Indoor Air Quality 2017-07-27T21:30:56+00:00

Indoor Air Quality

Since 1980, Healthy Buildings has developed vast experience and a deep specialization in the field of indoor environmental risk management, indoor air quality, and tenant retention for commercial properties.

The Benefits of a Healthy Buildings IAQ Program are:

Development of a corporate indoor air quality policy results in a peerless tenant retention tool. Studies show that building users value indoor air quality over virtually any other environmental or sustainability amenity offered in the workplace.
Healthy Buildings’ proactive and reactive IAQ Programs demonstrate an impressive “rolling due diligence” program intended to provide a formidable defense should any tenant or third party question our clients’ commitment to a safe and healthy workplace. Clients who “manage what they measure” have far lower exposure to liability than those who only address issues when they cause harm, real or perceived.
Healthy Buildings’ IAQ programs document improvements made over time. This results in a smooth due diligence process at sale. The cost of addressing IAQ is more than recovered at sale time when the documents demonstrate a high and improving standard of IAQ over the seller’s hold time. The program is part of an investment strategy for the building consistent with Healthy Buildings’ purpose – “We make buildings more valuable.”
It has been demonstrated that IAQ is one of the most economically beneficial elements of sustainability and building operations. Studies show attention to IAQ results in a 5 to 10 percent improvement in productivity. When employee salaries are considered, no other measure has a bigger economic benefit. Healthy Buildings’ IAQ programs present a powerful marketing opportunity for leasing, and a compelling economic argument for owner occupied buildings.

Explore Healthy Buildings’ IAQ experience and offerings below. Experienced members of our Testing and Diagnostics team are ready to answer your questions.

Our IAQ Services Include:

The Healthy Buildings indoor air quality proactive monitoring program consists of a detailed investigation of the design and operating practices of a building’s air handling and distribution system. This information is integrated with data collected from comprehensive air sampling and analysis. An indoor air quality database is established for each building allowing an evaluation of changes in the indoor air quality over time.

At the time of the first inspection, Healthy Buildings AUDITAIRES™ (airborne particulate contamination sensors) are installed on the ductwork. These become a focal point of Healthy Buildings’ continuing tracking and monitoring process for indoor air quality. The ongoing monitoring involves repeat inspections at prearranged intervals, usually annually or biannually. Analytical results from the initial indoor air quality inspections and subsequent reinspections are then compared with a composite database of thousands of major buildings.

The key to a successful indoor air quality proactive program is that the results of implementing changes can be quantified. Conversely, in the event of adverse trends in air quality over time, modifications can be made to correct the situation before complaints arise from the building’s occupants. Read more…

There are roughly 8,000 to 18,000 cases of Legionnaires’ Disease yearly, with the majority of those incidences occurring in commercial buildings water systems, most often found in cooling towers. A new standard published by ASHRAE alters the way buildings are managed and operated.

ASHRAE Standard 188 specifically covers risk management for building water systems as it relates to Legionnaires’ Disease. As the new published Standard of Care, building owners who document compliance with this standard will significantly reduce their liability compared with those who do not.

According to ASHRAE, the “ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 188-2015, Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems, is intended for use by owners and managers of human-occupied buildings and those involved in the design, construction, installation, commissioning, operation, maintenance and service of centralized building water systems and components.”

Environmental concerns over the last couple of decades have come to play a major role in commercial real estate development and management. Over the last five to ten years greater emphasis has been placed upon mold and indoor air quality (IAQ) than perhaps any other environmental issue. Among IAQ issues, concern about toxic mold has risen to present such a liability and perception concern that forward-thinking real estate property managers routinely have their buildings inspected as part of a Proactive IAQ Monitoring Program. In California, California’s Toxic Mold Prevention Act multiplies building owners’ concerns about this issue, since it formally establishes mold as a substandard condition that should be disclosed during a real estate transaction.
Due to the numerous incidences of flooding reported throughout the country these last few years coupled with the increasing concerns about mold contamination in buildings, we thought it appropriate to have these guidelines for property managers. Note these are general guidelines that may need to be modified for specific circumstances and they may not be appropriate for all conditions.

