The Importance of Ventilation in Office Design

Updated 15/10/2023

Businesses are more focused on the health and wellbeing of their employees than ever before. One particular area of focus is ventilation. Ventilation is essential to the workplace and needs to be considered during an office design or update.

It’s important to understand the difference between ventilation and air conditioning. Many people confuse these two or even use the terms interchangeably. Air conditioning has to do with heating and cooling the air, while ventilation means the process of bringing in fresh air and removing stale air.

You might say ventilation is the breathing process of a building. Ventilation is usually done by a heat exchanger to ensure heat is recovered from the air before it’s released outside.

Mechanical vs. Passive Ventilation

Modern offices usually have mechanical ventilation, while smaller and older offices use windows that can be opened and closed. However, mechanical ventilation is usually the best choice because it can be controlled.

Passive ventilation may be inhibited by taller buildings located nearby a business. The taller building may block airflow to the other office. What’s more, weather can have a direct impact on indoor air quality. For instance, in the winter, windows usually stay shut to avoid cold air entering the building. In the summer, the windows may also stay shut to keep warm air from coming into the office when the air conditioner is on.


Ventilation Determines Number of Employees in an Office

Current regulations state a business must provide 10 liters per person per second of air changes. This is based on one person having 100 square feet of space. Most modern office buildings have been built to achieve these regulations, though they may deliver even more air per second per person.

According to the regulations, this means if you have a 1,000-square-foot office, you can only have 100 employees in that space. Unless your office is fitted with an upgraded ventilation system. So, ventilation is now used to determine the number of employees allowed in an office.


How Does Poor Ventilation Impact Employees

Poor ventilation can cause a range of issues for employees in the office. It has a direct being on employee health, job satisfaction, and productivity. Without proper ventilation, humidity, CO2, germs, and indoor air pollution build up over time. All of these issues determine indoor air quality (IAQ).

When IAQ decreases (poor ventilation), there’s a higher risk of symptoms and illnesses, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of concentration (and foggy brain)
  • Headaches
  • Sensitivities
  • Allergies
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Rashes
  • Higher rates of stress
  • Dry throat and skin (due to low humidity)
  • Colds & flu
  • And more


Benefits of Good Ventilation in the Office

Just as there are ill effects from poor ventilation, good ventilation brings many benefits, including:

  • Improve the comfort of employees
  • Boosts employee productivity
  • Reduces sick time and absenteeism
  • Creates a more pleasant space for customers and clients
  • Regulates energy costs
  • Controls humidity
  • And more


How to Improve Ventilation in the Office

There are several ways to improve ventilation in the office.


1. Increase Natural Ventilation

You can bring fresh air into the office through natural ventilation. This can be done by opening doors, windows, and vents.

In addition, mechanical systems can be used to recirculate air; this includes air conditioning systems. These will only work if they’ve been designed with fresh air inlets, and these are open to help recirculate air and improve ventilation in the office space.

It may also take a combination of natural and mechanical ventilation, depending on your office systems and access to windows and doors.

Windows can be open part way or fully to allow fresh air to enter. However, never prop open fire doors. If it’s cold outside, the office can be ventilated when most employees are out to lunch. In addition, vents and trickle vents should be kept open to allow fresh air in.


2. Improve Mechanical Ventilation

Mechanical ventilation may also need to be improved. If it’s working correctly, the system is able to pull fresh air into the office and meet government regulations for fresh air. However, a mechanical system does use more energy and the system must be properly maintained.

Never assume that the outside air is clean. It’s possible the air could be filled with particulates that can harm health. So, filters must be used to clean pollution out of the air before it’s circulated into the office.


3. Use Recirculated Air

Another option to improve office ventilation is to use recirculated air. The air is filtered to remove particulates and needs to have fresh air added before being allowed into the office space. Recirculation is done with a mechanical ventilation system.


4. Additional Ventilation Ideas & Methods

It is possible to improve ventilation with other methods, too. For instance, you may consider adding plant walls or rooms, removing windows & installing air handling units, replacing windows with louvres, and more.

The levels of ventilation that are doable depend on the size and location of the building. You may also want to consider the addition of CO2 controls, sensors that monitor for changes in temperature and humidity, and more. These days, ventilation needs to be more flexible and adapt to the humans using the office.

Additional ideas that are being used more are displacement ventilation, chilled beams, and chilled ceilings. These are becoming more popular.

Concluding Thoughts

Ventilation and air quality in the office shouldn’t be an afterthought. These are considerations that are imperative for the health and wellbeing of employees and the success of the business. What’s more, companies must have government regulations on ventilation to ensure employees work in a healthy environment.

Not only is low air quality associated with low productivity and cognitive function, it’s also responsible for the increased spread of disease, sick building syndrome, and major health problems with symptoms caused by poor air quality.

Now’s the time for businesses to become serious about improving the ventilation and air quality of their offices. Indoor air quality is more than a requirement; it has to do with the health of employees and the success of the company.

By investing in ventilation improvements, your workplace can protect employee health and the wellbeing of everyone who enters your office now and into the future.


Our Office Space have everything your business needs to thrive! Contact us for more information.


Can’t we just rely on air conditioning for ventilation?
Air conditioning alone may not provide sufficient ventilation. While it can control temperature, it may not effectively remove indoor pollutants and bring in fresh air.

How can I assess the ventilation needs of my office? 
It’s best to consult with a professional who can evaluate your specific requirements based on the size, layout, and occupancy of your office.

Are there any cost-effective ways to improve ventilation?
Yes, you can enhance ventilation by strategically placing fans, opening windows when possible, and ensuring air vents are clean and unobstructed.

Can ventilation impact the design aesthetics of my office?
Ventilation solutions have evolved, and many are now discreet and aesthetically pleasing, so they can complement your office design.

What are the signs of poor office ventilation?
Signs of poor ventilation include stuffiness, odours, condensation on windows, and complaints of headaches and fatigue from employees.

Is there a specific standard for office ventilation?
Ventilation standards may vary by location, but consulting the ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) guidelines is a good starting point.

Recent posts

12 benefits of a collaborative workspace

12 benefits of a collaborative workspace

The concept of collaborative workspaces has emerged as a transformative approach that creates innovation, enhances productivity, and cultivates a vibrant work culture. Embracing Collaboration: Collaborative workspaces are more than just physical environments; they...

What is hot-desking and what are the benefits?

What is hot-desking and what are the benefits?

In today's dynamic work environment, the concept of hot-desking has emerged as a game-changer, revolutionising traditional office setups. This innovative approach offers unparalleled flexibility and creates a collaborative atmosphere conducive to productivity. What is...