What to do when air is 'bad'
James Matthews of Carbon Intelligence on getting indoor air quality right.
James is an Associate Director responsible for implementing Carbon Intelligence’s Health and Wellbeing service. A qualified WELL Accredited Professional (AP) and Fitwel Ambassador, able to advise how best to implement health and wellbeing strategies to workplaces.
James provides consultancy services for landlords, developers and occupiers around sustainability and wellness in the built environment; from integrating sustainability and wellbeing into property management activities to full certification services. He has advised a large organisation to deliver the WELL Building Standard to a 110,000 sq. ft. office refurbishment in Canary Wharf. James has also worked with a developer to deliver the WELL Building Standard for a 95,000 sq. ft. grade A office development in Scotland. Matthews works with Carbon Intelligence’s clients to identify opportunities to improve the sustainability performance of managed properties.
The transcription of this episode is auto generated by a third-party source. While Microshare takes every precaution to insure that the content is accurate, errors can occur. Microshare, Inc. is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.
Micheal Moran [00:00:00] This is manifest density. Hello, everyone, and welcome to this edition of Manifest Density. Your host, Michael Moran, here to explore the intersection of COVID 19 global business and society. Manifest density is brought to you by the Global Smart Building and ESG data company Microshare unleashed the data today. I'm speaking with James MATTHEWS, who is an associate director at Carbon Intelligence, one of our partners in the UK. And James is an expert in indoor air quality and he has done a lot of work from his days at the University of Exeter. James, give us a little background on yourself. Yeah.
James Matthews [00:00:40] So I'm James MATTHEWS. I working for Carbon Intelligence. I've been prior to that with a young for 6 to 7 years looking at building standards and looking at how that can be implemented into buildings built kind of from a land developer point city into the base build and also from fit out project level work. So it's really interesting space and I'm very kind of keen to talk about it.
Micheal Moran [00:01:07] Well, we are living at a time with change expectations about all sorts of things. One of those things is the wellness and safety of the indoor spaces that they're going to spend a good deal of their time in a workplace is a great example. Obviously, commercial real estate in the office sector especially are eager to see people flowing back in. So are the people who run cities who worry about tax revenue and street level commerce. So we now know that air quality is part of the demand or expectation that some people have if they're going to go back into these offices. What are you seeing in the marketplace in that regard?
James Matthews [00:01:48] So I think my observations would be prior to COVID and the kind of lockdowns that everyone saw around the world, the well being narrative was all around productivity. And with regards to sort of indoor air quality, it was looking at reducing vaccines and the impacts that that can have on people's health. Volatile organic compounds, I should say, but also carbon dioxide levels. So there's been some really interesting research that suggests that proves that if you have CO2 levels that go over 1200 parts per million can have a real impact on your cognitive ability. So anecdotally, that's the equivalent of maybe going out for lunch and having a couple of points. So I've been taught and it's that kind of slowing down of your mental ability and it's it's all around that productivity piece. If you imagine you're in the boardroom and you've got the most important people in your company thrashing out a big deal and they've been in there for hours. The indoor air quality that's going to be poor. Can you be set? Decision making at the end of the meeting are the best decisions they're able to do. That was where wellness was prior to the shift I've seen kind of in the market is is about reassuring people that the space they now choose to operate in is healthy. It is a place that isn't going to do us any harm.
Micheal Moran [00:04:16] Sure. And it could be a doctor's office where they're making decisions that are relevant to your life and death. So obviously, these are not small issues. So I have to ask, as you're in the world and you're seeing the demand for this certainly is there among people who now feel compelled to go back into the office, they kind of want to know. But what what about the purchaser of this kind of a capability, air quality monitoring? Who is that?
James Matthews [00:04:43] So, yeah, I think you can look at this from a landlord developer point of view. If you're developing your next asset wellbeing, it's very much about sort of 10 to 15 years ago where sustainability was. Sustainability used to be a nice to have. Now it's a must have without. Your asset is already going to be behind the curve against its competition. The indoor air quality and wellbeing is very much on the up and is being used as a as a USP. So I have experience with a couple of projects in Glasgow, in Scotland, and there was a project there that we were working on and they specifically targeted the well building standards because a building opposite going up in a similar sort of time that was also targeting the well building standards. So it's very much about kind of creating a premium product in the market.
Micheal Moran [00:05:34] And of course, well, building is going to ultimately have greater value when it's sold and it's probably going to attract a higher rent.
