Indoor Air Quality Program
IAQ Environmental uses a highly effective investigative protocol to pinpoint the causes of odors, Sick Building Syndrome, and Building-Related Illnesses. The steps in these investigations include:
We conduct one-on-one occupant interviews with each person who feels that the building may be triggering symptoms. These interviews are frequently done in a neutral location, with complete confidentiality. These interviews will establish a link with the subject building, point to another source, and often suggest substances appropriate for testing.
Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning System Inspection and Testing by Texas Licensed HVAC Expert
The design, operation, and maintenance of a building’s ventilation system are critical because industry statistics indicate that up to 50% of all indoor air quality (IAQ) complaints are related to the ventilation system. We perform a design analysis from blueprints, inspect visually accessible components of the system (such as condensate pans, coils, drain lines, fans, and filters), and take ventilation measurements to ensure the adequacy of air delivery to the system. Outside damper positions, damper motors, variable-air-volume (VAV) boxes also inspected for control, function, overall condition, and mechanical components inspected for performance.
Ductwork inspections performed using a fiber-optic borescope camera or digital camera. They are documented and cataloged for future reference to be used as a comparative evaluation or if a problem arises.
Indoor Air Quality Testing
IAQE measures for virtually any kind of testing for airborne contaminants. We routinely test for industrial chemicals, fungi, mold and bacteria, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, particulates, combustion byproducts, pesticides, and many other contaminants.
In recent years, IAQE has noted a marked increase in IAQ problems resulting from high fungi (mold) and bacteria levels. Under favorable conditions of high relative humidity and the presence of a nutrient source (such as fiberglass lined ductwork), molds will “bloom”, releasing spores into the air. These spores trigger allergic reactions, asthma, hypersensitivity diseases, and respiratory diseases. Overall high levels of certain bacteria can cause fatal diseases, such as Legionnaire’s Disease and Tuberculosis.
We have capabilities for performing air tests for viable (“living” or culturable”) and non-viable (“dead” or “non-culturable”) molds. We both qualify (colonies or structures/cubic meter of air) and identify (usually to genus level and frequently to species level) the organisms present. We have a variety of tests available to detect mold growing on surfaces. We can also perform DNA and mycotoxin (“mold-poison”) testing on molds.
Temperature and Relative Humidity
Temperature and relative humidity readings serve as an indicator for general comfort levels. Thermal comfort and relative humidity can have a profound effect on the overall perception of IAQ. This standard is designed to satisfy 80% of the occupants. Elevated relative humidity readings provide conditions favorable for microbial growth, while low relative humidity, frequently occurring in the winter months, can dry mucous membranes and make occupants more susceptible to colds.
Carbon dioxide levels are used as a surrogate for the determination of ventilation deficiency. Occupants exhale carbon dioxide, and if the ventilation system does not adequately import and/or exhaust contaminated air, background levels will increase throughout the day. The consequences of such a build-up are that occupants become tired and inattentive, and work quality declines. More importantly, other contaminants in the building will accumulate like carbon dioxide. For example, if copier machines are used frequently throughout the day, ozone generated by these machines may also accumulate to unhealthy levels. The health consequences of ozone exposure are far more serious than a build-up of carbon dioxide.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
VOCs are chemical compounds that are an inherent part of modern, everyday life. Sources of these compounds include adhesives, cleaners, dry cleaning agents, paint, and building materials. VOCs’ health effects can range from upper respiratory tract irritation, headaches, nausea, and coughing to life-threatening toxic reactions. For this reason, it is important to accurately monitor and portray the presence of these substances, particularly in newly renovated buildings or whenever a significant change in building activity occurs.
Formaldehyde, also a VOC, is of particular concern because recent EPA studies have shown that approximately 10% of all individuals are hypersensitive to formaldehyde. Many of these hypersensitive individuals have severe symptoms at concentrations as low as 0.1 ppm. By contrast, the OSHA permissible workplace standard was established at 0.75 parts per million.
Benefits of IAQ Testing
There are numerous benefits to conducting a proactive monitoring program. The following is a summary of some of the benefits that realized by conducting a comprehensive, proactive monitoring program:
1. Reduction Of Employee Absenteeism – Woods (1993) has performed calculations which show that, on average, employees miss up to six days per year. Due to sickness and illness related to poor IAQ. Based on these calculations, the cost of this lost work time far exceeds any benefit gained by reducing outside air ventilation and energy conservation.
2. Length And Equipment Replacement Cycles – It is common knowledge that dirty and poorly maintained equipment is more prone to mechanical failure and shortened useful life cycles. Therefore, it makes very good sense to conduct a proactive program of ventilation system inspections from an equipment maintenance program standpoint.
We frequently find numerous Operations &
Maintenance problems with the HVAC system:
- Dirty or Missing Filters
- Condensate Pans leaking or overflowing
- Condensate drain lines not free-flowing
- Dirty Ductwork
- Belts missing or frayed
- Components not properly lubricated
A good proactive program should detect many of these conditions before they create serious problems.
3. Reduced Energy Costs – In many of the buildings where we have conducted monitoring programs, we have found that more outside air is brought into space than necessary. It may well be that your building can reduce the amount of outside air and conserving energy costs without adversely impacting IAQ. The only way to tell for sure is to take ventilation measurements.
4. Improved Public Image And Positive Public Relations – In the modern era, employers and employees tend to be increasingly impressed by managers who take proactive steps to prevent problems. The fact that building owners and managers are leading the way in performing testing, which is not, at the moment, required by government agencies, is impressive to many. Furthermore, there is the added benefit of tenant retention and boosting the building’s valuation.
5. Reduced Cost For Setting Up A Proactive Program Such As May Implemented In The Future – It seems clear that government agencies may soon require some type of proactive IAQ monitoring program in schools. At present, it is somewhat unclear whether OSHA, EPA, or a new national IAQ bill will establish parameters for monitoring and the timing is equally unclear. However, we believe that within a reasonable time, some form of regulation is enacted.