According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend 87% of their lives indoors. Whether you work in an office, a school, or any other indoor facility, air quality is crucial to ensure a good work environment for everyone. Air quality is a broad term usually encompassing bad smells, contaminants, bacterias, allergens, and even the proportion of the gases composing the air itself. Here are 7 tips to improve air quality and ensure a productive work environment.

1. Clean the invisible.

This is one of the most underrated solutions to improve air quality. Just because the space looks clean does not mean it is. Bacteria might be invisible to the human eye, not because they are small, but because they might form in isolated areas such as under a sink, behind a fridge or underneath carpets. A common type of bacteria is mold. Mold can be toxic and spread through the air. If you don’t get rid of the source, it can cause serious health problems such as fatigue, or skin irritation. So make sure to perform an in-depth cleaning of your workplace at least every other month. It will prevent the build-up of such bacteria and have a direct impact on long-term health.

2. Avoid endocrine disruptors

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that are contained in all kinds of products such as furniture, pesticides, and artificial air fresheners. Don’t be fooled by the nice smell! Endocrine disruptors can contribute to a lack of focus, less productivity, disrupt your hormones, and even provoke some types of cancers. At the office, you will see air fresheners in the bathroom, corridors or lobby. They are placed on the sink countertops or on the floor. Some are installed on the upper part of the walls and spray their product every few minutes to keep spreading scent continuously. Some are even added to the HVAC system at the source. Some natural air fresheners are not harmful though. Check with your property manager or cleaning provider and try avoiding endocrine disruptors as much as possible.

3. Don’t mess with the trash

Use specific trash cans and appropriate bags to avoid bad smells. More importantly, make sure to remove all trash from the office. When trash bags start to pile up somewhere in the office, no matter how well they are tied up, they will start to smell, provoking inconvenience to the employees and potentially attracting rodents. If your office building does not have a chute or refuse room, try to get rid of the trash and recycles as soon as bins are full or find a place where odors cannot escape.

4. Open the windows

The best way to clean the air every day is still to open the windows. Not anytime, though. If you live in a dense urban area, try to open the windows before the morning rush hour, when air is not yet contaminated and generally colder. Cold air creates a convection that can freshen an entire office space in minutes. During the day, high levels of CO2 can build up over time, making people nervous and decreasing their ability to focus. Ever noticed a meeting literally heating up? Under ventilated meeting rooms are subject to high levels of CO2 especially when overcrowded, so make sure to crack a window open once and a while to keep everybody calm and focused.

5. Clean the HVAC

Air filters are a crucial part of the indoor air quality. One of the biggest mistakes made by property and office managers is forgetting to check the HVAC air filters regularly. Whether your office heating and cooling systems run via wall-mounted units or underneath the ceiling, filters are an integral part of any HVAC unit. They must be cleaned and changed three to four times a year so they can continue to filter dust, contaminants and even allergens. They help you breathe better and ensure a healthy workplace.

6. Get an air purifier

If you live in a building where windows cannot be opened or you feel like the HVAC system is underperforming, you may want to look into an air purifier. They can be very effective to get rid of bad smells and some types of chemicals. Portable air purifiers are known for being a cheap and effective way to clean the air continuously. You will have to change the filter regularly as for your HVAC unit.
But the best air purifiers are still the most natural: plants. Any greenery will generally clean the air day after day, and some plants are known for cleaning specific chemicals we deal with in indoor environments. Space agencies such as NASA performed extensive research on the matter and any good local plant store will show you the best plants for indoor air cleaning. In addition to cleaning the air for you, plants will make your office zen and relaxing.

7. Get an ozone ionizer

If all of the above is not enough for you, you can move on to a more drastic but still cheap solution: the air ionizer. I personally had to deal with a persistent indoor smell of cigarette smoke and, after leaving the windows open for days and trying all kinds of air purifiers, decided to get an ionizer. For a small price, the ozone ionizer will neutralize the molecules responsible for the bad smell and get rid of it. Be careful though, breathing ozone is harmful so make sure to activate the ionizer after hours when the office is empty, and allow plenty of time to ventilate and clean the space before anyone comes back.

Hopefully you won’t have to deal with #7, and cleaning the air will be an easy task for you and your coworkers. Remember that cleaning the air sometimes starts with cleaning the surfaces and avoiding indoor chemicals as much as possible. Do not hesitate to talk to your coworkers, office manager and property manager about the best solutions to improve air quality.

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Technology as a unifier between individuals of different backgrounds, skills and beliefs, sits at the core of SquarePlan’s message. So when we discovered G|Code while researching co-living communities in Boston, it was an immediate fit.

G|Code offers the Roxbury, MA community a home for minority women, and the opportunity to learn, share, and employ their technical skills out in the real world. 

Bridgette Wallace, founder and CEO, devised the 24-month intensive program, or Cohort Development, for 5-7 enterprising young women with an interest and aptitude for computers or technology. In her words, “...sustainable community development addresses the combined determinants of economic viability and promote income and opportunity equity.” 

