Poor air quality is the second biggest concern for Beijing office occupiers after high rents, a CBRE report into the impact of smog on the city’s office market has found. Air quality is also affecting occupier decision-making and influencing the development of new buildings.

Companies consulted in the study said employee health was the biggest concern in relation to pollution, with 68 per cent of respondents believing that “air pollution has been threatening employees’ health and work efficiency”, and 60 per cent believing “air pollution has made senior expatriates less willing to work in Beijing”.

The report said senior expatriates usually had more control over their work location, and that their numbers in Beijing had been declining over the past two years.

While poor air quality was a major concern, the report found no evidence that a decline in leasing and net take-up was directly linked to air quality.

“Leasing activity in Beijing has been suppressed in recent years by the lack of available space and increasing rental costs, both of which have had a far more significant bearing on occupier decision-making than poor air quality,” it said.

Poor air quality, however, was beginning to affect occupier decision-making regarding the building they opt to lease space in.

Only 37 per cent of those surveyed were satisfied or very satisfied with indoor environment and air quality.

“CBRE Research believes that a higher level of satisfaction of indoor air quality can help landlords retain tenants. Only six per cent of respondents that said they intend to relocate reported being very satisfied or satisfied with their building’s indoor environment and air quality.

“Employees’ rising awareness of their personal health means indoor air quality is an important area where companies can improve staff job satisfaction. Occupiers are also focusing on improving indoor air quality because it requires less capital investment compared to other building features.”

Buildings that incorporated air purification systems could help landlords differentiate their assets from the rest of the market and gain a competitive advantage, the report said.

“With office supply expected to increase over the next few years, buildings with green features will become a valuable advantage for landlords looking to attract occupiers.”

CBRE Research said there were five key steps to improving air quality:

  1. Improving the air tightness of buildings and preventing ventilation between indoor and outdoor air, which has been a key characteristic of modern architecture
  2. Adopting air quality monitors that are more precise and sensitive, so as to monitor air quality and its variation in a timely and consistent manner at multiple locations
  3. Set up PM2.5 filters on the mainframe or terminal unit of central airconditioners, and hire professionals to handle the maintenance of such equipment
  4. Set up a building automation system connected to air quality monitors; gather and analyse PM2.5 data from the monitors; and work out corresponding solutions for airconditioners
  5. Use materials and procedures configured to a higher environmental specification during the fit-out process, reducing the emission of phenolic matter and dust particles

Read Property and Pollution: The Impact of Smog on the Beijing Office Market