Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Office Buildings

From cleaning products to aerosol sprays, indoor air quality is one of the greatest concerns for people’s environmental health.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Buildings

Since people spend approximately 90% in indoor environments, high indoor air quality is essential. There are numerous tricks and smart devices that can help occupants of residential buildings reduce VOCs concentrations indoors. Nevertheless, more and more people, especially those working in commercial buildings, report experiencing adverse health effects, such as sick building syndrome.

Therefore, along with the implementation of effective ventilation systems, the use of a smart indoor air quality monitor is essential for the detection of high VOC concentrations and the further boost of people’s health.

Indoor Air Quality & Office Buildings

Although modern office buildings are equipped with an HVAC system, commercial and public buildings are still major sources of VOCs, toxic gases, dust, and microbial compounds all at the same time. What’s more, research has revealed that levels of pollutants are 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors, in the vast atmospheric environment. Note that when it comes to office buildings, factors such as working hours and number of employees should be considered. In fact, both short-term VOC measurements and continuous monitoring have shown that VOC levels are almost two times higher during working hours than night time*.

  • VOCs, in particular, have been associated with sick building syndrome, especially when VOC levels exceed 3.0 mg/m3. Note that common compounds indoors include aliphatic hydrocarbons, aldehydes, acetone, and formaldehyde.

  • New and renewed buildings emit higher levels of pollutants due to the common phenomenon of off-gassing. In fact, building materials, paints, and carpets can be extremely hazardous.

  • On top of that, numerous human activities, including cooking or smoking, can have a negative impact on the indoor air quality of the building.

  • Temperature, humidity, and dust can also lead to an increase in the emissions of VOCs.

Reducing VOC in Office Buildings

Poor indoor air quality can lead to poor health outcomes. Common adverse symptoms are eye irritation, nausea, headaches, lack of concentration, and decreased productivity. Note that symptoms linked to the sick building syndrome correlate with the time spent in the building, and decrease when people are away from the facility. High concentrations of VOCs such as formaldehyde in the environment can be even carcinogenic. Reducing toxic emissions is vital for people’s environmental protection, especially in office buildings, medical facilities, and educational centers.

  • Although natural ventilation can improve the indoor air quality of the building, poor outdoor air quality can worsen the air quality of the premises. Therefore, good HVAC systems with proper HEPA filters are essential. Note the connection between energy efficiency and ventilation should also be examined.

  • Low-emitting materials should be considered in constructions and renovations. Bake-out methods, which rely on heat and vacuum to reduce concentrations of dangerous organic compounds, are recommended. Note that high levels of pollutants in carpets and furniture also pose a risk to people’s health.

  • Natural ways and plants to get rid of volatile organic compounds can improve people’s well-being and benefit the office environment as a whole. What’s more, some compounds emit a distinctive smell, such as the sweet odor of methylene chloride, which may help people spot toxins with their negative impact on health.

As indoor air quality in office buildings is essential, governments and companies have started to implement strict regulations and policies, like ASHRAE in the US.