Innovation That Matters

High concentrations of CO2 can lead to headaches, low energy levels and a general feeling of lethargy in an office | Photo source Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash

An indoor CO2 calculator could prevent office drowsiness

Work & Lifestyle

A new online calculator can determine the likely levels of CO2 in indoor spaces, and help users avoid headaches and other effects of high levels of carbon dioxide

Spotted: If you work in an office, especially in one where the windows do not open, you may be familiar with the feeling of being surrounded by stale air. This comes from the build-up of carbon dioxide from exhaled breath. CO2 is a waste product produced when we breathe. High concentrations can lead to headaches, low energy levels and a general feeling of lethargy. Yet most buildings do not track CO2 concentration. Now, a new online calculator hopes to fill that gap.  

The Omni Calculator Project offers a number of free calculators, including calculators to figure out how much plastic waste you are generating or how much water you are using per shower. They have recently released a CO2 Breathing Emissions calculator that can help measure indoor air quality. 

Created by two civil engineers, the calculator asks users to enter data such as the type of room they’re in, how many people are inside, whether it was previously empty whether the occupants are resting or doing strenuous work, how long you normally stay in the room, and the room’s dimensions. The calculator then gives you the CO2 concentration as both a percentage of the air and in parts per million (ppm).  

For example, for a 21-square metre conference room used by 10 people for two hours, the calculator determines the CO₂ concentration is “around 0.25% to 0.41% (2,543 - 4,131 ppm) with the provided room settings, which is well under the permissible exposure limit of 5,000 PPM per 8-hr exposure.” The calculator’s co-creator, Kenneth Alambra, said that the calculator was developed using, “data available online on how much CO2 … we exhale in one breath depending on the level of activity: resting, working, exercising, etc. We also know the rate of breathing during these activities, so we can calculate how much volume of CO2 an average person can produce in an hour.” 

The coronavirus pandemic has placed new focus on indoor air quality and the benefits of access to fresh air. Some innovations we have seen to help with improving indoor air quality include a low-carbon building with natural ventilation and a school that incorporates outdoor learning spaces. 

Written By: Lisa Magloff

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