Floodwaters do colossal damage to property. Wood swells and rots, wallboard can disintegrate and most paper items are destroyed. The mud, soil, insects, small animals and refuse carried in by the water penetrate everything. The disposal of carpets, fabrics, furnishings, wallboard and wood sections, plus the cleanup and repainting costs are usually covered by flood insurance — if the property owners are lucky enough to have such coverage.

What will not be covered by insurance are many of the long-term problems that manifest themselves weeks, months or years after the floods have receded. At the top of the list of future problems are those due to the ubiquitous molds. Molds and mildew grow on virtually anything and their multiplication and spread is prompted by dampness. Once well established in a property, they are difficult to eradicate. Spores from these fungi are minute and are light enough to be carried on air currents throughout the property. They may well settle on surfaces and remain in a dormant state for months or even years. Then, when conditions are right — perhaps simply an increase in a room’s relative humidity, new colonies germinate and re-infest the whole property again.

In the current economic conditions there is fierce competition for current construction projects and those in the pipeline and the smart business strategy going forward for architects, construction teams and developers will be to compete on value, not price. At the inception of the supply chain architects and construction teams must find a competitive edge.

Environmental issues have played a major role in construction over the past few years, both negatively via construction defect litigation, and positively, via the burgeoning green movement. If properly addressed, both offer scope for that competitive edge. If mold, moisture and IAQ are neglected during the construction phase, there is the potential for catastrophic and time consuming plaintiff litigation. Conversely if these issues are proactively addressed, there is a powerful marketing message in the “healthy buildings” concept.

Healthy Buildings has been monitoring indoor air quality (IAQ) and mold in buildings for the past 30 years. To protect new construction from mold, moisture or IAQ problems, and potential liability issues, we offer a powerful mold, moisture and quality assurance program.

Scientific evaluation of all the available human data provides no evidence for a “safe” level of asbestos exposure, thus any quantity should be considered potentially dangerous. However, a health risk exists solely when asbestos fibers are released into the air and when that contaminated air is inhaled into the lungs. Even then it appears that most people exposed to relatively small amounts of asbestos do not develop problems. The fact remains, however, that the chances of developing serious respiratory illnesses, including lung cancer, are greater in those exposed to airborne asbestos fibers.

Conversely, this correctly confers that many asbestos bearing materials or products are of no health risk whatsoever when used in the normal course of events. However, any level of asbestos containing materials inside a building constitutes a hazard. It should be noted that hazard is a potential for harm, whereas risk is the probability that this potential may become actual. With this distinction, it is self-evident that a simple identification and analysis of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) is insufficient to gauge the degree of risk. Since it is the airborne fraction of asbestos that is dangerous, a major factor in assessing risk conditions is to have a knowledge and understanding of the design of the building in general and its air handling system in particular. Thus, all Healthy Buildings building surveys include a review of the ventilation system layout and operation.

Indoor Environmental Quality Additional Testing Available

The following is a listing of additional field tests and samples that Healthy Buildings often perform during indoor air quality inspections and are available to our clients on an as needed basis. Note: these are just some of the more common tests and samples conducted in commercial buildings; Healthy Buildings can meet client sampling needs for any situation based on the unique field characteristics at hand.

Airborne Particulates

Airborne particulates are measured using a portable Ultrafine Particle Counter. This highly sensitive device is capable of measuring nanoparticles or particles less than one micrometer (um) in diameter using a precision laser and nucleated isopropyl alcohol. This diagnostic tool is particularly suited to indoor environmental investigations involving boiler leaks, vehicle exhaust odors, photocopy/toner emissions, cooking odors, and complaint investigations where standard airborne dust and particle monitoring are insufficient.

Airborne Mold Constituents

For airborne mold spores, fungal fragments, and potentially allergenic particle sampling, Healthy Buildings uses a non-viable spore trap, such as the AirOCell (AOC) cassette and pump. The AOC device allows for the rapid collection of a wide range of airborne aerosols including mold spores, pollen, insect debris, fibers, and inorganic particulate. This sampling method, as opposed to the culture collection method, brings several significant advantages: 1) it is more cost effective; 2) it allows for a rapid turnaround on results; 3) the method is subject to less contamination than culture methods; and 4) samples can be collected unobtrusively (ideal for office environments). Samples are subsequently analyzed using optical microscopy methods.

