The Key to Achieving Better Indoor Air Quality: Do Something!

12/10/2001 | By Jim Widmer

The problems are real…the time to do something is now!

by Rick Fedrizzi

Every year in the United States, billions of dollars are lost to businesses because of absenteeism, sub-par productivity and health insurance claims. When it comes to providing a healthy indoor work environment for America's workforce, many fall down on the job. Some will argue that the cost of providing this type of environment is prohibitive, the benefits unclear, the results incalculable. This bottom-line approach is ill founded. Building owners and managers who follow this scenario are gambling with the future - theirs, their tenants' and their tenants' employees. And while there are no doubt many inter-related and unrelated factors that determine the productivity outcome, this article aims to serve as a none-too-subtle reminder for America's building owners, property managers, health insurers and Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) that apathy is not the answer; that these problems aren't going to go away or cure themselves. Add to this the new threat of bioterrorism on America's building stock and you can easily see that the need for proper indoor air quality is quickly transitioning from "should do" to "must do" status. The problems are real…the time to do something is now!

According to HP-Woods Research Institute (Herndon, Va.), buildings are supposed to provide secure, safe and healthy conditions and facilitate the well being and productivity of occupants, owners and managers. Focusing on the "healthy conditions and well being" clauses, the fundamental objectives of environmental control are to prevent adverse health effects; provide for desired conditions of human response, occupant performance and productivity; and, achieve all by simultaneous control of exposure parameters for thermal, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), lighting and acoustics.
But there exists a three-fold problem, according to the HP-Woods findings:

1. Anecdotal and speculative data suggest up to 20 percent improvement in "productivity," and a $50-$200 billion a year savings potential in the U.S.;
2. There is a lack of scientifically valid, quantitative data on the effectiveness of Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) on health, performance and productivity; and,
3. Fiduciary responsibilities require more credible "productivity data."

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