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Have you ever exited a conference room after a big meeting, exhaled deeply and thought, “I can suddenly breathe much better out here”? That feeling is real, and attributable to the air quality in conference rooms.

Small rooms accumulate heat and carbon dioxide from our breath and other sources to a degree that can have noticeable effects. In fact, the air quality in your office space may be changing the productivity of a meeting.

In the last fifty years, innovation in building has made it easier to better seal structures. This helps reduce energy use, but also helps other gasses released internally to stay inside. Eight studies in the last seven years examined what happens in a room when carbon dioxide accumulates.

One test, conducted by William Fisk, a mechanical engineer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, put people in rooms with varying carbon dioxide levels. These levels ranged from 600 ppm (very low) to 2,500 ppm (very high, but still half as much as experienced in a crowded classroom). The study found that the higher the ppm, the worse the test subjects scored on a broadly-encompassing test.

So if you’re in a crowded conference room, and you start to feel your brain slowing down, it might not be your fault. An overabundance of carbon dioxide may be affecting your neurological performance. But don’t let that be an excuse for sluggish meetings.

Though the results show that we may be suffocating our productivity in conference rooms, there are solutions. Increasing ventilation is a simple fix to release carbon dioxide buildup. Cracking a window or a door in your conference room might make all the difference — letting in fresh air and refreshed thinking with it.

Irvine Company Chicago celebrates open and sustainable design. As part of our LEED Certification, our buildings are required to meet LEED indoor air quality standards, maintaining a regulated, healthy ventilation – and you’ll feel it in our conference rooms. Our buildings also offer a variety of unconventional meeting places if you’re looking to branch out from traditional conference rooms, such as The Exchange at 71 S Wacker and other collaborative amenity spaces.

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