After a long year at home, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. As the country starts to ease restrictions, and businesses begin a phased return to the office, it’s important to think about your workplace and how it could impact your staff.
Now, more than ever, we are aware of our surroundings. After a year of staying at home, we’re more cautious. We take time to think about the things we do, the places we visit, and the people we see.
With the knowledge that indoors can be riskier than outdoors, and that ventilation and clean air can help minimise these risks, Ian Nicol, managing director at Aircon Scotland, provides some hints and tips on how to improve your air quality in the workplace.
What has changed since the beginning of the pandemic?
“One major change is that workplaces need to increase the level and frequency of fresh air circulating rooms in which people are working.
“The Government guidance in the media has been to open windows to allow for fresh air to circulate. Although the message is correct, it’s important to understand that this is for the general public, and alternative options are available to businesses.
“When it comes to traditional office space, it is most likely that opening a window is the building’s primary source of ventilation, and depending on the business, there may be additional ventilation installed. However, many modern office buildings will have windows that do not open, which may cause concern to some staff.
“What people often do not realise is that the office space will have sufficient ventilation units installed, or at least they should have if they are complying with HSE guidelines. If you are based in a modern office building, it’s important to inform staff that although your building does not have windows, there is sufficient ventilation in place to make the building safe. They may not be voicing their concerns, but it’s likely that someone is sitting at home worrying about this very thing.
“Within the last twelve months, there have been distinct changes in the conversations we are having with our customers regarding their air conditioning and ventilation units. Although still important, the cost is no longer the driving force when making decisions, as businesses are now increasingly concerned about the air quality in their buildings and the safety of their staff.”
Is there anything that we can do to improve a building’s ventilation?
“Government guidance dictates that we should aim to maximise fresh air and minimise recirculated air, and as a result, one thing that is becoming increasingly popular with our customers is changing the way that they use their ventilation system.
“We can update the system to circulate fresh air only or to extract only, meaning that the level of recirculated air is minimised. This is a service that a few customers have already enquired about but I expect it will increase as people begin to plan their return to the office.
“Another popular option is the introduction of air purifiers. Regardless of the ventilation system in place, when used in conjunction with a building’s existing ventilation systems, air purifiers will improve the quality of indoor air.”
Has any new technology been introduced?
“Yes, Panasonic has introduced its new Nanoe X technology in its most recent line of air conditioning units. The new units use Hydroxyl radicals to inhibit pollutants, certain types of viruses, and bacteria to clean and deodorise a room.
“Although extremely effective, the cost of installing a new air conditioning unit can be quite expensive, especially if the unit does not need to be replaced. If, however, someone was looking to install a new system this unit would definitely be worth considering.
“Regardless of the sector, businesses across Scotland will have been affected by the pandemic and may not have the budget available to install new cutting-edge technology. Therefore it is important to think about alternative options. There are some easy steps that businesses should take to improve the effectiveness of their current system before returning to the office.”
What steps should we be taking before returning to the office?
“The number one thing that you need to consider is maintenance. Even before the pandemic, regular service and maintenance have always been a top priority for businesses with air conditioning units.
“The key things that businesses should consider include:
Service your air conditioning units. At Aircon Scotland, we use manufacturers’ service and diagnostic tools to check the operational performance of our systems.
Clean your systems. Our fogging technology focuses on the fan coil and filters, killing bacteria in seconds and protecting your unit for 30 days.
Heat recovery ventilation is common in modern buildings. These systems should be manually adjusted to manufacturers’ revised recommendations, in order to increase the volume of fresh air within a building.
As mentioned above, all ventilation systems should be adjusted to give the maximum air changes possible.
Running times of ventilation systems, fresh air, and air extraction should be adjusted to 2 hours before and after normal working hours as a minimum.
Toilet ventilation should run 24/7 as this is the room that everyone will enter at some point in the day.
CO2 monitors controlling ventilation should be by-passed to allow continuous operations.
Regular maintenance, including cleaning and replacing filters, should be carried out as normal.
What’s your top tip for business owners?
“Preparation is key. Once restrictions are lifted, the floodgates will open and everyone will be looking to get back to the office around the same time. Meaning that everyone will want their units serviced at the same time.
“All of the steps that we’ve discussed today can be carried out weeks, if not months in advance of an office re-opening. By implementing these steps now, you can have peace of mind, knowing that your building is safe and ready to go when the time comes.”
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