Do you have a headache at work, are you tired during the day? One reason for this may be that the carbon dioxide levels in the indoor air of your apartment or workplace is too high. If symptoms are persistent, it may be that merely opening the window is not enough.

For people who spend their days indoors, the quality of indoor air may be a critical factor in terms of work efficiency and well-being. We all know how it feels when a meeting room runs out of oxygen. The indoor air feels stuffy and you have to open the window.

This is a familiar situation, for example, in schools, where large groups of people spend a long time in the same premises. Camilla Oksanen, Indoor Air Manager at IISY Oy, a company specialising in the management of indoor air risks, sees in her work the symptoms that people suffer from.

“Carbon dioxide levels increase when there are many people in a classroom and especially if classes take longer than planned. It may be easy for the teacher standing in front of the class to breathe, but at the back of the room there is practically a wall of air, as the air circulation is insufficient. You feel tired, which affects learning. There have been some sites where people have suffered from headaches and nausea,” says Oksanen.

When such symptoms occur, it may be necessary to check the quality of indoor air and to pay special attention especially to the carbon dioxide levels. IISY provides indoor air measurement and analysis services to both the public sector and private companies.

Sensors are used to make various measurements in the premises, and the aim is to quickly find the causes for any indoor air problems. IISY can suggest measures based on the data if the customer so wishes. The company’s specialists include, for example, engineers from various fields.

“As I am a plumbing engineer, I often start by asking whether any renovation work has been recently carried out in the building if we notice, together with the customer, that the carbon dioxide levels occasionally exceed the target level. One possibility is that changes have been made to the premises, but the required ventilation for the premises has not been considered.”

“It can also be that the group sizes have increased or the premises’ purpose of use has changed significantly, but ventilation has not been adjusted accordingly. After the use has been evaluated, the next step is always a more detailed analysis of the ventilation system, with changes recommended if necessary,” Oksanen says.

The sensors used by IISY are developed by the Finnish company Small Data Garden. Sander Soitu, System Expert from Small Data Garden says that excessive carbon dioxide is typical to Finnish buildings.

“This is a major issue in Finland, where buildings are made very tight to ensure that cold cannot enter and heat cannot escape. Add faulty ventilation to this and the result is increased carbon dioxide levels and stuffy air. You feel like you cannot breathe and the premises literally have too much carbon dioxide.”

The fact that a building has mechanical ventilation does not guarantee that the conditions are ideal. There may be enough fresh air in one room and not enough in another.

“The pressure differences in rooms can be checked through measurements. With this, the directions of air flows inside the building and on the exterior walls can be verified,” says Soitu.

Property management is easier with artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence has revolutionised property management over the past few years. Many tasks which previously required an on-site visit of a property management professional can now be carried out remotely with the help of the latest technology. With the sensors provided by Small Data Garden, indoor air data is collected through Digita’s smart LoRaWan network. This means that small sensors can be used to collect large amounts of data from the premises, with the date then being transferred to a cloud service through the high-performance network. Camilla Oksanen explains that property maintenance work has become easier.

“Previously, when someone called about poor indoor air quality, an employee was sent to feel the air and to see how the ventilation equipment functioned. Now the artificial intelligence that we developed automatically notifies us of defects in ventilation and the functioning of ventilation can be repaired before users have even noticed that something is wrong. Many repair operations can be carried out remotely, which saves time,” Oksanen says.

According to Sander Soitu, the indoor air competence in Finland is deemed to be world-class. One reason is that there have been a lot of challenges with indoor air, which is why technologies and methods have been continuously developed. The risk for mould increases if air does not circulate or if damp air pushes its way to structures.

“Only a few countries are at this level of awareness regarding indoor air measurements. It is good that these issues are highlighted and actions taken to investigate them in order to ensure everyone the best possible conditions.”

With the quick and highly developed IoT technology, the volume of data collected on indoor air is so high that customers often need the help of IISY’s experts. The social welfare and health care organisation Folkhälsan is IISY’s long-time customer, and property manager Dan Brander commends the smoothness of cooperation.

“Reports have constantly improved and they are easy to read and analyse. The staff is knowledgeable. I find it really important that we are constantly in touch and can develop their services together,” says Brander.

When the good quality of indoor air in buildings is ensured by regular monitoring of measurement results, it benefits both the property owners and the people using the building. Sander Soitu says that residential buildings, for example, will remain in better condition for longer when the conditions in them are constantly monitored.

“The possibilities provided by technology are a big thing for property managers. When the conditions in the building are as good as possible, the building itself will remain undamaged for a longer time. In addition, residents are not constantly changing when there are no problems with indoor air.”

“For example, if a resident complains about it being cold, you can immediately see on a computer what the situation has been in the longer term. This is beneficial, for example, in a situation where the resident has used the oven to bake a lot of buns, and the person responsible for the building maintenance comes to measure the temperature right then. The temperature will of course be higher than usually, which does not reflect the actual situation. The versatile sensors of Small Data Garden provide an opportunity to collect fact-based data easily, which means that decisions can be made based on facts,” Soitu says.