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No more bad air day: How to improve indoor air quality in office buildings

Indoor air quality, Makati Commerce Tower

Now that many companies are planning their back-to-office initiatives, workers are rightfully concerned about the state of the workspaces they will go back to. Part of addressing this concern is ensuring that the post-Covid-19 workplace has an indoor air quality that promotes and protects the health of its users and occupiers.

 

It is a well-known fact that people spend a great deal of their time indoors. And for most office workers before the Covid-19 pandemic, a great majority of this time is spent inside office buildings. In fact, a study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States found that Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, where, as many studies show, the concentration of some pollutants is two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.

Now that the government has lowered Metro Manila and neighboring areas’ Covid-19 alert level, and many companies are planning their back-to-office initiatives, workers are rightfully concerned about the state of the workspaces they will go back to, air quality wise. After all, studies have shown that the virus that causes Covid-19 can be transmitted via aerosols suspended in ambient air in enclosed spaces.

Indoor air quality is perhaps one of the most underrated health concerns in commercial and institutional buildings, and it is not difficult to see why. Most buildings do not have issues relating to poor indoor air quality, but even well-run ones can sometimes experience episodes of poor indoor air quality. While heavily polluted outdoor air can be easily noticed through dark smoke or toxic smell, pollution occurring in indoor air is not as readily discernible. It hides behind the cool air blown by air-conditioning and the pleasant smell of air fresheners. And because most people do not see it, many building managers, office occupiers, and landlords dismiss the fact that it exists.

In many cases, indoor air is a lot worse than outdoor air. Many health symptoms experienced by workers are caused by indoor air pollution, which is precisely why it is essential to keep the air inside your commercial building clean and safe. This not only promotes comfort among your employees but also protects their health.

Unlike other issues that commonly happen in commercial buildings, such as rickety furniture and leaky faucet, indoor air quality is not as simple and easily defined. It is a constantly changing interaction of complex factors: sources of pollutants or odors; the design, maintenance, and operation of building ventilation systems; moisture and humidity; and occupant perceptions and susceptibilities.

So how then can building managers improve workplace indoor air quality? ColliersOffice Services – Landlord Representation has put together a list of tips how.

1. Keep a clean workplace

Maintaining a clean workplace lowers the levels of mold, dust, allergens, and contaminants that could spread through the air. Consider also using eco-friendly cleaning products that do not release harsh chemical compounds into the air.

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2. Use air-cleaning devices

Having commercial-grade equipment on hand, such as air scrubbers, dehumidifiers, and air purifiers, are a great way to keep your indoor air quality at good levels and prevent the frequent need to hire professional cleaners.

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3. Change HVAC filters regularly

Heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, especially their filters, should be cleaned and/or replaced regularly. Clogged filters can interrupt airflow and can lead to the build-up of pollutants in enclosed spaces.

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4. Observe proper ventilation

Turning off HVAC system and opening the windows occasionally to allow outdoor air to enter the building can also do wonders to indoor air quality. Air vents should also be left unblocked by making sure that furniture, storage boxes, chairs, or cabinets are not placed directly in front of them. Indoor plants are also a great addition to your office, not just because they are refreshing and pleasant to the eyes but also because they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen.

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5. Conduct regular air tests

Performing indoor air testing regularly will also provide building managers, landlords, and occupiers with the right information and insights to make indoor air quality improvement plans more directed and efficient. These tests include checking humidity levels, airflow, ventilation, mold growth, odors, and water damage.

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A building like to no other

One of the upcoming commercial buildings to exemplify commitment to promoting workers’ health and well-being through maintaining high indoor air quality is the Makati Commerce Tower. LEED Gold-certified (aspiring for Platinum), this next-generation Grade A office tower along Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue just recently held its topping-off ceremony, and when it welcomes its first tenants in the third quarter of 2022, the building will become a landmark for innovation and sustainability.

Among the indoor air quality innovations that Makati Commerce Tower will feature are nothing short of impressive – and reassuring to its future users and occupants. This building will feature sensors to ensure that CO2 levels are in accordance with strict local and international standards; exhaust vents installed across all office spaces, toilets, and storage rooms; dedicated fan coil units (FCU) to ensure optimal air quality that will not mix with other tenants; maintenance of positive air pressure to avoid infiltration of untreated outdoor air; individual thermostat control in order to dial in on the perfect temperature setting for optimal comfort and efficiency; and pre-cooling of fresh air supply, which results in better indoor air quality and higher energy savings.

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More companies in the Philippines are now looking for sustainable and healthy work environments that will provide confidence for their employees to return to workplaces, said Joey Roi Bondoc, Colliers Associate Director and Head of Research. Indeed, as we start companies start to welcome their workers back to the office, they might as well do so on the promise that workers’ health and well-being will be ensured, and a great deal of this can be achieved by maintaining high indoor air quality of office buildings.

 


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Maricris Sarino

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Manila

Maricris has worked in real estate since 1998. She began her career as an Investment Consultant in Megaworld Corporation handling the leasing of Megaworld's office buildings, residential condominiums and commercial warehouses. In 1999, Maricris was tasked to conceptualized, set-up and operate the Eastwood Locator’s Assistance Center (eL@C) in Eastwood City CyberPark, the first ICT, mixed-use master-planned city in the Philippines. eL@C serves ICT and BPO companies as an one stop shop for real estate solutions, information center as well as a business center facility and headquarters for service providers and satellite government offices.

Maricris joined Colliers International in 2012 to provide real estate strategies and solutions to its current clients as well as to source new clients for the company.

In addition, Maricris founded the Children's Environmental Awareness and Action Foundation (CEAAF) that focuses on the development and implementation of programs and educational materials on Philippine flora and fauna as well as Filipino pride projects and events.

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Mara Chua

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Mara has over 8 years’ experience in the real estate industry in the Philippines. She joined the Office Services Team of Colliers Philippines in July 2016 and brings with her a wide understanding of various real estate markets, deal structuring, lease negotiations, and conceptualizing different marketing strategies.

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Charles Serviano

Senior Manager

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In 2008, he transferred to the Office Services as an Analyst where he was tasked to manage the Department’s database. With this, he gained exposure in the facets of property services and transactions. He was then promoted to Negotiator in 2009.

In 2016, he shifted gear and joined the Landlord Representation team handling various projects in Metro Manila and different Provinces

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