Illustrative image. (Twitter)
A recent study conducted by Green Building Certification Inc. (GBCI) India and Saint-Gobain Research India assessed the health performance of office buildings in India. The Healthy Workplaces, Healthier People study focuses on understanding the state of the indoor environment in Indian offices and the impact on the people who work in these buildings. He assessed the indoor environment in Indian workspaces and its impact on building occupants, and highlights the correlation between indoor spaces and occupant health and well-being. The study found that there is considerable room for improvement in Indian offices when it comes to maintaining a healthy indoor environment.
Covering a pre-pandemic period, the study involved the assessment of 30 offices located in nine Indian cities covering three main climate zones, and included a mix of certified green and non-certified spaces owned by private and government agencies. Collectively, these offices had an occupancy of approximately 30,000 people, of whom 1,500 also participated in an online survey as part of the study.
A healthy building protects its occupants from external and internal contaminants, creates a safe and comfortable interior space, and encourages a healthy lifestyle. Working in well-designed and maintained workplaces improves health and productivity.
Important parameters such as indoor air quality, lighting, access to exterior views, thermal comfort and acoustics that define the quality of the workspace were assessed. The study presents the state of the indoor environment in Indian workspaces, the factors that influence it and describes the design and operating strategies to maintain a healthy indoor office environment. The correlations between interior spaces and occupant health and well-being highlighted in the study present opportunities to improve occupant quality of life through changes in workplace design. For example, the study shows that lack of access to quality views is directly related to how occupants feel at the end of the day and the quality of their sleep. People who reported having a good view outward had higher energy levels at the end of the day and reported fewer sleep-related problems than those with poor or no eyesight. These findings indicate the important role that external perspectives play in determining the overall quality of space and improving health, especially mental health and well-being of people.
Of the 30 offices studied, only one exhibited all indoor air contaminants within the limits prescribed by the standards. Contaminants generated inside and those coming from outside were of concern because of the negative impact they have on the health of the occupants. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) were the most common non-compliant indoor air contaminants, followed by particulate matter (PM) and formaldehyde (CH2O). Poor lighting and lack of access to good exterior views from workstations were some of the other common issues.
The aim was to understand what occupants feel about their workspace and how it impacts them. Occupant surveys are generally considered as a basis for identifying problem areas and assessing the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of a space. However, the results of the study revealed that critical interior parameters such as air quality and lighting were mostly imperceptible to occupants. Despite the poor lighting and air quality observed, 76% of people said they were satisfied with the lighting and 68% with the air quality, noting that occupant perception does not accurately reflect the performance of the car. ‘IEQ. This indicates how essential it is to regularly monitor the performance of the IEQ and educate occupants about its impact on their health in the short and long term.
Take the IEQ for example. Only 1 of the 30 offices studied maintained healthy indoor air quality. 75% of the case studies had CO2 levels above the recommended threshold. Improper operation and maintenance of ventilation systems has resulted in poor ventilation and a build-up of contaminants inside. 67% of offices had NO2 levels above the recommended threshold. Chemical filters capable of removing NO2 from outdoor air were only found in 10% of spaces. 63% of the spaces had a particle concentration (PM) above the threshold. 40% of the spaces did not have filters installed to trap fine particles (PM2.5). 45% of those surveyed said they experienced eye irritation, fatigue, dizziness, coughing and other symptoms that could be attributed to poor indoor air quality.
The results of this study are more relevant than ever, bringing to the fore critical indoor environmental issues that offices in India must tackle. The learnings of the study will prove useful to anyone who owns, operates or works in an office as well as to professionals involved in the design of the workplace. Business leaders, building owners, office managers, architects and developers can apply the study results to the assessment and improvement of the sanitary performance of existing facilities and to the planning of New projects.