Surface Mold

Microbial surface samples are taken total using sterile multi-organism detection swabs and/or surface imprints. The swab samples are incubated and subsequently analyzed for bacterial and fungal types present with species identification using optical microscopy techniques. The surface imprint samples are taken for quick identification of toxic mold spores.

Lead and Copper in Drinking Water

Lead and copper in drinking water analysis is achieved by collecting water samples using special acid-washed bottles with subsequent analysis using atomic absorption spectrometry for lead content. The results will be reported in micrograms per liter (ug/L) and compared with current EPA standards for drinking water in commercial buildings.

Watercheck (Comprehensive Drinking Water Screening)

Watercheck (drinking water) samples are collected in a series of five sterilized and acid washed containers. Within 24 hours, the samples are sent to our laboratory for analysis. Ten physical characteristics are examined using electrogravimetric and nephelometric techniques. Fifteen inorganic metals are screened using ion chromatography. Forty-eight organic compounds are tested for using gas chromatography and coliform bacteria, including e. coli, are assessed using a membrane filtration technique. All results are compared to the Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) as regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and other government agencies.

Legionella

Legionella bacteria sampling & analysis will is accomplished by drawing 100-1,000 milliliter water samples from cooling towers or other suspect building water sources. Samples are transferred using two-stage inoculation onto a selective buffered charcoal yeast extract. The extract is then incubated for a minimum of ten days, after which it will be analyzed for legionella bacteria and counted using a laboratory stereoscope. Samples are reported in colony forming units per milliliter of water (CFU/ml) and compared to OSHA guidelines.

Air Handling Unit(s) Inspection

Air handing units are inspected for factors relating to ventilation, filtration, and hygiene. Specific issues include, but are not limited to: control system, damper settings, integrity of internal insulation, proper drainage of water, integrity and cleanliness of AHU internals, filter fit and condition, and rating of filtration systems with respect to indoor air quality parameters.

Volatile Organic Compounds – Full Spectrum Identification

Full spectrum volatile organic compound (VOC) samples are collected. These samples shall be taken by passing known volumes of air through mulit-bed Sorbent Tubes. The samples will be analyzed by capillary gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy. The compounds collected include alcohols, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. The results will be analyzed with respect to relevant maximum recommended standards and guidelines for commercial indoor environments.

Formaldehyde

For formaldehyde measurements Healthy Buildings uses electronic detectors capable of sensor resolutions at 0.01 ppm with detection limits of 0.01 ppm (10 ppb). The unit uses a standards generator to compare permeation rates of formaldehyde gas on a bed of activated carbon. Results fall within the tolerances of NIOSH method 3500. The sensor is calibrated daily and factory calibrated annually.

Datalogging – Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Temperature, Relative Humidity

Continuous monitoring over a multiple day period for carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, temperature, and relative humidity using an electronic Datalogger in conjunction with non-dispersive infrared and electrochemical sensors.

Miscellaneous Gases (nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide)

Miscellaneous gases are monitored directly using electrochemical sensors. These sensors are zeroed with hydrocarbon free air and spanned to appropriate low level concentrations using NIST certified primary standard gases purchased from Air Liquide (Cambridge, MD). Sensor resolutions are listed at 0.04, 0.01 and 0.10 ppm respectively. In-house calibrations are performed monthly. Factory calibrations are performed annually.

Electromagnetic Force (EMF) Screening

The screening process for EMF covers Extremely low frequency (ELF) and very low frequency (VLF) radiation. Measurements will be made using appropriate Walker Scientific EMF Power Survey Meters in three probe directions to arrive at a Root Mean Square (RMS) average. The measurements will be taken within the building as close as possible to the most likely source locations (e.g., power cable feeders, transformers, main switching rooms, etc.), as well as in the regularly occupied spaces nearest to those sources. This will give a fair indication of the levels of exposure at the most “suspect” sites within the building.

Industrial Hygiene Services

Under the administration of our Board Certified Industrial Hygienists, Healthy Buildings offers a wide range of industrial hygiene monitoring services and consulting for building owners.

