The Sustainable Office – Part 7: Air

On average adults spend over 90% of their time indoors, and the air indoors is almost always more polluted than outdoor air due to dust, mold, radon, and other chemicals. Recently, it has been recognized that poor indoor air quality can lead to lower productivity, missed work days, and illness – something called sick building syndrome. Unless you are employing Jerome Kerviel, lower productivity and more sick days among your employees is not good for your business.

To ensure that you have happy and healthy employees, here are some things you can do to improve the quality of the air in your office.

1. Buy low VOC carpet and furnishings

Paint, rugs, adhesives, furnishings – all these things emit VOCs, formaldehyde, ozone, and other fun things into the air in your office, particularly when they are new. Most of the bad stuff from normal furniture is off-gassed in the first 24-72 hours, so think about refurnishing the office just before a long weekend. You know that “new carpet” smell? It’s killing you.

There is also green furniture, carpets, etc., which contains far fewer or even no VOCs.

2. Let the outside in

Outside air is typically cleaner than the air inside your office. Opening doors and windows allows for faster air exchange with the outside world, filling your office with cleaner air and reducing the chance of your employees suffering from sick building syndrome.

3. Get an air filter

Air filters take many of the harmful chemicals (like VOCs) out of the air. One downside to air filters is that they require energy to run, so you are trading better indoor air quality for worse outdoor air quality. Additionally, there is an even more amazing and revolutionary solution than the air filter to the problem of VOCs…

4. Plants!

In addition to filtering VOCs and whatnot out of the air, plants magically turn the CO2 in your office into pure, breathable oxygen. Just water him, set him in the sun, and toss some encouraging words his way now and again, and he will keep your office air clean and oxygen-rich. You will probably need about one plant for every 100 square feet, or one on everyone’s desk.

5. Stop printing

Some studies of printer emissions have shown that they can be as harmful as cigarette smoke. That’s pretty bad news based on how much printing goes on in the average office. Save paper and your lungs by printing less.

On a side note, you should probably have your employees stop smoking in the office, too. I know, I know, you think next I’m going to say you should stop drinking at work, too. Don’t worry, I would never go that far.