Indoor Air Quality is Important for Your Business
Your customers and employees are consumers of your commercial building’s indoor air quality (IAQ). Most people spend 90 percent of their time indoors. During business/working hours, a lot of that’s in an office, an industrial facility, a retail building, or an institutional environment like a school or hospital. While outdoor air pollution was and still remains a major concern, recent research has increasingly focused on indoor air quality.
What’s In The Air?
Although conditions vary from site to site, certain contaminants and pollutants can be considered “the usual suspects” in cases of poor indoor air quality in commercial or institutional environments. These potential irritants and health threats are divided into three sources:
Though not commonly a source of illness, dust is an irritant and annoyance, particularly to sensitive individuals. It is continuously settling, then stirred up into the air again by normal human activity as well as air circulation. Dust and dirt may originate outdoors and be drawn inside. Other everyday dust particulates such as lint fibers and degrading building materials such as drywall and paint originate indoors.
Many microorganisms thrive in indoor environments and are a challenge to maintaining healthy IAQ. Biological contaminants like mold and pollen originate outdoors but enter the building as airborne spores. Once exposed to moisture, these pathogens activate and begin releasing toxic reproductive spores into the air. In an enclosed environment, continuous inhalation can cause allergic responses, asthma in children and a variety of physical symptoms from the vague to the acute. Viruses are another aspect of indoor air pollution—common cold and flu viruses actually thrive more actively in the dry, conditioned indoor environment of a building versus the outdoors. Simple mechanical filtration of biological pollutants may not neutralize these pathogens. Options like UV lights may be required for effective control.
Fumes may originate from indoor sources like cleaning solutions as well as outgassed volatile organic compounds used in building materials and/or furniture glues. Equipment like large copying machines may emit enough fumes in an enclosed area to pose a threat to IAQ. Construction activities or improvements such as painting may spread odors and fumes throughout the building via HVAC circulation.
How Is IAQ Improved?
Healthy indoor air quality in the commercial and institutional building can be ensured by following widely accepted guidelines such as:
- Adequate ventilation that complies with Standards 62.1 set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) for healthy indoor air quality.
- Mechanical HVAC equipment including air filters, ductwork and condensate drain systems receive regular service and inspection and are maintained in a sanitary state to prevent growth of potential biohazards like mold, bacteria and other microorganisms.
- Sources of emissions that may be irritating or allergenic, such as large photocopy machines, are isolated from occupied areas and from air vents that may spread toxins throughout the entire building.
- Comfort parameters including temperature, relative humidity and circulating air are maintained in a range that most occupants of the building feel is acceptable.
- Building operations, maintenance including janitorial services, and any construction or renovation activities on the premises are carried out in a manner to reduce exposure to fumes, dust and airborne contaminants as much as possible.
When complaints occur, building air can be tested and evaluated by professionals. Elevated levels of CO2 exhaled by humans are often a sign that inadequate ventilation exists in the structure. High humidity may indicate malfunctioning HVAC equipment. In addition, tests can be performed to verify suspected sources such as mold growth. Dangerous gases like carbon monoxide should of course be continuously monitored with approved detectors.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection, and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial, and Residential settings. For more information about indoor air quality and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website.