James Matthews [00:05:44] Absolutely. Yeah. There's been there's been some interesting figures coming from from the US that would suggest assets with wellbeing certificates can come on a high premium bit for rent.
Micheal Moran [00:05:56] Hold that thought. We're going to take a quick break to hear from our sponsor.
Sponsor [00:06:01] Manifest density is brought to you by Microshare, a world leader in the technologies they're helping the world return to work safely. Our ever smart suite of smart facility solutions, including indoor air quality monitoring, predictive cleaning and room occupancy solutions, bring safety, wellness, sustainability and operational cost savings to indoor spaces. Learn more at microshare. I. O.
Micheal Moran [00:06:30] Okay. I'm back with James MATTHEWS. Carbon Intelligence. James, as you confer with clients and advise them on things to do. What is the intersection of these various building certifications? Brim and Well and lead and things like air quality? Do they get credit for doing this.
James Matthews [00:06:49] From lead in the in the UK isn't so much of a big thing. The main driver over here is is Brim, which is fairly similar. There is a cross crossover between well and Brim I think for about 33% if memory serves. So if you do some credits within Breeam, you'll achieve them and well and vice versa. So that certainly leads to some efficiencies. It is definitely becoming more and more demand for in the market and we are talking to clients more regularly about implementing such certificates.
Micheal Moran [00:07:25] And so if you let's say you implement indoor air quality monitoring, is it in and of itself useful to know or are there a series of actionable data points you're going to get that take you down a journey to improve air quality?
James Matthews [00:07:42] There are certain metrics because one of them say volatile organic compounds, and that's generally found from paint or off gassing, from new furniture or plastics, things like glues. That's definitely something you can see generally as a spike in new projects where things new new kit and new furniture is brought into a space. You would potentially clear the office of people for potentially up to two weeks, leave it with the air conditioning units and the fan crews running to extract as much of that gas out. And then you would then bring people back into the office. CO2 wise, you can increase the fan speeds, obviously circulate more and more out of the building and that too will improve the interactions.
Micheal Moran [00:08:31] So I would imagine as you take someone through the process of improving the wellness of these indoor spaces, air quality is just one thing. There's a number of different metrics that you might want to correlate, right? See, you know how densely occupied spaces what what the cleaning regimen is. You know, there's all sorts of interesting questions about decibels and lumens. How much of that do you get into and.
James Matthews [00:09:00] Carbon intelligence. We are predominantly focused on indoor air quality, although clients do want to look at implementing the standard, we will walk them through everything that is required of them and the wellbeing standards are quite flexible. So you can pick and choose certain metrics to to it to benefit your, your particular fit out of your building. And that's the benefit of it. It is flexible so you can choose what's kind of interesting to you and then we will walk them through all the different the ten different requirements as a part of the standard.
Micheal Moran [00:09:39] James, hold your thought. I'm going to take a quick break for our sponsor.
Sponsor [00:09:45] Michael sure is proud to support Manifest Density, the podcast that examines the intersection of COVID 19 business and society. Each week we bring you conversation with global leaders and visionary enterprise nurse who are helping the world adapt and apply the tragic lessons of the pandemic so the planet can build back better. Subscribe to Manifest Density on our website microshare. I o or download it on Apple, iTunes, Google Play, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and a host of other podcasting venues.
Micheal Moran [00:10:23] I'm back with James MATTHEWS of Carbon Intelligence. James is an expert in implementing indoor air quality. JAMES Indoor air quality is one thing from the standpoint of the person who runs the building or owns the building, but what about the people who occupy it? You must get questions about how much of this data should be shared with the staff of a corporate space, for instance, and what kind of issues that might raise.
James Matthews [00:10:53] It's a tricky one, I think. If you are the landlord and you have a problem, you might be inclined not to share that information. If you're a tenant, then you're obviously going to be interested in your indoor air quality. I think the benefit of the market of where we are is that the democracy of data or the ability to access data is relatively cheap and easy these days. People can get hold of that information relatively quickly. If you are a tenant, for example, there are certain monitors that have really good standards that are only a couple of hundred pounds that you could implement. And having that information is key. It's the old adage of you can't you can't change what you don't monitor. And it's getting getting your hands on that data, which is invaluable if you want to make improvements and change into your space.
Micheal Moran [00:11:47] There's still that ethical quandary. Joe, if you're the director of h.r. Or facilities management and you find you've got this data, it's not consistently good. Maybe it's good some days, not others are good in some spaces and not others. Do you democratize that data and show it to all the staff?
