An office or retail store is generally a clean environment, but during a building renovation, indoor air quality can be reduced significantly. There are several things you can do, however, to maintain indoor air quality while renovating.
What's in the Air?
A renovation involves considerable disruption of structures and building materials that have been in place for some time. To maintain indoor air quality while renovating, it's necessary to identify the type and source of any pollutants.
- Biological materials and allergens: Any biological material or allergens that have grown behind walls or other structures could be disrupted and released into the air. This can include dust, mold, mildew, microbes, animal droppings and bacteria. Some materials of this type, such as mold, can be particularly dangerous to health and will require specialized techniques for removal.
- Particulates: Renovations require activities such as sawing, drilling and sanding. These processes can create tiny pieces of wood, metal, wallboard, plaster and other construction materials, plus dirt and dust that can enter the air as particulates. Breathing in these particulates can trigger allergy or asthma attacks and potentially cause respiratory health issues.
- Volatile organic compounds and fumes: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and fumes are a common side effect of a renovation project. Many types of construction supplies can produce VOCs, including paints, varnishes, stains, solvents, fuels, cleaners and adhesives. New materials installed as part of the renovation can also give off VOCs, such as carpeting, fabric materials, vinyl flooring and new furniture. VOCs can be a simple irritant or can cause significant allergic reactions and health effects.
What Can You Do?
As a building owner, manager or contractor, it's your responsibility to maintain indoor air quality during construction and renovation projects. This will not only make the building's tenants happier, but could also help to shield you from regulatory or legal entanglements. Following are some steps to take.
- Inform your tenants: Make sure occupants of the building know that a renovation project is going to occur and where in the building it will be centered. Give as much prior notice as possible to allow tenants to make their own preparations for dealing with the renovation.
- Establish a reporting procedure: Establish a procedure for reporting any complaints or issues that arise as a result of the renovation process. Ensure complainants that their reports will be confidential and will be acted upon promptly. More importantly, responding quickly and with concern shows that your tenants' health and comfort are a top priority. Determine and apply remedial action and report back to the original complainant.
- Create a buffer: To maintain indoor air quality while renovating, create an unoccupied buffer zone between occupants and the work area. Seal and isolate the work area as thoroughly as possible to keep particulates and other materials from migrating into occupied building spaces. Store construction materials, supplies and equipment away from HVAC ducts and mechanical rooms. Whenever possible, schedule renovation work during times of limited building occupancy.
- Seal or revise HVAC ducts: Particulates and VOCs could very easily be pulled into the HVAC system and released into the building's inner areas along with heated or cooled air. If necessary, seal off the ducts, especially return ducts, in the area where the renovation is taking place. It may be necessary to temporarily redirect ductwork to ensure contaminants don't enter the air distribution system.
- Practice safety: Make sure all construction personnel have the personal protective equipment they need to work safely. This gear could include respirators, eye protection, steel-toe boots, hard hats and gloves. Workers will be much closer to any potential contaminants and will need safety equipment to protect them.
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 on how to maintain indoor air quality while renovating, and to view projects we've worked on, visit our website!