Healthy Buildings Laboratory 2017-03-17T17:50:29+00:00

Healthy Buildings Laboratory

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Healthy Buildings operates a highly sophisticated in-house laboratory meeting the sample analysis needs of many of our routine testing and diagnostic services. This includes but is not limited to optical microscopy, gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy, microbial qualitative and quantitative analyses, Legionella bacteria culture methods and colorimetric and atomic absorption methodologies for water quality analyses. This meets the analytical requirements for the following services:

Air Quality Testing

  • Soiling characteristics (filter)
  • Non-viable spore trap analysis (ASTM D7391)
  • Volatile organic compounds (EPA Method TO-17)
  • Optical particle identification
  • Surface and bulk sampling and analysis (molds, particle identification)
  • Microbial Surface contaminationVolatile organic compounds (EPA Method TO-17)

Water Quality Testing

  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Lead
  • Alkalinity (EPA 310.2)
  • Chloride (EPA 325.2)
  • Hardness (EPA 130.1)
  • Nitrate (EPA 353.1)
  • Nitrite (EPA 353.1)
  • Phosphate (EPA 365.1)
  • Sulfate (EPA 375.4)
  • Heterotrophic Plate Count (SM 9215E)
  • Coliforms/E. coli (SM 9223B)

Our lab instrumentation includes the following:

Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer (GCMS)

This instrument is the heart of our volatiles analysis program, used for LEED EQ c3.2 projects and general VOC diagnostic testing in indoor air. Samples of indoor air are collected on special adsorbent tubes which trap volatile organic gases (compounds). These compounds are then thermally desorbed from the collection tubes while an inert gas directs them onto a 60-meter capillary column in order to separate them. Each compound’s progress through the column varies depending on its molecular weight and chemical properties. As the compounds exit the column, a special detector (mass spectrometer) captures and ionizes them. The resulting signal from the ionization coupled with the time it took to exit the column is then digitally analyzed to identify and measure the concentration of the compound.

Atomic Absorption Spectrometer

This instrument is used to determine the concentration of metals in water samples, particularly lead and copper, through the absorption of optical radiation (light) by free atoms in the gaseous state. After a small amount of sample is atomized in a graphite-coated furnace, free atoms absorb element-specific wavelengths of light emitted from hollow cathode lamps. Utilizing the Beer-Lambert law, the amount of light absorbed is linearly correlated to the concentration of analyte present. Ultimately, concentration measurements are determined from a working curve after calibrating the instrument with standards of known concentration.

Light Microscopy

Our powerful microscopes and trained technicians enumerate and identify fungal spores and other particles found in indoor air and on surfaces. We think of a microscope as a relatively simple instrument, but in the right hands this is one of the most powerful tools in the laboratory. Our highly trained microscopists process hundreds of spore samples a week. Field personnel use a specially designed pump to impact fungal spores and particles found in the air onto a sticky plate. Once at our laboratory, the samples are stained and placed under the microscope for analysis. The microscopist then counts and identifies the fungal spores and structures based on their morphology and size.

Legionella Incubation and Identification

The publication of ASHRAE 188p – a new landmark standard helps building owners understand and manage risk of Legionnaires disease from water assets in their buildings. Our laboratory has years of experience working with this organism, and is a member of the CDC’s exclusive Environmental Legionella Isolation Techniques Evaluation (ELITE) Program. Water samples are concentrated, and inoculated onto selective media to encourage the growth of Legionella bacteria. Following a 10 day incubation period, suspect colonies are isolated and inoculated onto diagnostic media to confirm the presence and concentration of Legionella bacteria in the sample. The culture method remains the gold standard for identification of this elusive organism.

Discrete Analyzer

The discrete analyzer uses colorimetric methods to determine inorganic and simple nutrient content in aqueous samples, primarily to assess water quality. The analyzer employs a robotic sampling arm working in combination with a motorized syringe that aspirates, dispenses and mixes quantities of sample and reagent in individual reaction cuvettes. Samples and reagents are incubated in the reaction cuvettes for a pre-programmed time to elicit a color change. A single sample aliquot is then transferred into an optical glass cuvette where filtered light is used to record the absorbance and a deliver a concentration for the desired analyte.

Our laboratory services are available on an a la carte basis on request. Contact us for more information.