By Sustainability Director Sara Hickman
This wildfire season has been the most destructive on record in California, with over 7,500 fires burning an area of over 1.6 million acres. We are forever grateful for their containment by those on the front lines and blessed by the first real rain of the season. While the focus (rightfully so) is on those directly affected by the fires, it is wise to also recognize the tertiary effects of these catastrophic events: air quality. It is our responsibility as designers to understand how air quality affects the lives of those occupying the spaces we design, driving us to take additional precautionary measures to promote health and wellness for the end user, and it all begins with monitoring. Our office has been monitoring air quality over the past two years and testing a variety of monitors as awareness, standards, and technology continue to advance. As we continue through the health and wellness wave, it is essential to focus on outcomes, which require the proper tools. Today we will take you through a few of our favorite air quality monitoring products.
The first was AirVisual Pro by IQAir. At a light price of $250, this little gadget monitors temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, and particulate matter. Its semi-sleek design is efficient and effective. The rotating graphics draw attention which initiates discussion around the topic. We used the AirVisual Pro for the WELL Gold Certification for our own office in WELL NEI V1 and has been approved for a new fitness facility also in V1. But don’t get too excited; it will not qualify for V2 as it does not comply with the new requirements.
Second in is Omni by Awair. At $1,000, its communication is far more subtle, essentially driving users to its app or online display, say on a rotating screen in your office lobby. Unfortunately, this product will have a difficult time qualifying under WELL V1 given the size and elements measured. It is, however, much more applicable to the home. Its line of products offers a sleek design and I must say the app is my favorite to use.
Ironically, the third product just arrived on my desk today. The Sensedge by Kaiterra comes in at a cool $1,400/unit. While I did experience a bit of sticker shock, it is the only monitor that meets all my qualifications, the WELL Building Standard and The RESET Building Standard. It also does have the most pleasing display (in my personal opinion). See the image above for a breakdown of elements measured and readings from our own office taken this morning. I am cautious as to the VOC discrepancy between the Awair and the Sensedge and am looking forward to testing all three products along side our WELL Assessor’s equipment, which should take place early in the new year.
While it is sobering to see the red-faced mask indicating "cautious of outdoor air quality" as of recent, it’s also relieving to see how well our space is performing. On a personal note, I own a 100-year-old home with 100% natural ventilation. On poor air quality days, after a morning of sneezing at home, I am back to normal by the time I walk in the front door and sit at my desk. (If that’s not an incentive to come into work, I don’t know what is!) On a staff note, people do take notice - especially those with children, and even more so those with children on the way. I always encourage them to borrow the device for a week to confirm their own air quality and provide suggestions to improve it at home.
To learn more about air quality and healthy buildings, the following resources are a great start:
Los Angeles Air Pollution: Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI)
Google + Aclima team up to measure Air Quality, kicking off in San Francisco
The WELL Building Standard
Reset Building Standard
Healthy Plan LA (As a new component of the LA General Plan)
ULI’s – The Business Case for Healthy Buildings
AIA / ARUP – Prescription for Healthier Buildings Materials The 9 Foundations for a Healthy Building – Harvard School of Public Health