Coworking spaces and VOC emission

Intro to Coworking spaces

The demand for coworking spaces has increased exuberantly in the last decade. Since the 15th-century coworking spaces have been popular to encourage a sense of belonging to the workforce that worked alone, helping in creating a space for networking and exchanging ideas. In the early years it was more favoured by artists who taught less experienced artists in spaces that encouraged creativity and inspired new ideas. Early 15th-century workshops bred some of the most famous artists of all time, including Leonardo da Vinci, who began his career studying under another famous artist, Andrea del Verrocchio. In 1995 C-base was founded in Berlin that was the first hackerspaces around the world. Following that in 1999, 42 West 24 arrived in New York City, which had flexible desks for teams and individuals. It was a precursor to coworking spaces, but without the crucial aspect of community that coworking offers now.

Roughly 4,000 coworking spaces are available in the U.S. and more worldwide. These are more popular among freelance workers, since it allows them to get out of the house and work in an environment that stimulates creativity and encourages networking among fellow coworkers. Freelancers have benefited from not only being able to get a change in scenery but also working with equally motivated individuals that they would not come across otherwise. Success at coworking space is testament to Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, who met at a coworking space, the rest is history.

Use of coworking space

With more available coworking spaces people also started to spend more time there.
Co-working spaces are usually designed to be as open and casual as possible. It may have couches and lounge chairs as well as desks and tables, to give workers the option to work from their laptop in different areas of the room. Some have cafes, bars and other facilities that encourage users to stay longer hours.

As people stay in one place for longer periods, it is important to consider the exposure to VOC emissions. VOC is volatile organic compounds, that can be present in cigarettes, solvents, paints and thinners, adhesives, hobby and craft supplies, cleaning fluids, glues, wood preservatives, cleaners and disinfectants, moth repellents, air freshners, building materials and furnishings, copy machines and printers. When VOCs combine with nitrogen oxides in the air, they form smog. Coworking spaces tend to use printers, copy machines and other devices that can have high VOC emission. This could make the level of VOC emission high in those spaces if not monitored properly. Generally a total VOC emission higher than 0.5mg/m3/hr is considered harmful, if it is lower than 0.3mg/m3/hr is appraised to be tolerable. Disclaimer, there is no such thing as Zero VOC, everything has some form of emission. Plank products have a VOC of 0.01mg/m2/hr.

Short-term health effects from VOCs exposure may cause: irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, memory problems. Long-term health effects from VOCs exposure may cause: irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, nausea, fatigue, loss of coordination, dizziness, damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system and cancer.

Spaces The Wentworth Perth and Intermain

Intermain was commissioned to design and build the Spaces coworking offices in Perth. The Wentworth building is a heritage building, the site has been designed to pay homage, honour and celebrate some of the most significant and spectacular original architecture in Perth’s CBD. To meet all their requirements, Intermain also had to consider the total VOC emission the office would have. They selected Plank Roken for the timber floors in their design as it contributed to overall low VOC in the coworking space.

“You have to have an environment that is productive and inspires people to come to work, and as a business that’s becoming more and more important.”
Margot Van der Pol, Spaces Brand Manager.

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