Room to breathe

Date: 01 August 2016

In 2014, the UK Green Building Council conducted research into the effects of poor indoor air quality on the health, well-being and productivity of building occupants.

Findings suggested that workplace productivity and performance can decrease by up to 10 per cent if ventilation is inadequate and CO2 levels are not controlled effectively.[1]

Given the average person spends up to 90 per cent of their time inside, air quality needs to be controlled to create a space that makes users feel happy and healthy [2]

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde, are all around us as unseen gases emitted naturally into the air from everyday items and furnishings. These compounds can quickly build up, and have the potential to negatively impact the health of a building’s occupants.

VOCs have been found to trigger a range of ailments, including nausea and headaches. For businesses in particular this can have a significant impact, with illness leading to employee absence and poor concentration, ultimately damaging the bottom line.

VOCs lurk in all sorts of places. Here are just a few examples:

  • Despite their pleasant smell, prolonged use of air fresheners can actually be detrimental to indoor air quality
  • Every day beauty essentials, such as deodorant and hairspray
  • Cleaning products designed to give desks and kitchens that gleaming sheen can emit VOCs
  • While they may be fun, bringing materials such as art supplies into schools can significantly increase VOCs
  • Air quality is becoming an increasingly pressing consideration for commercial building occupants, principally those in offices, healthcare and education environments. 

So what can be done to improve it?

While some surface level changes can be made, such as using specially formulated low VOC paints, these won’t tackle the issues of VOCs produced from materials introduced post-handover.

Eliminating all of the activities or products that cause this risk simply isn’t a practical option. However specialist building materials are available which significantly improve indoor air quality.

What can builders and specifiers do to help?

Activ'Air infographic

Incorporating British Gypsum’s Activ'Air technology into a specification can help to meet the air quality challenges that arise in commercial spaces. Based on experimental data following ISO16000-23 standards, Activ'Air has been proven to reduce formaldehyde levels by up to 70 per cent.*

Activ'Air is the only plasterboard solution that absorbs formaldehyde and converts it into harmless, inert compounds, preventing re-emission back into the atmosphere.

Given the technology is designed to perform for more than 50 years (which is longer than the intended design life of most interiors), it will reduce formaldehyde levels regardless of what is brought into the building during its lifetime.

In addition to these benefits, Activ'Air also contributes towards two BREEAM points under indoor air quality, as part of management and handover test plans.

Indoor air quality is an issue that needs tackling throughout the construction industry. When it comes to commercial spaces, designers and specifiers need to address this requirement in their design, making the most of the innovative technology and providing building occupants with better air to breathe.

*Formaldehyde reduction is based on experimental data following ISO16000-23 standards from 0.4m2 to 1.4m2 installed/ m3 room. Lifetime is based on a calculation assuming constant formaldehyde reduction with indoor formaldehyde concentration of 25µg/m3 for ceiling, drywall or combined drywall and ceiling configurations.

[1] Infographic: The importance of good indoor air quality

[2] Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices The next chapter for green building

Please login if you want to submit a comment.


There are no comments yet, be the first to share your thoughts