Three, Sixty: With Diane Tangney
This is an extract from Issue 20 of SDG Alpha, my newsletter that casts an Irish lens on the world of Impact Investment, Innovation, and Sustainability. In each issue, I pose three questions on the theme of sustainability to an impact entrepreneur or innovator, to get a better understanding in sixty seconds of how they’re working to achieve the SDG targets. For the first feature of 2022, I’m delighted to welcome Diane Tangney, co-founder of Atmos Q, who are addressing the challenge of air-quality monitoring, primarily in commercial environments.
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On a personal level, what impacts of the climate crisis are you most concerned about?
My primary concern is with effects of poor indoor air quality (IAQ) on our health, such as the proven links to chronic respiratory disease and cognitive decline as well as the general feelings of lethargy and poor concentration in sub-optimal indoor spaces. High emissions and increased weather events such as wildfires have significant impacts on outdoor air pollution. However, IAQ can be up to 50 times more harmful to human health than outdoor air, due to the exacerbating factors of human activity and poor ventilation. The pandemic raised a global awareness of the dangers presented by poorly ventilated spaces where virus can circulate. IAQ is the key metric for monitoring healthy spaces and with calls for legislation to set acceptable standards much like the clean air act of 1987, IAQ monitoring is here to stay — without it, it is impossible to set and maintain a baseline for mechanical or human interventions, like ventilation or opening a window. Dr Gupta, Chief Medical Officer for Amazon globally describes IAQ as the workplace challenge of the century.
Which of the UN SDGs did you start Atmos Q to address?
Atmos Q was founded with a mission to keep people well inside. We believe places where we spend 90% of our time such as at home, school and work should replenish and not deplete our health and well-being. The challenge Atmos Q aims to solve is how the built environment can achieve both healthy indoor spaces and ambitious carbon reductions when these objectives have conflicting demands on energy. We have all been in settings, particularly municipal ones, since this pandemic where the heating is blasting and windows are open to keep places comfortable and ventilated for health reasons at enormous cost to the carbon consumption. Similarly, mechanically ventilated spaces are often over-ventilating unoccupied or under-occupied spaces with always-on settings. Atmos Q is laser-focussed on the twin priorities of health and wellbeing and sustainable cities and communities. We are morally bound to prioritise both, not one at the expense of the other.
How does your business model enable the transition to a low carbon, or more sustainable future?
Atmos Q is a hardware-enabled, SaaS business, whereby our patented solution to IAQ monitoring uniquely provides precision insights for optimised demand-control interventions, such as ventilation, filtration, and purification. For customers, the benefits of precise and reliable demand-control air handling include up to 20% energy savings. Furthermore, Harvard studies value the enhanced productivity benefits of healthy indoor air at $6,500 per employee, per year. What was once a facilities/operations issue is now also a people/HR issue in workplaces and IAQ is the key trackable health metric to monitor, alongside energy metrics. The perpetual tension between these two metrics will always exist but it is possible to optimise both with Atmos Q’s people-first, planet kind solution.