How they’ll get there, is through encouraging shared experiences via communal living, residents who learn and work while preserving the character of their neighborhood, and a program built especially for a group tech appears to be leaving behind

Leveraging SquarePlan, G|Code will maintain greater control and oversight over the maintenance and improvement of the G|Code House. Bridgette knows the value of facilitating the best environment, as it translates to program participants giving the best they can. We’re just the framework to get her there.   

Coding remains one of the strongest practice areas within STEM. Simply put, it’s a vehicle for all people to define what they want, and who they want to become. SquarePlan supports that message every day, and one look at our team confirms it.    

Just as we’re the next generation of building management technology, Bridgette’s important work ensures the next generation technologist will represent more of what our community actually looks like today. 

We look forward to implementing our technology when G|Code goes live with their first Cohort Development this Fall. Best of luck to the participants, and to Bridgette for all her hard work and sacrifice!

The SquarePlan Team with

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In the arena of dwelling, the architect once reigned supreme. Many civilizations promoted architects to political power. For the last century, architects lost their power to industrialists and financiers who desired a legacy built largely in their own interests. The public sector quickly followed suit.

The result left architects focusing on either iconic architecture, or theoretical discussions, with very little flexibility in between. Put simply, iconic architects own the conversation of architecture. Architecture serving its patrons, not the public.  

Real estate isn’t to blame. Architects simply rolled over. My options included pursuing the dream of becoming a “Starchitect”, or making changes from the inside at a big real estate firm. How could I continue my journey affecting the way we interact with the built  environment? How could I stop living in the future but working in the past? 

Our generation certainly has a lot to say, but when it comes to shaping the urban environment, only technology companies have the largest observable impact. It became crystal clear that technology needed to be the cornerstone of how I could have the greatest impact on our physical world. 

But we also care about what’s probable, not theoretical. Beneath the polished, or foreign elements of science fiction, the social commentary remains rooted in the attitudes of today. Transitioning from architecture to technology didn’t mean sacrificing vision, it meant contributing something no matter the medium. 

Throughout my journey, there are many elements of study and passion that have served me. They form a basis and commitment for what we are accomplishing at SquarePlan.

Privacy is no longer in the physical arena: The greatest threat concerns our digital footprint. As architecture students, we fixated on private space VS. common space VS. public space. The pursuit? Determining the appropriate threshold between each realm, and establishing a commonality. Realms are shaped by materials, culture, even prejudice. The iPhone has done more to reshape our notion of threshold in the last 12 years, than the last 100 in our modern architectural age. Access to someone’s smartphone, and less than a handful of apps, means unprecedented access into their lives. Technology companies --most for the better, some for worse-- developed a universality blurring, and nearly eliminating, our previous notion of realm. 
At SquarePlan, we are not bound by a singular realm. Why fixate on a single window looking out of one building, when our interface can look into all building operations for an entire portfolio?

Solving problems through design: It’s a process with unknowable results. Non-linear design had a strong impact on me. Embracing the transient nature of things, true innovative solutions are not necessarily conventional, and can be as dynamic as the audience they serve. 
Testing SquarePlan in communities stretching from North America to Europe, no opinion or concern was out of scope. Our charge was in the asking of better questions, not simple answers. How can we improve trust between tenants, landlords and staff? How can we end the animosity between tenants and management? Can we improve both at the same time? Too many apps focus on one side or the other, so we decided to abandon an app altogether. 

The tenant-to-management relationship change: We require transparency, accountability, and good building standards as residents in our own homes --what better values to uphold at SquarePlan. But many of us also work in building management, where sometimes what’s best for the dwelling ecosystem is at odds with the tenants. Trust must be built in both directions, so the job of technology becomes raising the conversation, and acting as a bridge between both parties. We’ve determined there needs to be a proxy --a system that both parties trust, and zero potential for mismatched expectations. Tenants who accept building issues as inconveniences of living in the modern world, but completed in a timely manner. And staff who see issues as opportunities to improve the life and livelihood of the building and its inhabitants. 

Tenants, managers, users or landlords --these are all just titles. SquarePlan’s technology erodes those titles, approaching a greater balance. Interests that were once at odds are now united. I’m still an architect, despite the title. I just apply a digital filter empowering our physical world. I urge my fellow architects to reach beyond their realm, and apply a filter of their own. I believe it’s the only way for us to retake our power.

Lio Slama
Founder & CEO

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We are extremely excited to be a part of the Techstars NYC class of 2019!

We look forward to working with Jenny Fielding, Austin Crouse and all the mentors committed to growing the SquarePlan with us.

You can still come visit us at the Columbia Startup Lab but we will be moving our business development team to the Flatiron offices of Techstars.

Stay tuned!

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 NYC 2019 Cohort

NYC 2019 Cohort