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Sick Building Syndrome and CO2 in the Office

Posted on March 14, 2019

How proper CO2 monitoring can improve productivity in your workplace

As climate change becomes an ever-pressing issue it’s likely by now that you’ve been made painfully aware of the impact of CO2 in our atmosphere. Unfortunately, its influence doesn’t end there. Since the ‘70s the issue of indoor CO2 levels has been a growing issue with relatively little awareness.

co2 chimney sick building syndrome

As a part of our day-to-day existence, we produce our fair share of CO2, we can’t help it, our breathing alone results in almost 1kg of CO2 on a daily basis. As a result, when you take a large number of people and put them all in the same space, like a workplace, the CO2 becomes more considerable.

This isn’t an issue when the work environment is well ventilated, however when efforts have been made to restrict air flow from outside in order to cut heating bills the CO2 simply accumulates.

High concentrations of CO2 can have a wide range of detrimental effects upon worker productivity and comfort. This compromises the output of a workplace overall.

Sick Building Syndrome

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is the generalised term used to describe a workplace that has become saturated with CO2 to the point that it causes worker discomfort. This acute discomfort expresses itself a variety of symptoms:

sick building syndrome tired man

What we now know as SBS started to become prevalent in the ‘70s, around the same time that offices and other workplaces were being better insulated in order to cut heating bills and improve efficiency.

In the process however, one issue was traded for another and people began to report discomfort symptoms like the ones above. Hand-in-hand with this came a drop in productivity.

A 2017 study conducted by Harvard, SUNY and Syracuse aimed to test the effects of increased CO2 levels upon productivity. They exposed 24 subjects to varying levels of CO2 and measured their ability to work as normal.

Those exposed to the highest levels of CO2 (1200ppm) worked 50% less effectively as those at the lightest levels (550ppm), proving the link between CO2 exposure and differing productivity.

The role of CO2 monitoring

Thankfully there are steps building designers and employers can take to control CO2 levels, thereby improving worker comfort and productivity. One of the major ways of doing so is with the use of a Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) system.

DCV systems work to responsively regulate indoor CO2 levels and are the most efficient means of doing so. They take into account the maximum occupancy of a space and adjust their ventilation output to fit the current occupancy level.

sick building syndrome office co2

This means that they only let in as much fresh air as is necessary to dilute the amount of CO2 being produced by the present number of people at any given time.

A key feature of these systems is an accurate and reliable CO2 monitor, allowing for the system to operate effectively.

Aside from having a responsive CO2 monitoring system, keeping on top of your workplace air quality is the responsible choice to help improve productivity, worker comfort and avoid breaching the regulated safe levels for CO2.

For reference here’s a handy list that demonstrates the varying levels of indoor air quality with regards to CO2 and their likely effects:

If you have concerns regarding Sick Building Syndrome or the air quality in your workplace, we can help.

With our range of CO2 sensors and transmitters, including switch sensors for responsive systems, we can provide you with everything you could need to improve productivity and comfort within your work environment.

If you’re looking for a CO2 sensing solution, feel free to contact us and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

More information on Sick Building Syndrome.

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