he pandemic caused by COVID-19 brought innumerous challenges to society. Social distancing, mandatory curfews, continuous hands and surfaces disinfection are (temporarily) part of our everyday life.

 

In a professional context, everything that was thought to take longer to be adopted, suddenly became reality, as is the case of working from home. In short notice, organizations had to adapt to this new reality. Companies that most quickly do so will be on top in the post-COVID context.

 

Even with the vaccine on the horizon, it is important to remember that the behavioural shocks, as the one created by the pandemic, leave permanent marks. Building users became more demanding. Whether it is hotels, offices, restaurants or stores, it is important to create safety conditions so that spaces can be used again with confidence.

 

The importance of air quality

 

A recent study by the Japanese television station NHK, using high definition cameras and laser illumination, showed that microdroplets expelled by a sneeze can remain in the air up to 20 minutes. According to the researchers, these super-light droplets contain viral load and can be a source of disease spread because they disseminate easily in enclosed spaces.

 

 

The following image shows the microdroplets from a sneeze (in red), which spread throughout the space after 10 minutes.

Gotículas Suspensas no Ar COVID-19

 

Image: NHK

 

During this study, researchers showed that the breeze from an open window was enough to sweep away the microdroplets and make the environment safe for the participants. This shows the crucial necessity for buildings to have a good level of ventilation.

 

Healthy buildings is the new standard

 

Although COVID-19 is nowadays the main concern for managers, the impact of air quality on employee productivity is not negligible.

 

A Harvard Public Health study conducted in 2014 found that the cognitive performance of people who are in healthy environments (e.g., low CO2 and VOC levels) is, on average, double that of people exposed to conventional environments. 

 

Another study, published in 2015 in the International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health, showed that increasing the levels of ventilation to make a building healthier has a cost of only 40 USD per person per year. Indeed, the economic benefit of a healthier environment reaches 6500 USD per person per year.

 

Over the past decade, several studies have been published by renowned organizations on this subject, and they always come to the same conclusion: healthy buildings increase workers productivity. At a time when the knowledge worker is becoming increasingly important in organizations, providing suitable environments to work, attract and maintain talent is imperative to guarantee the competitiveness of companies in the long run. 

 

Corporate responsibility

 

All companies will be pressured to guarantee the safety of the users of their spaces, whether they are clients or workers. Clients will give preference to spaces where they feel safe. Workers will value the working conditions more when searching for a job.

 

Pressure on companies mean pressure on Facility Managers. Before the pandemic, ventilation and climatization were minor points. The lack of regulation could originate discomfort or energy waste.

 

But after the pandemic, if health problems arise due to the building conditions, the FM becomes responsible. 

 

How can technology help

 

The Internet of Things (IoT) can give fundamental support for building managers. Monitoring air quality, meeting rooms usage or toilet cleaning needs are examples of IoT solutions that make buildings smarter and safer.

 

For example, it is possible to measure the level of CO2 to determine if the level of ventilation is adequate. Every time someone exhales, they release CO2 into the air. CO2 measurement allows to estimate whether enough fresh air is entering the room.

 

A space well ventilated should have about 800 ppm (parts per million). A higher value means that there is a greater possibility of transmission if someone is infected.

 

With CO2 sensors, adjusting the number of air renovations per hour of a space becomes simpler with real time information. The adjustment of ventilation systems can be done dynamically, based on the number of people present, which also helps saving energy.

 

Fortunately to the FM, the advancement in IoT has simplified building monitoring, with cheap and easy to install sensors, allowing simpler operations, cost reduction and, of course, increasing the safety of its users.

 

Learn more about how Internet of Things is helping to fight the pandemic.