Air pollution is a problem on a global scale due to a number of factors, be they exhaust fumes, wildfires, chemical pesticides, construction, etc. While our sense of smell may trigger the alarm that some part of our immediate environment has changed, our senses tend to adjust over time. However, that does not necessarily mean the pollutants have been removed from our air supply. Subsequently, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in office buildings, commercial and public spaces is affected by a number of external and internal factors.

Our initial reaction to an air pollutant is to snuff out the source or seek refuge from it. However, what if the source is in your office building? Building occupants themselves may notice a change in the IEQ [Indoor Environmental Quality], however, they are more than likely unable to locate the source. Duly, they can’t leave the office space to continue working elsewhere, so what are they to do? What are K-12  and Higher Ed students to do when they can’t leave their classrooms ? What about customers at retail shopping locations?

Building occupants are contractually required to perform a service between specified times in office spaces, where poor IEQ hamper performance and health. Unassuming children and young adults are required to meet in learning spaces with a poor IEQ, the catalyst for long-term health complications.

What’s even more telling is the realization that most people in the U.S. spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. Occupants are susceptible to a number of short-term health complications linked to poor IAQ like headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Long-term effects can include asthma triggered by mold, cancer caused by radon and asbestos, and respiratory diseases such as Legionnaires’ Disease and Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis.

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So, as a building owner or facility manager, how can you improve the IAQ for your occupants? By performing an Indoor Air Quality Test. Results from the test will provide you with the answers to begin working with HVAC specialists like Green Air EnvironmentalTM. At Green Air EnvironmentalTM, we are dedicated to improving commercial building IAQs through sustainable, green practices. We develop PM [Preventative Maintenance] schedules with building owners and facility managers so that your air supply can be rid, and remain free of, harmful air pollutants. An IAQ Test is the first step in determining your maintenance needs, but let’s get a better understanding of the components of IAQ.

As defined by the Indoor Air Quality Association,

Physical characteristics, chemical characteristics, and airborne constituents of air in buildings, with a special concern for the impact on occupant health and comfort.

  • Physical Characteristics → Air Temperature and Humidity.
  • Chemical Characteristics → Carbon Dioxide, VOCs [Volatile Organic Compounds], Radon, Asbestos
  • Airborne Constituents → Mold, Bacteria, Asbestos, Lead

A good IAQ should allow for a, “Comfortable temperature and humidity, adequate supply of fresh outdoor air, and control of pollutants from inside and outside of the building.” – OSHA 

However, problems in supply air of commercial buildings caused by physical/chemical characteristics and/or airborne constituents are usually caused by poor ventilation, a malfunctioning or incorrectly set thermostat, and high or low humidity. Additionally, new construction, refurbishment, and remodeling projects in or near a building can affect the fresh air coming into the building — dust, mold, cleaning supplies, pesticides, and other airborne chemicals.

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Currently, only the states of California and New Jersey have mandated air quality regulations. As a result, there are many detractors to air quality testing, arguing that a lack of regulations results in nothing to measure against. The problem in their argument lies in the necessity of an air quality test be performed against regulations. What the argument fails to acknowledge is that air quality characteristics and constituents go undiagnosed by building occupants daily. However, once the problem has been identified by trained HVAC professionals like Green Air Environmental, you can discover an effective solution. Similarly, a PM appointment is just as effective as your HVAC system requires maintenance regardless of the results from an IAQ Test.

Likewise, whether you have a remodeling project scheduled or basic maintenance needs, an IAQ Test will alert you of any looming sources of discomfort to occupants. Alternatively, you could wait until a problem arises but we strongly suggest an IAQ Test and PM schedule.

Following an IAQ test, an HVAC specialist will be able to identify the Four Critical Components of (Your Building’s) Indoor Air Quality.

  1. Pollutant
    • Particulate or gaseous vapor
  2. People
    • What are occupants experiencing? What are their concerns?
  3. Path
    • Path by which you can hypothesize pollutants traveling to get to people
  4. Pressure
    • Pressure driving pollutants along hypothesized path

However, this is only an overview to help better understand air pollutant pathways. In order to improve your air quality though, you will need a qualified technician using EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] enacted protocols. To better demonstrate this process, we’ve taken a look at Atlantic Environmental’s testing process.

Phase 1

  1. They first identify complaints through preliminary discussion with occupants and building services personnel.
  2. Following, they conduct a thorough inspection of HVAC systems and occupied spaces.
  3. Record direct reading instrument samples for temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (VOC).
  4. Conduct limited testing for highly suspect agents such as mold, bacteria, chemical, insects and dust.
  5. Create a formal report identifying problems and recommended corrective measures OR recommend additional testing; 70-80% of the time AE identifies problems in Phase 1 survey.

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Phase 2

  1. More extensive examination of the interior of the HVAC system including: opening ductwork and testing for mold, bacteria or chemicals.
  2. Sampling and testing to gain analysis of airborne bacteria: fungi (Bioaerosols), mycotoxins and/or endotoxins.
  3. Microscopic assays using Air-O-Cells and transparent tape imprints to identify mold, bacteria, fibers, dander, or pollen.
  4. Particulate assays to identify fibers, pollens, fungi, or asbestos.
  5. Chemical assays to identify of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), specific chemicals and identification of unknowns including Industrial Hygiene.
  6. Testing for indoor allergens – dust mites, cat and dog dander, cockroach allergens, endotoxins.
  7. Producing a final formal report of identified problems and solutions.

If you’re uncertain your building IEQ is at an acceptable level, have an IAQ Test performed, and then give our professionals at Green Air a call. At Green Air, we dedicate ourselves to improving Indoor Air Quality through the utilization of green practices. Our sustainable cleaning approach utilizes medium-pressure, high temperature steam to penetrate deeper than chemical cleaning methods.

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And as the conversation surrounding sustainable practices grows, there’s no better time than now to start implementing green initiatives. Our mission is ridding organizations of harmful air pollutants while educating every industry from healthcare to retail. To learn more about how you can improve your IAQ, IEQ, and standard of living, contact Green Air.