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15 September, 2014

High Indoor Environment Quality Promotes Health and Greater Business Productivity

He said to build a case for any sustainable environmentally

High Indoor Environment Quality Promotes Health and Greater Business Productivity
Mr. Salah Nezar, Sustainability Director at QPM, spoke during the first Future Interiors Conference held in Doha last week, highlighting the importance of quantifying the impact of enhanced Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) on human productivity and well-being.
15 September 2014

During the Future Interiors summit, part of the 'Project Qatar Business Intelligence Series' held in Doha, Mr. Salah Nezar, Sustainability Director at QPM, outlined a range of factors that make Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) a primary concern for all stakeholders from sustainability and human health perspectives 

He said to build a case for any sustainable environmentally conscious design we must think outside the box and beyond the usual factors that affect the life cycle of a building. Stakeholders can realize greater returns on their investment in green building by quantifying the human gain in occupant performance from enhanced IEQ.

"Quantifying these factors are important simply because you can't improve what you don't measure", said Mr. Nezar. "This specific approach is based on economic considerations to justify the Green Premium Cost, usually considered as a burden, and improves greatly the building's asset strength". Examples from a personal practice in the US were highlighted during the presentation including two LEED Platinum Buildings. The first one is The Bank of America Building in New York City which receives a premium of $50 per square foot over the original targeted rent income for the upper floors due to the high quality of the indoor environment. Similarly, proven 2% productivity gains helped the developer to  justify a 'Green Premium' cost for a $1 Billion-plus financial district for Wachovia Bank in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, USA."

Mr. Nezar said that quantifying IEQ is important because we spend more than 95% of our time indoors (home, car, work & shopping malls). Diseases linked to environmental quality are also prevalent in the region. 40% of children and 33% of adults in the GCC suffer from Allergic Rhinitis. Allergies, according to MENA data, cost region over US$2.5 billion each year in direct medical costs, time off work and sluggish productivity.

"The bottom line is that high Indoor Environment Quality improves well-being, reduce sick building syndrome, increases assets value to the owners, reduces liabilities and enhances occupant performance.

"In a corporate environment, productivity refers to reduced absenteeism, better personal retention, and better staff morale. Low IEQ on the other hand results in discomfort among employees, increased job turnover, health issues, increases medical expenses and days off, as well as decreased management productivity due to internal short-handedness.

Mr Nezar has spent a significant portion of his career exploring sustainability aspects related to IEQ and during the first Future Interiors Conference, he spoke about insights gained from some of the foremost researchers in this field.

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"For me, it has been a passionate journey in the world of sustainability taking me to different continents and countries trying to collect hard data towards the quantification of human productivity gain from improved Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ). This long-term effort was a good opportunity to meet the leading worldwide researchers and scholars in this field.."

Dr. William Fisk, Head of the I.E. Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was one of those experts. Dr. Fisk found that good IEQ improves office worker productivity by 0.5 to 5%. According to his research, improved IEQ can reduce 'Sick Building Syndrome' symptoms by 20-50%, reduce asthma by 8-25%, and other respiratory illnesses by 23-76%.

Dr. Bjarne Olsen, Chairperson of the International Center for Indoor Environment & Energy found that improving thermal comfort, reduced indoor air pollutants and enhanced ventilation will result in improvement in productivity of between 5 to 10%, while an 10% greater air quality 'dissatisfaction' is seen to decrease productivity by 1%.

Dr. Olli Seppanen, a Department Head at the Helsinki University of Technology developed a numerical model defining the relationship between human performance and ambient temperature. The results showed a 2% Decrease in productivity for each degree increase of space temperature ranging between 25°C and 32°C. Optimal productivity happens when space temperature is around 22.5°C.

Other published research cited by Mr. Nezar during his presentation said that hot environment causes mental fatigue and low productivity as more cerebral blood flow is required to maintain the same level of performance at a comfortable state defined around 25 °C.

Lighting, he said was also a major factor in determining IEQ. In a study conducted on students at a school in California, it was found that students with daylight in their classrooms progressed 20% faster on math tests and 26% on reading tests than those with less natural light.

Sales per square foot found departments at a mall with access to natural light are significantly higher compared with sales in departments located under a conventional roof. Sales were also higher compared to identical departments in other stores without access to skylights. One particular study showed retail sales increased by 40% over non-skylight stores.

With regards to Acoustic Comfort and productivity, numerous studies have shown that noise is the most prevalent source of annoyance in office spaces and noise can lead to increased stress for occupants.

Mr. Nezar concluded his presentation by encouraging stakeholders to consider the benefits of improved indoor environments from the outset of the project to the building post-occupancy. Today, scientific evidence are indicating that improved Indoor Air Quality, thermal, olfactory and acoustic comforts enhance human productivity by 5% at the minimum.

He added: "We need to think of maintaining high Indoor Environment Quality in our workplaces, homes, schools, shopping malls, etc. This should not just be a means to justify an initial  premium cost, because high IEQ is a commitment throughout the lifestyle of a built environment that adds to overall productivity and hence will see positive returns on investment."

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© Press Release 2014