It’s an unfortunate fact of life that company budgets are not infinite. Resources are always limited, and deciding how to best allocate them is a question that every business deals with daily - especially during periods of economic uncertainty.
Air quality is no different. Improving air quality in offices has proven benefits when it comes to employee health and the overall workplace experience, but how does it fare in a cost-benefit analysis?
To answer this question, let’s start by understanding the cost structure and typical pricing of indoor air quality (IAQ) monitoring, and then proceed to look at the potential benefits and savings you can generate through a better understanding of the state of air quality in your buildings. By the end of this article, you should be able to weigh your options and decide whether IAQ monitoring is a good investment for your business.
Cost Factors Depend on Scope and Type of Testing
While it’s natural to want to know the price tag, the truth is that such an answer is difficult to give. It can range from a few hundred dollars for a single, one-off sampling test in a limited area, to tens of thousands of dollars for a large-scale project spanning a multi-purpose commercial building.
To understand where your project might fall on this spectrum, let’s look at the main factors that play a role in determining your costs.
Scope of Testing
- The size of the space or spaces you’re measuring - measuring the air on a single floor will be different from measuring an entire building.
- The level of coverage you’re looking to achieve - for example, are there specific rooms or areas you want to monitor? Increasing coverage will give a better picture of the true state of air quality in your space, but it will also increase the number of monitors or samples required.
- Whether you are looking to measure very specific or non-standard VOCs.
These factors will impact the total cost of ownership for your IAQ solution, regardless of the next question - which is how you choose to test.
Continuous Monitoring With Hardware You Own vs Spot Testing
As we’ve explained in the past, there are two ways to measure air quality in your building:
- Periodic spot testing, usually through an external consultancy, where a few samples are taken from your environment and then analyzed
- Continuous monitoring where you own the hardware and collect the data in real-time and consistently
If you’re interested, you can read our previous post to learn more about the differences between spot testing and continuous monitoring. For our purposes, what’s important to remember is that these two approaches have different underlying price models.
With spot testing, the cost is ongoing. Testing a single floor at a commercial property can cost anywhere from a few hundreds to a few thousands of dollars, but these costs will need to be incurred repeatedly every time you need to collect new samples (and if you’re not doing so frequently, you can expect the results to be very limited).
With continuous monitoring, the upfront investment will typically be higher as you will need to purchase the hardware. However, these monitors will remove the need for further spot testing, which will lead to a lower total cost of ownership over 2-3 years time; they are also likely to generate much higher returns and ROI due to the higher quality and accuracy of data being collected (as we’ve covered in the previous post on this topic).
Cost Factors When Purchasing Commercial IAQ Monitors
If you do decide to follow the current industry best practice and invest in IAQ monitors, you should make sure to ask any vendor you’re dealing with about the following features - which could sometimes be priced separately:
- Hardware: The cost of the physical IAQ monitors themselves, typically charged by the unit. Note that there is some variance in pricing between monitors to account for features such as a built-in monitor display or advanced power options.
- Connectivity: Ability to send collected data to a web server for further storage and analysis.
- Software: Tools to analyze and visualize the collected data, such as through an online portal or IAQ dashboard. Kaiterra does not charge separately for this, while other vendors do.
- Calibration: Most monitors need to be sent out for periodic calibration (Kaiterra’s Sensedge and Sensedge Mini are an exception due to their modular sensor design). With recalibration, one consideration to keep in mind is that you are not collecting data for a certain period of time, which could diminish the ROI of your project.
Taking all these price factors into account, the hardware and software monitoring a single floor in your property with 3-4 monitors could require an upfront investment of around $3500.
Weighing the Costs of Monitoring Against the Benefits
Of course, costs are only half of the picture, and should always be considered against the benefits your business gets from the IAQ monitoring initiative. Some of these are easier to quantify than others:
- Energy savings - by having up-to-date data about the state of air quality in various areas of the building, and various times of day, you can learn where the problems really are and adjust ventilation rates accordingly. HVAC systems are major energy consumers, and implementing demand-controlled ventilation can reduce your energy costs by 10-21%.
- Absenteeism and lost productivity - many studies (such as this study by the EPA) have shown that poor air quality consistently leads to lower productivity and more sick days. Putting an exact number on this will depend on your overall salary costs, but for the sake of the exercise, try calculating how much your business would save if sick days were reduced by 10% and productivity increased by 1%.
- Reputational loss and employee churn - this is the hardest factor to quantify as it will be very difficult to attribute a specific employee leaving to poor air quality. However, considering the importance employees place on this issue in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s near certain that you can improve your employer brand and increase retention by providing more transparent air quality data. Considering the fact that replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee's annual salary, the potential savings here are clear.
Learn More About the ROI of Indoor Air Quality
Want to get the full picture about the potential ROI of air quality monitoring and better air quality in your offices? We’ve got a few options for you:
- Download our ROI of IAQ ebook to discover the key stats, figures, and the numerous benefits you stand to gain
- Watch a 3 minute virtual demo to learn how a commercial IAQ monitor works
Or you can always speak to our team of specialists to discuss your specific goals and requirements - we look forward to speaking with you!