Climate Change Concerns Head Indoors

Published on on 23 May 2024

The commercial real estate sector continues employing multiple initiatives to address climate-change hazard issues, like reducing carbon emissions and boosting recycling programs. Yet a recent JLL article noted that indoor air quality should also be high on the list of landlords, property owners and corporate executives.

The article explained that nine out of ten people and businesses polled in a Dyson survey believe that workplace air quality is important. Furthermore, the Dyson Global Connected Air Quality Data project reported that 85% of countries had worse indoor than outdoor air quality in 2022. Additionally, environmental research group First Street analysis revealed that in the United States, over 83 million people (more than a quarter of the population) are exposed yearly to air quality thresholds that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index considers “unhealthy.”

Terry Rose, HVAC Service Director for Integral’s Cooling Technologiesdivision, told JLL that “sick building syndrome” isn’t new – it’s been around for years and includes the “afternoon slump” caused by increased CO2 levels in the office space. “But with more people back in the office again, a bigger focus on workplace health and wellbeing is bringing ventilation and filtration systems back into the spotlight,” he told JLL.

The indoor situation doesn’t concern just germs or external pollution creeping in through ventilation systems. JLL said volatile toxins, like those in cleaning products, air fresheners and fit-out materials like paint and carpets, can also impact worker health.

While upfront costs involve implementing BMS systems and indoor air quality sensors, JLL explained that doing so can lead to significant benefits. Studies spearheaded by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health showed that spending about $40 per person on proper ventilation to clear the indoor air can lead to productivity benefits of $6,500 annually.

The JLL article acknowledges that balancing better indoor air quality goals with net-zero emissions objectives can be difficult. Or, as Matthew Marson, managing director of EMEA for JLLT Advisory, told JLL, “Unnecessary frequent air exchange increases HVAC fan use and energy consumption.” However, he added that using technology – like indoor air quality data – with existing systems control can help balance the situation. Additionally, “sealed windows were previously the norm, but in pursuit of low operational carbon, more developments are starting to factor in adaptive design, combining operable windows with sensors and mechanical ventilation,” Marson said.

Rose added that stopping airborne pollutants at their source is also important. “Investing in HVAC and ductwork maintenance and regular filter changes equates to investment in your people. It’s also a cost-effective way to keep equipment energy efficient and ensure optimal ventilation, air exchange, humidity control and temperature,” he told JLL.