Is Bad Air Quality “NORMAL” in Buildings?
Sunday, January 1st, 2017 | Categories: Commercial Building Inspections, Crawl Space, Indoor Air Quality, Toxic Mold,Indoor Air Quality | No Comments
Bad Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) impacts all of us..
At Volunteer Mold and Indoor Air Quality Services, are asked to address IAQ concerns in many types of commercial buildings. In the process, we find, many occupants have some type of health or comfort related concerns indoors due poor to air quality.
Trying to solve problems with indoor air can lead to headaches for facility manager / owners and occupants alike.
In most cases simple things that can be done to improve the quality of indoor air.
We focus on Seven Distinct areas:
- Educate people.
- Keep the building dry and clean.
- Provide temperature (thermal) comfort.
- Reduce potential contaminants.
- Exhaust the nasty stuff.
- Ventilate frequently.
- Eliminate unplanned air flows
1. Educate People:
We frequently find that occupants may block diffusers to avoid drafts, store chemicals where it is convenient rather than where designated and not understand that it causes a problem. Building occupants must be educated on why air flow should not be blocked and building maintenance staffs must be sensitive to the comfort of all occupants of the building. Occupants should know where to store smelly art supplies and chemicals. Building designers must provide a system to exhaust stinky areas for the comfort of everyone indoors.
2. Keep The Building Dry and Clean:
Dry, clean buildings do not have mold and dust problems. Our inspectors know from thousands of inspections that mold and dust can be allergens and asthma triggers. We frequently hear complaints due to poorly maintained equipment and lackluster housekeeping habits. Moisture control is mold control and effective cleaning is dust control.
3. Provide Temperature Comfort:
Thermal comfort in this context means providing control of temperature and humidity. People intutively feel better in buildings with good temperature and humidity control. Humidity is another word for moisture in air (water vapor). Part of keeping a building dry is maintaining the humidity below about 60%, so that cold surfaces will not condense water. Most folks are comfortable with indoor humidity in the 45 to 50% range.
4. Reduce Potential Contaminants:
Contaminants in buildings like cleaning chemicals, product supplies, and gases that are emitted from new furniture, equipment and carpet. Volatile Organic Compounds VOC’s are very often present in most fabrics and paints. VOC’s actually boil at room temperature and release gasses in the process. When purchasing anything to be put indoors choose the least toxic type that can get the job done. Many manufactures will help you navigate products from a VOC standpoint. When high VOC products must be used, they should be stored or used in a well ventilated area only.
5. Exhaust the Nasty Stuff:
Many places indoors require exhaust to control odors and contaminants as mentioned above. Bathrooms, janitor’s closets, any chemical storage spaces are among the normal areas needing significant air exhausting. Since we are trying to keep our buildings dry, even water is a contaminant that we want to exhaust to the outside. The challenge to all of this is our effort to seal our buildings up “air tight” to control energy costs.
6. Ventilate Frequently: Ideally ,we ventilate building for the health and comfort of the occupants. Bringing in outdoor air and balancing that with some exhaust helps to dilute the concentrations of contaminants we are likely to breathe. Things like perfume and dander from pets and people that is on your clothes can have its concentration in the air reduced by providing proper ventilation.
7. Eliminate Unplanned Air Flows:
This fundamental is often be the most difficult issue to solve and requires expert help. Unplanned airflows occur whenever there are pressure differences. This includes air from a basement or crawlspace (along with its moisture and odors) getting into the occupied areas of the building. Unplanned air flow could also explain why the smell from the boiler room or the fish market next door ends up in your space.
Bad Indoor Air Quality at home or work is not normal and not ok. Every building is unique and should be professionally inspected on and annual basis, or whenever something is modified to satisfy the health needs of its occupants.
Keeping the seven fundamentals in mind when thinking about toxic air quality problems can go a long way towards solving or preventing the issue in the first place.
For more information about air quality problems and resolutions check with Volunteer Inspections and schedule an inspection today.