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Office air quality, a health and productivity issue.

In the minds of employees, HR and CSR policy alike, well-being at work is on the rise and has been steadily increasing in recent years. Numerous actions have been put in place and the current health crisis is leading us to accelerate some of them, particularly those concerning health.

Faced with this observation, 10h11 follows in the footsteps of the return to work within companies and wishes to highlight the notion of air quality in offices.

Through concrete examples, we propose you to pass on to developers the data from IOT sensors from modern offices in France.

Temperature, hygrometry as well as CO2 levels, how can we improve the quality of life at work through these data?

I propose to unfold our remarks in 3 parts:

  1. Revelation: a look back at a concrete case
  2. Confirmation: Calculating a cost
  3. Solution: Deployment of a prototype

Before we begin, we would like to take this opportunity to thank GA Smart Building for trusting us with a set of data and for giving us permission to communicate on the subject.

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(LCI Credit: Impact of Temperature and Humidity on VIDOC-19)

Revelation: a look back at a concrete case

As mentioned, 10h11 had the opportunity to work with GA Smart Building on a set of data from an ultra-modern building with sensors for temperature, humidity and CO2 measurements.

In order to facilitate the awareness related to this study, I propose to focus on the CO2 level that gave us the most convincing elements for reflection. Indeed, not that hygrometry and temperature are not important health issues in offices (see references at the end of the article), the data from the study building concerning these two parameters remained in conformity with health standards.

On the other hand, the CO2 level proved to be more difficult to control.

We analyzed 42 environments of the building under study. By environment, we mean meeting rooms, closed offices, open spaces and finally “miscellaneous” spaces (e.g. reception hall).

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The graph below is hard to read, I’ll grant you that. Each graph represents an environment under study. Simply, if you look at the number of peaks that exceed the famous red line on each graph, you will understand that the CO2 exceeds 1,000 ppm. This value of “> 1,000 ppm” is considered excessive or even harmful to work with.

The ppm, what is it?

The acronym “ppm” stands for “parts per million“. It is a unit of measurement used by scientists to calculate the rate of air pollution. As the name suggests, ppm tells us how many molecules of pollutants we can find in a million molecules of air. By this measure, this indicator provides an understandable account of the amount of pollution in a given air mass and, at the same time, the harmful impact of these pollutants on the atmosphere.

Then why the red barrier on the 1,000 ppm graph?

Harvard published a scientific study in 2016 with the following objective:

We simulated indoor environmental quality (IEQ) conditions in “Green” and “Conventional” buildings and evaluated the impacts on an objective measure of human performance: higher-order cognitive function (source available at the end of the article).

Les résultats de l’étude proposent notamment les métriques suivantes :

“Les scores des fonctions cognitives étaient 15 % plus bas pour la journée de CO2 modéré (~ 945 ppm) et 50 % plus bas pour la journée avec des concentrations de CO2 de ~1 400 ppm”.

“En moyenne, une augmentation de 400 ppm de CO2 a été associée à une diminution de 21 % des scores cognitifs d’un participant type dans tous les domaines, après ajustement en fonction du participant.

According to this study, cognitive functions are therefore strongly impacted in their performance when a subject is in an environment subjected to a level of ppm higher than 1,000 ppm.

We have summarized the previous graph into a new graph below that averages the environments :

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Offices (top left), miscellaneous (top right), open spaces (bottom left) and meeting rooms (bottom right).
The red 1,000 ppm bar is always present.
As you can see, we exceed 1,000 ppm by a not insignificant amount during the hours of the day in each of the environmental categories observed.

Thus, the working conditions are not optimal or even problematic to allow 100% cognitive functions for the employees of this building.

Considering the modernity of the building observed, we can consider that it is not the only building in the world to suffer from such a CO2 problem.

So, in addition to the health aspect, how can this issue be considered economically for the company?

Confirmation: Calculating a cost

On the basis of the elements observed in part 1 of this article, we propose to take an economic look at the subject. As we know, health is an important issue for companies and the acceleration to improve it is all the more important when it leads to savings or optimizes profitability.

So, on the basis of the study conducted, we considered the time when the ppm was between 1000 and 1400 and the time when the ppm was between 1400 and more.

On this basis, we applied the losses in cognitive capacity measured in the Harvard study (previously cited) considering this loss attributable to the subject’s productivity. Indeed, when you find yourself in a meeting room, if your cognitive faculties are impaired, both the purpose of the meeting and its outcome are likely to be impaired as well.

If we consider an average cost per hour / employee of 17€ (value as an example), of 2.5 people on average per meeting and that we prorate the loss of cognitive abilities, it gives us the following results:

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In total, on the building studied, with the parameters previously mentioned, the gain for the company can be 1,000 € / month per meeting room. This is in addition to the improvement in air quality.

Gain for the employee in terms of health, gain for the company in terms of productivity, this winning analogy gives good hope for creating solutions to keep ppm levels below 1,000.

Let’s take a look at the prototype designed by the 10h11 teams.

Solution: deployment of a prototype

Some solutions obviously exist in the world of IOTs to measure CO2, temperature and the hygrometry of a room. However, once the measurements are made, nothing happens. Employees are not informed and the data is often stored without being used.

The interest of the data lies in its exploitation. The data must be a material to be transformed into knowledge, and technology must be the lever to bring this knowledge to the eyes of the interested subject.

In our case, the executive of a building is obviously interested to have access to this knowledge but it is especially the users of the building who must be informed in real time of this knowledge, in our case, the CO2 rate.

Indeed, when this level exceeds 1,000 ppm, it is good to know. It is even better to use this knowledge to put it in the eyes of the user present in the room in question so that he or she can act and regulate the air in the room. This can be done by leaving the door open, opening a window if possible, or by starting the ventilation.

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In its prototyping, 10h11 imagined a device allowing the measurement in each concerned room, the whole connected to a dashboard allowing to alert as well as to follow in real time the measurements.

In this way, the user will know in real time if he or she is in a room that requires an adjustment of the CO2 rate and what action levers to take to remedy the situation.

The building speaks up and takes care of its users.

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Of course, another technological option would be to proceed on a machine-to-machine basis, ensuring that the building’s air control system is aware of real-time CO2 readings and automatically adjusts the air quality accordingly. We are also working on this hypothesis with some actors, but not all buildings have the architecture for an efficient machine-to-machine system.

This dynamic is part of the movement that we could call “API building”, i.e. a building speaks like an API to communicate the information it has at its disposal. This metaphor makes it possible to give computer life to a building and to imagine the exploitation of its data for any authorized technology.

With regard to health issues as well as economic gains related to the subject of air quality and the CO2 rate in buildings, our team remains at your disposal to advance on the implementation of solutions as a pilot on any type of building.

We hope that this article will help you better understand the subject. Any comment is obviously welcome to help us improve the solutions on the subject.


– Associations of Cognitive Function Scores with Carbon Dioxide, Ventilation, and Volatile Organic Compound Exposures in Office Workers: A Controlled Exposure Study of Green and Conventional Office Environments :

Interpretation of risks related to fungal contamination :

Legislation on temperature at work :

– LCI Virus Covid :

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