Volatile Organic Compounds: what they are and why they’re important

How many hours a day do students spend in a classroom? How many hours a day do employees spend in the office? What about professionals and patients in a hospital? The health of an indoor space is an extremely important concept to ensure superior intellectual/professional performance levels within educational premises (such as schools) and the workplace (i.e. offices), and ultimately for health in general.

There can be several pollutants in any indoor space which we are all familiar with, including mould and mildew, bacteria and dust. However, the most dangerous of all (and invisible to the naked eye) are VOCs which stands for Volatile Organic Compounds.

What are VOCs exactly? They are chemical compounds which, as the name suggests, are volatile, in other words they are released into the air even at room temperature. What releases VOCs? There are many sources of VOCs. Here is a list of the main ones:

  • Furniture paints and glues
  • Fabrics
  • Construction materials

This means that VOCs are part of our everyday lives and a contemporary architectural approach should take this into account and attempt to minimise their presence in settings.

The importance of Indoor Air Quality

A study by the University of Syracuse from 2015 showed how living and working in indoor settings with good Indoor Air Quality, in other words with reduced VOC emission, directly affects performance and the ability to make better decisions.

24 volunteers, including architects, designers, programmers, engineers, creative professionals and managers, worked in groups within controlled environments and, at the end of the test, what emerged is that the cognitive performance of the group who had worked in a low-VOC emission “green” indoor setting was twice as high as the performance of participants who had worked in conventional settings.

Artigo environmental certifications and VOCs

Artigo’s commitment to making its rubber flooring surfaces safe and with ultra-low VOC emissions can be seen in the multiple international environmental certifications which focus precisely on emissions. In detail:

  • The German Blauer Engel label identifies the best products in terms of ecology and environmental friendliness; it guarantees the non-toxicity of finished products and components, and ensures extremely low VOC emissions inside buildings.
  • The American Greenguard Gold label is a guarantee that a product has passed tests to the strictest standards in the world for low VOC emissions, by excluding a generous 360 altogether and covering a very broad spectrum of chemicals. In practice, it guarantees that a product can be used in absolute safety within schools, hospitals or surgeries.

  • The European Indoor Air Comfort Gold label proves compliance with the legal requirements on VOC emissions of construction products imposed by the various European Union Authorities and its Member States, but it also meets the requirements of the majority of voluntary VOC emissions labels. This makes Air Comfort GOLD the most ambitious label in Europe on product emissions.
  • The Finnish M1 label which concerns emissions from construction materials. M1 is the name of the lowest emissions class in this system and it requires VOC and formaldehyde testing in an emission chamber after 28 days. It includes an odour test, which distinguishes the M1 label from any other low VOC specification world-wide.

  • The French A+ label simply and directly certifies the level of volatile organic compound emissions according to French law. A+ is the highest score possible, which Artigo flooring has been awarded. 

Below are some examples of the many projects featuring Artigo flooring thanks to their extra-low emissions: