Interior Air Quality Design

There will never be a better time to put Indoor Air Quality & Interior Design in one conversation than now. As we are in the midst of a once in a century pandemic, it is high time to set our sights on designing for airflow, comfort and space as key considerations during the initial conceptualization and feasibility studies for an interior project. 

It takes two hands to clap 

As designers, it will be easy for us to adapt and there are tons of information with regards to integrating Indoor Air Quality design methodologies into our projects, but first, we have to convince our clients about how important it is and what are the gains that can be achieved by spending extra dollars to achieve good IAQ in interior spaces.   

For context and a broad understanding, an air pollutant is solid particles, gas, or liquid droplet in the air that adversely affects human health. Air pollutants are classified into 3 categories:

  1. Biological contaminants (bacteria, viruses, moulds, dust mite allergens, animal dander, pollen)
  2. Chemical pollutants (tobacco smoke, VOC’s, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide)
  3. Particulates (dust, dirt, sawdust, drywall powder, and other substances that can be created within or drawn into the building)


  • Protect employees and visitors from being exposed to COVID-19 causing coronavirus and other disease-causing pathogens
  • Increase productivity and less absenteeism by controlling the spread of disease-causing virus and bacteria being passed around the workplace
  • Fresh air increases our ability to reason, retain information, and maintain focus. 
  • Address occupant perceptions and susceptibilities (i.e. allergies and asthmatic conditions)
  • With proper design and implementation of IAQ protocols in the office, occupants will feel safe and have peace of mind
  • Early detection of air pollutants, contaminants and biological substance from defective mechanical ventilation systems and leaking pipes could be avoided and remedied before poisonous gases reach dangerous levels.
A study led by industry-leading health and building experts even finds that doubling the ventilation rate in the standard office — which costs less than $40 per person per year on average — results in an 8% improvement in employee performance. This 8% increase translates into a $6,500 increase in productivity overall, each year.


1. Integrate real plants & greenery to the office

Current office trends are moving to the “Biophilic Workplace” or those with splashes of greenery all thought the office.   

Benefits of a Green Workplace are: 

  • general air purification of volatile pollutants and dusts
  • reduction of headache by up to 24%
  • reduction of eye irritation by up to 52%
  • reduction of energy consumption for room ventilation by 15%
  • increase in work productivity by 20%

The reports shows that increased indoor air circulation increases cognitive skills by as much as 61%. Furthermore, green offices that reduce air pollution improve our intelligence and cognitive capabilities by 101% compared to standard buildings.

Read More About: Nordea Green Office

2. Natural light & flexible spaces

Dark spots and dimly lit areas are more susceptible to mould growth and other micro-organisms that thrive in darkness. Encourage the use of natural light when designing spaces.

If possible let the light pass from space to space by integrating more glass and transparent or translucent materials that will make the space brighter.    

Operable walls and sliding doors will also provide better air circulation from one space to another. After using the space make sure that the walls car widely opened for stale air to escape.

3. Spacious layouts, open ceilings and multi-purpose space. 

In the “New Normal” companies and businesses may continue to adapt the work from home model. This will result in a less crowded office and more wide-open space for designers to play with.  

High open ceilings are good for air circulation that means there is more volume for the fresh air to circulate decreasing the increase in CO2 even for more crowded space. *Carbon Dioxide in the air is produced by human breathing.    

There will also be a more liberal approach in space planning by expanding the personal space bubble to double its size.  Physical distancing should encourage designers to consider putting more emphasis in airflow and space. That means the further people are from each other the less chance of airborne pathogens will be transmitted from human to human in indoor spaces.     

Besides Interior Air Quality design, the need for mechanical air cleaners and disinfection devices are important to ensure that airborne pathogens will be eradicated and pollutants filtered and disposed of through the return air ducts. This countermeasures not only save lives but are also cost effective.