Is Your Office Building Making You Sick?

//Is Your Office Building Making You Sick?

Is Your Office Building Making You Sick?

The greatest threats to our health are often unseen, many of them thriving in the buildings we occupy daily — Offices, Schools, Commercial/Retail Locations, Hospitals, etc. Harmful air pollutants enter a building through its HVAC system, and exist in the form of:

  • Mold
  • Particulates
  • VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)
  • Radon Gas
  • Moisture and/or Sewer Gas Intrusion
  • Elevated levels of Carbon Dioxide and/or Carbon Monoxide

Harmful air pollutants may be continuously circulating throughout your building by way of your Heating, Ventilation, or Air Conditioning unit, and most would never realize it. That brings into question just how much time you spend at work in a month? A year? During your entire career?

If you had to take a guess as to how many hours you’ll spend working in life, what would it be?

According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, the average American spends 91,980 hours working in their lifetime, equating to 10.5 years. Looking at those figures, it’s no wonder people get sick and tired from working. We spend 21% of our total waking hours over a 76 year lifespan — 35% of your total working hours over a 50-year working life. Trust us when we say, people literally get sick and tired from what has been identified as, Sick Building Syndrome.

Sick Building Syndrome is comprised of various nonspecific symptoms that occur in the occupants of a building. This feeling of ill health increases sickness absenteeism and causes a decrease in productivity of the workers. — Sumedha M. Joshi, Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

 HVAC, Air Handling Unit, Green Air Environmental, Green Building, Sustainability, Air Exchanger

While Heating and Air Conditioning systems primarily control room temperature, HVAC Ventilation systems regulate air quality exchange. There are two types of Ventilation:

Natural
Natural ventilation is the process of supplying and removing air through an indoor space by natural means, meaning without the use of a fan or other mechanical system. It uses outdoor air flow caused by pressure differences between the building and its surrounding to provide ventilation and space cooling. – HK Green Building Technology

Mechanical/Forced
Mechanical ventilation, or forced/induced ventilation, is accomplished by  the aid of fans. This means of ventilation is very effective in controlling the humidity and air quality inside an air conditioned space. As it is a positive means of ventilation it can control the odors, contaminants and humidity as well. There are many examples of mechanical ventilation like our kitchens and bathrooms that have exhaust fans. – Bright Hub Engineering

HVAC ventilation systems are designed to exchange indoor air with outdoor air, regulating indoor air quality. Air Handling Units, or AHUs, force excess humidity and air pollutants out of buildings to maintain the Indoor Environment Quality or IEQ. Simultaneously, AHUs mix outdoor air for indoor environments to maintain air pressure and temperature. First, outdoor air is filtered and heated/cooled, becoming what is known as Supply Air. Meanwhile, indoor air is sucked out of the room by an AHU and is called Relief Air. The exchanged air helps maintain pressure and increases air quality, allowing you to breathe safely and comfortably.

HVAC, Air Handling Unit, Green Air Environmental, Green Building, Sustainability, Energy Star

AHUs are also responsible for the heating and cooling functions of an HVAC system. Heat exchanger coils located in the AHU Air Stream are responsible for either heating or cooling mixed air. An AHU is equipped with two coils: 1) Condenser Coil (Hot) and 2) Evaporator Coil (Cold). During the air exchange process these coils become covered in dirt and grime, affecting their overall performance. This negatively affects your IAQ, air pressure, stagnant IEQ, and increased energy costs. Therefore, AHUs require regular coil cleaning to perform optimally and provide building occupants a healthy environment.

HVAC, Air Handling Unit, Green Air Environmental, Green Building, Sustainability

However, your HVAC coil cleaning method plays a significant role in your health as well. Standard industry coil cleaning practices include the use of acid and alkaline based cleaning solvents. These cleaning agents cause a chemical reaction between grime, mold, dirt, and other air pollutants that impede your AHU performance. Outdated cleaning techniques use a foaming agent (with the option of rinse and non-rinse application) to float deposit from the coil surface. These foaming chemicals then cause metal loss to the exchanger coils over time, reducing both their lifespan and efficiency. When foam is rinsed inside-out of the AHU, it allows chemical runoff to enter your building’s groundwater.

Chemical runoff can penetrate building soil, reach your aquifer, and contaminate your water supply. Meanwhile your coils operate efficiently, but lower your IAQ due to the chemical fumes circulating throughout your building. The damage done by chemicals affects your bottom line, equipment, and safety, as well as, the safety of others.

HVAC, Air Handling Unit, Green Air Environmental, Green Building, Sustainability, Foaming, ChemicalTake a look at some of the information provided by this Safety Data Sheet from Parker Hannifin Corporation’s ‘Extra Tough’ Foam-Max HVAC Cleaner.

Necessity is the mother of invention to which Green Air EnvironmentalTM CEO Tim Robinson is a testament. Green Air EnvironmentalTM is educating clients on the inherent dangers of chemical coil cleaning practices. Using sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices, Green Air is making waves in the HVAC industry. And their steam cleaning services are not only more efficient, but applicable to all facets of infrastructure.

To better frame the potential reach and impact of Green Air, the EPA has estimated the average American spends 90% of their time indoors. In every stage and almost every facet of our lives will be indoors. In fact, in 2014 it was estimated by the Pew Research Center that elementary school children (K-6) will spend 1,016 hours in school. Averaging these figures for K-12, the resulting number of hours is 11,316 hours — 1.3 years.

Also, according to the National Survey of Student Engagement, the average college student spends 17 hours per week studying/preparing for classes. Using that average over the course of 8 semesters in four years, it would equal 0.2 years — 238 hours per 14-week semester totaling 1,904 hours over 4 year undergraduate period.

K-12 and University environments are among places Green Air is making a significant impact. Additionally, Green Air operates extensively in the Industrial and Healthcare industries as well. In caring for the well-being of our staff, students and friends, it’s imperative we do everything possible to protect their health.