What is the economic value of air quality? Since air quality rose to prominence as a topic among healthy building practitioners, this has been vital knowledge in being able to make a business case for building better. While the easy answer is whatever damage it causes to human health, the fact is the monetary value of these investments is what often drives the decision-making process.
This is such that Johnson Controls, a leader in healthy building technology, released a whitepaper exploring the economic value of air quality investments, albeit through a very specific lens. I say specific as in these findings only relate to the economic value gained through productivity in office workers and focus on three main categories of conditions impacted by air quality: respiratory diseases (influenza), chronic conditions (asthma and COPD) and Legionnaires’ Disease.
The impact of COVID-19 was omitted from the data used to formulate these findings due to how its impacts vary so greatly across different industries. However, even with a narrower scope, the findings still showcase a significant impact.
What is the Value of Good Air Quality in Commercial Offices?
According to Johnson Controls in their new whitepaper “Measuring the Return on Indoor Air Quality Investment,” the current data shows that better indoor air quality can conservatively lead to a $750 to $800 return per employee per year. This also equates to about an extra $5.60 in earnings for every square foot of office space covered by air quality improvement measures.
This was measured by using two main ways poor air quality can be correlated to economic loss: cost due to absenteeism caused by respiratory conditions and reduction of productivity due to poor air quality.
Since COVID-19, our understanding on the role of ventilation as it relates to controlling respiratory infections has only continued to improve. The same goes for how much air quality can impact the cognition of those in a space, as well as how severely it can affect those with chronic conditions such as asthma and COPD.
As the air quality of a space improves, absenteeism because of these conditions drops by as much as 10-14% for infections and 6-15% for chronic conditions. Additionally, one prominent study Johnson Controls used in reach their results showed that reducing CO2 and TVOC levels to those normally found in ‘green certified’ buildings improved cognition by as much as 61%. Conservative estimates often translate a 1% increase in productivity into a 3 1/2% increase in Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT).
It is worth noting that these findings do not calculate the estimated healthcare costs associated with poor air quality and use findings sourced exclusively from within the United States. For more information on the sources that Johnson Controls used in its research, as well as a more detailed look at the calculations, the whitepaper can be accessed here.