As better indoor air quality (IAQ) needs to be pushed up the agenda in the GCC, with its tremendous health and productivity benefits, Lorraine Bangera, editor of Construction Business News ME, analyses how this could affect restaurants.
A Harvard study released in October 2015 discussed the importance of IAQ in work spaces. The paper in journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, reported that poor indoor air quality could substantially affect a workers’ decision-making and productivity, and restaurants, like any other workspace, need good IAQ too.
Commercial cooking generates greasy air and pollutants and it takes an extensively designed system to maintain a good air flow. By not prioritising good ventilation in your restaurant, you could be decreasing employee productivity, making customers uncomfortable, reducing traffic to your restaurant and increasing your utility bills. Apart from poor IAQ, bad ventilation also leads to unpleasant odours and stuffy environments.
The problem begins with not understanding how a restaurant ventilation system functions. You could spot the need for a better system if it feels uncomfortable or humid in the restaurant despite having a good cooling system. Your best bet would be to check your kitchen exhaust, usually the cause for poor ventilation.
One of the common solutions for poor ventilation, according to most experts, is the use of make-up air or replacement air. It’s simple; air that exits the building through the exhaust hood and fans must be replaced with outside air through an independent make-up air supply unit. If you are facing continuous problems, it would be a good idea to consult a HVAC professional.
What seems to be overlooked is the understanding of the interdependence of each piece of the kitchen system. It is more effective to have a complete and properly integrated system that will provide a productive and comfortable work environment that is also cost-effective.
In the GCC, IAQ hasn’t fallen under the limelight as much as it should although air quality in general has been questioned, most recently with the World Bank, which claimed the UAE has some of the worst air quality. True or not, it wouldn’t change the fact that this is an important disadvantage. According to the World Health Organisation, pollutant levels of indoor air runs five times higher than outdoor levels.
Even though UAE has taken several steps towards sustainability and better environment, has indoor air quality been on the agenda? In a region where “going out”, actually means going indoors, IAQ has to be given a lot of weight.
That being said, last year Gulf News reported that a UAE civic body announced that it aims to have at least 70% of buildings in Dubai compliant with international air quality standards in order to attain the status of ‘Smart City’ by 2016.
Even though government and international regulations play a tremendous role, it is ultimately up to every restaurant owner to make a real difference. As the saying goes, change begins with you.