Due Diligence Inspections – Property Condition Assessments

Healthy Buildings is frequently retained by building purchasers to review buildings during the due diligence period. Some or all of the above services can be included in these inspections.

I want to take a few minutes to let you know how impressed I was with the professionalism of your technician. If he hadn’t introduced himself we would not have known he was on the property. This was my first experience with Healthy Buildings and was very pleased with how comprehensive and informative your report was. Having been at the building since August of 2011 the building was a complete stranger to me and knew that I had an uphill battle in learning the building. Your report provided me with a wealth of information on what kind of shape my mechanical equipment was in and how well it has been maintained as well as identifying the problem areas. A job very well done. Your staff did you and themselves proud.
Chief Engineer, major commercial building in Phoenix

Training: Indoor Environmental Quality

Topics include: tenant/employee perceptions of IAQ, IAQ basics, indoor pollutants, causes of pollutant buildup, managing IAQ proactively, current standards, building inspections, etc.

Mold in Commercial Buildings1

Topics include: what is fungi, problems caused by mold, mold sources, identification of mold, mold remediation, control/prevention of mold, litigation & regulatory issues, etc.

[1]Training in these categories is an integral part of LEED Credit 1.1 Indoor Air Quality Best Management Practices: IAQ Management Program

Asbestos Issues

Topics include: asbestos containing materials, impact of asbestos on owners & managers, asbestos disturbances, exposure limits, testing methodologies, regulatory agencies, inspection components, O&M plans, asbestos abatement, etc.

Lead Hazards

Topics include: historical uses, health effects, sources of lead, identification, testing & inspection of lead, worker protection, lead abatement, disposal of lead, in-place hazard management, O&M programs, etc.

HVAC Operation & Maintenance

Topics include: A review of ASHRAE Standard 62.1 Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality Section 8, which details the best practices for the maintenance, operation and optimization of building mechanical equipment to promote indoor air quality.

Temperature & Psychometrics

Topics include: A review of the relationship between the physical and thermal properties of air and vapor mixtures, understanding the principles of the psychometric chart, a review of frequently identified moisture and thermal comfort problems in buildings.

Air Filtration

Topics include: Principles of air filtration, the types of filters and common filtration failures in commercial buildings. A review of the ASHRAE standard 52.2 Method of Testing General Ventilation Air-Cleaning Devices for Removal Efficiency by Particle Size including relevant terminology, and the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV).

Training: Health & Safety

Site Assessments & Audits

Topics include: due diligence process, regulatory issues, assessment phases, assessment components & procedures, benefits, consultant selection criteria, etc.

OSHA Compliance

Topics include: OSHA regulations, employer responsibilities, facility inspections, inspection steps, safety & health standards, confined spaces, air contaminants, respiratory protection, safety & health program components, etc.

Hazard Communication & MSDS

Topics include: personnel responsibilities, key terminology, types of physical hazards, identifying, managing, and classifying hazardous materials. Components of a written hazard communication program, labeling, the anatomy of an MSDS, employee training requirements and OSHA regulations regarding record keeping, etc.

Emergency Response

Topics include: definitions, regulatory requirements, categories of hazardous incidents, emergency action & fire prevention plan requirements, training needs, available technology & services, etc.

Ergonomics in the Workplace

Topics include: definitions and goals, terminology, regulatory/legal issues, workstations, lighting, noise, proper workstation design, preventative actions, renovation issues, ergonomics program development, etc

Lock Out Tag Out

Topics include: definitions and OSHA regulatory requirements, hazardous energy sources in the workplace, roles and responsibilities of personnel, strategies and materials for lock out procedures.

Electrical Safety

Topics include: Terminology and basics of electricity, hazards and preventative measures.

Personal Protective Equipment

Topics include: Understanding the principles of PPE and the importance of engineering controls, a review of OSHA regulations, roles and responsibilities, types of PPE

Welding, Cutting, Brazing/Arc Flash

Topics include: identify the major health and safety hazards in welding, a review of OSHA regulations, selecting appropriate PPE, implementing controls to prevent and control fires.

Confined Space Entry

Topics include: The scope of the OSHA regulation, terms and definitions, defining the roles of personnel in confined space entry, recognizing the hazards of confined space, methods of controlling hazards