James Matthews [00:12:06] Yeah, it's a tricky one. I think you'd probably work with your facilities team and your landlord if you're a tenant or if you are the facilities manager working on behalf of the landlord, then you'd certainly use that data to drive improvements and look at ways to improve the space. I think obviously with people choosing to work from home and choosing to work in the office these days, you'll see a shift in occupation patterns as well. So typically you might see higher levels of been in poor indoor air quality on say, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. If people are choosing to occupy the office more in that time, you could then set about strategies to improve the indoor air quality, potentially running the phone calls at a higher rate on those particular days, and then offset by saving a bit of energy and reducing the phone calls potentially on Wednesdays, sorry, on Mondays and Fridays when you have lower occupation.
Micheal Moran [00:13:07] You bring up a really good point. I think when people think of indoor air quality monitors, they think of something that looks like a smoke detector that just sits there and detects the air. But it's really affected by a lot of things. One of the most important is that the quickest way to get poor air in a room is to put a lot of people in and close the door. Right. Because we do nothing but emit carbon when we breathe. And if you're not, ventilating that occupancy data is key to correlate with the air quality, right?
James Matthews [00:13:38] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. If you if you can marry the two, you've got a really powerful solution there.
Micheal Moran [00:13:45] Well, we've already taken two breaks for the sponsor, so I won't tell our married solution here. But I think that's the idea. And it's not just occupancy, but there's other things that that affect to temperature, humidity. How often do you run? To concern. I mean, you're working primarily in the UK, so it may be that it may not be as big an issue as it would be in places like Beijing or Mumbai. How often do you run into concern about particulate matter, the outdoor pollution penetrating the indoor space?
James Matthews [00:14:15] There's a lot of concern, I think in the UK this fall, especially in London where you have quite a high traffic density. There's been recent kind of unfortunate examples of where there was a child that died and it was linked back to poor air quality because the school was on a on a highway, on a big busy street. And it was it was proven that the not the sort of poor air quality that cars and trucks and everything that was emitting was was a was the root cause of, unfortunately, this child's death, which is awful. It is a concern. And I think probably pre-pandemic when people were traveling more, there was more concern. I think that I would imagine this is my educated guess is that there's probably slightly less of an issue at the moment with people traveling less. But it's certainly it is an issue. And you do see, especially in London in the summer, you do see a sort of foggy haze sometimes, but there's no winds or anything here.
Micheal Moran [00:15:24] In the United States. This is a I almost said burning issue. That would be a little bit of color. This is a huge issue in the American West where forest fires emit a lot of particulates into the air every year. Now, California, Colorado, where I live, there have been recent fires that made it unsafe to be in your house miles and miles from the actual event. I would imagine this is something we're going to see more of. And then, of course, you have cities like Beijing and Mumbai and industrial cities that burn coal.
James Matthews [00:15:55] It is going to be a fact of life for for the foreseeable future. In Europe we are phasing out diesel in the UK, in Europe we are phasing out diesel engines. I'm not sure if that's happening in the US as well. And there is is a huge increase in EV charging and drivers as well. So the future is getting better and it will slowly phase down. But I think that's a fair way to go here.
Micheal Moran [00:16:19] And we can certainly thank Mr. Putin for keeping the oil pumping, but prices are very attractive for oil producers now, so the incentives don't always work in the direction that we might want for clean air. If you were to want to follow James MATTHEWS in your work and or carbon intelligence into work, what would be the best way to do that?
James Matthews [00:16:41] I would visit carbon. See, that's a web page and you can get more information on everything that we do that and find me on LinkedIn.
Micheal Moran [00:16:50] James MATTHEWS James, I want to thank you again.
James Matthews [00:16:53] Thank you. A real pleasure to speak to you.
Micheal Moran [00:16:55] And that's it for this edition of Manifest Density. Thank you, James MATTHEWS, for being our guest today. I'd like to remind everybody you can learn more about how Microshare is helping get the world safely back to work with our ever smart suite of products, including every smart air and ever smart, clean, smart space and energy management, ESG solutions as well. You can find more about these great solutions at WW share. I hope you can also subscribe to this podcast there or on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Play, Spotify and many other platforms. Well, that'll do it for this week on behalf of Microshare and all of its global employees, this is Michael Moran saying So long. Be well. And breathe clean air.