indoor air during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Vaisala, more than one-third of the respondents are concerned about the IAQ in their place of work, and more than half say that concerns with IAQ impacts their motivation to visit public spaces. Around two-thirds of respondents also say that these concerns impact their motivation to travel.

“Vaccination rates are high in the surveyed countries, but the survey revealed high levels of concern with air quality in indoor spaces. We believe this is because, intuitively, people understand that infection risk is higher in indoor spaces where people are in close proximity with each other, and where ventilation is insufficient,” says Anu Kätkä from Vaisala’s product management team.

“When people spend too long in a poorly ventilated space, their exhaled breath causes carbon dioxide (CO2) levels to rise. Higher levels of CO2 impact people’s well-being, health, and performance, but importantly, monitoring CO2 levels can highlight when the risk of COVID-19 transmission is high and better ventilation is required. By monitoring CO2 levels in indoor spaces, organizations can therefore provide the reassurance that the survey respondents need,” Kätkä explains.

Respondents Want More Data on IAQ at Workplaces

Out of all the respondents, the Finns are the most confident about going back to work: 71% of Finnish respondents feel safe about returning to the workplace. Seventy percent of French respondents feel safe about returning, followed by 65% of American respondents and just 55% of the German respondents.

Half (50%) of all respondents say that they would feel safer about returning to work with more information about IAQ.

According to Vaisala, IAQ can be monitored with instruments that measure, among other parameters, CO2, humidity, and temperature. These parameters can be used to automatically inform ventilation and building management systems so that air quality can be optimized.

“Indoor air does not only affect exposure to airborne diseases but also employees’ energy levels, because exhaled breath increases CO2 levels, which, in turn, increase drowsiness,” Kätkä continues.

IAQ Monitoring Needed in Public Spaces

The survey also studied people’s perception of IAQ in public spaces, such as shopping centers, sports facilities, and public transportation. Overall, people are more concerned about IAQ in public areas than at their place of work. Fifty percent of all respondents would like more information in the workplace, whereas 60% would like more information on IAQ in public spaces.

Vaisala notes the concern with IAQ in public spaces translates into a reluctance to travel, with 65% of respondents saying that concerns with public air quality affect their motivation to travel.

Vaisala further claims schools, shopping centers, restaurants, metro stations, and airports all benefit from IAQ monitoring. Viruses travel faster in dry air, but humidity can make people feel unwell. According to the company, it is therefore important to monitor and maintain optimal conditions, as well as to share the monitoring data with all stakeholders, including staff and members of the public.

Majority of People Want More Accurate Data on Indoor Air

Based on the survey results, IAQ is a concern in the mind of at least every third person, and more than half of all the respondents want more information and data on air quality inside those places where they spend time. This means that facility managers face important decisions.

“In recent years, many countries have implemented regulations concerning the monitoring of indoor air quality parameters such as CO2. These regulations are designed to ensure optimal air quality, but in order to achieve this goal, accurate and science-based data is essential,” explains Kätkä.

Vaisala says reliable measurement instruments perform a key role in decision making to prevent the spread of diseases and protect people’s health. The prerequisite for healthy indoor air is efficient ventilation and air conditioning that prevents diseases from spreading, keeps the mind clear, and ensures a healthy environment.