The tightly sealed, efficient office buildings that reduce energy usage and costs may also be reducing your performance on the job. That’s according to a new study published by Environmental Health Perspectives that tested the effects of carbon dioxide on decision making abilities.
Since humans produce CO2 just by breathing, researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and SUNY Upstate Medical University were interested in measuring varying levels of carbon dioxide on people in office sized chambers. The researchers measured decision making factors including flexibility, process, openness, and focus.
The level of exposure to CO2 at which decision making abilities started to decline was low — 1,000 ppm (parts per million) — but similar to levels found in classrooms and offices. The surprising part, as Ariel Schwartz writes for Co.Exist is the CO2 levels in energy efficient buildings.
Energy-efficient buildings may be more at risk of having elevated concentrations of CO2. That’s because poor ventilation is one of the primary causes of elevated CO2 indoors, and lowering ventilation rates can cut down on energy use. As you might imagine, that could cause CO2 levels to rise and decision-making abilities to be affected–even, say the researchers, if air cleaning systems are put in place to combat other pollutants.
The takeaway? Healthy buildings need to consider more than reduced energy loads and external CO2 emissions.