Buildings of the future compete with indoor air quality

Indoor air quality problems are not often recognised until people occupying the premises start having symptoms. That is when indoor air quality raises a lot of discussion. We would also like people to talk about indoor air quality when it is excellent, good or moderate. That is when the choices deciding in which direction the air quality will go in the future are made. We believe that buildings will compete with indoor air quality as soon as within the next few years.

Studies have shown that good indoor air enhances people’s health, performance and even productivity. The criteria of good indoor air include pleasant temperature and humidity, neutral odour and low level of pollutants, such as chemicals, cigarette smoke and dust. These can all be measured on a continuous basis with increasingly easy methods.

Indoor air quality can be measured in a continuous and versatile manner

To date, there have only been a few continuous measurement solutions available for indoor air quality, and they have usually been based on measuring a few factors, such as temperature and relative humidity. There have also been challenges, including the high cost of measuring equipment, difficult installation and the poor coverage of wireless networks indoors. Different indoor air quality classifications and regulations define threshold values for individual factors, but there is only rarely information available on the combined impact of one or more factors with adverse effects. The way how the final users experience the indoor air quality is very seldom taken into account.

Advanced and more affordable technologies, such as sensors, wireless networks and artificial intelligence, are now enabling continuous measurement of indoor air quality. In the future, measurement data from various sources can be analysed in real time, which makes it possible to monitor the indoor air quality on a continuous basis and adjust it in a proactive manner. Potential quality issues can also be spotted quickly.

We are expecting the continuous measurement systems to provide increasing advantages to various stakeholders, such as property owners, maintenance staff and final users. Analysed data can be visualised for the needs of various user groups and it allows adjusting the environments to meet the personal preferences and needs of the users. 

Open data for everyone – bringing indoor air quality under control

People working in offices usually know nothing about the indoor air quality of the premises they use or their possibilities of influencing it. The situation could be different. In the future, property users will be able to use a mobile application not only for monitoring the air quality and adapting the conditions to their liking, but also for combining measured indoor air quality data to, for example, their own wellbeing and health information. The application will enable creating an interactive connection between various stakeholders: the property owner will get valuable feedback on the premises he owns, maintenance staff will receive real-time information on repair and control measures needed, and the users will get information on indoor air quality and its impacts on their wellbeing.

The openness, transparency and intelligibility provided by the application will build trust between different stakeholders. Clean and comfortable indoor air will create added value to the property owner and be part of a service package. Users of the property will be more satisfied and have an opportunity to enjoy high-quality indoor air.

When a property shifts from the monitoring of air quality to the management of indoor conditions, it will reduce the health risks and improve the quality of life. Consequently, the health expenses will also decrease, and the productivity of work improve, for example. The most important thing is to openly report about indoor air quality and to offer instructions and modes of operation by which a shift in a better direction can be brought about.

Kaisa Vehmas, Senior Scientist, ESTABLISH project manager

Johanna Kallio, Senior Scientist, SCOTT project manager

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