Professor John Macomber, Harvard Business School, was a guest speaker today, 2 Dec. on both RTE Radio and at the Society of Chartered Surveyors Annual Conference in Dublin. He is the co-author of “Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity” which shows the evidence and its underlying science.

The core argument of the book is , namely that: 1) healthy indoor air equals better health and productivity; 2) the financial gains from this are sizeable and thus appealing from a business perspective. Crucially, the authors argue that the issue of split or misaligned incentives (e.g. landlord does not directly benefit from health/productivity gains of tenants) can be overcome, because the financial gains are large enough to be shared between stakeholders. Both arguments are demonstrated with examples, some from research published in peer-reviewed papers. They include tables with specific financial estimates and whilst these are in US dollars, the overall implications are clear enough for those who operate in other countries. Besides the potential for financial gain, throughout the book other key drivers for healthy buildings are highlighted, including the important lever of risk management. It is argued that advances in sensing and digital technology mean that building performance is now easier to measure and, most crucially, can be more visible, e.g. via digital platforms and social media. Hence, real estate investors and business leaders would be wise to minimise the reputational and/or litigation risks arising from poorly performing buildings.

A fundamental concept, which the authors themselves flag up as the one thing to remember, if nothing else, from their book (p. 240) is asking ourselves the question: “Why are we ignoring the 90%?”, which is the title of Chapter 3 addressing, primarily with a focus on air quality considerations, the importance of indoor environments where we spend up to 90% of our time.

We have become an ‘indoor species’, spending up to 90% within indoor environments. Yet the impact of these environments on our health and productivity is largely undervalued or misunderstood. Various compelling examples and evidence are provided, ranging from evocative statements (“Americans spend more time inside buildings than some whale species spend underwater”, p. 39), to the provocatively titled Table 3.1 “The dirty secret of air pollution” (p. 44). The table demonstrates quite clearly how our ‘indoor species’ is likely to be exposed to a bigger dose of outdoor air pollution whilst being indoors, compared to the dose whilst outdoors.

Contact Eirdata to have IAQ and Ventilation assessments carried out in your Indoor Environment. Phone 021 483440 or email