How to Conduct an Indoor Air Quality Review

While it may seem obvious that an Indoor air quality review requires one or more professionals to bring in test equipment, take samples, and investigate likely areas of trouble, there is a more effective and efficient process that is quite affordable.

Every building manager should know that there are no pristine buildings when it comes down to indoor air quality.  This would be like saying that the floors or carpet are perfectly clean.  That never happens.  The constant use of the floors, or the air, means that everyone is in a kind of holding pattern or momentary status.  This means that every building is somewhere between "Perfect Air Quality" that we will call "0", and "Extremely Toxic" that we will call "100".

Let's give our example building a pretty good rating of 40 meaning that the building is fairly healthy.  We know that every building is a closed system even though the HVAC system takes in a measure of fresh air using operation.  It also takes in cleaning products, solvents, manufactured goods, food, dirt and debris, pesticides, fragrances, and outside pollution.

If you understand the concept of a Collective System, you will understand that a building collects everything.  Cleaning only removes the most obvious visual concerns.  Sanitizing is a level above cleaning and does not create a germ-free, but germ-less, environment.

Rather than discussing all that happens to make a building more or less toxic, let's look a the other process to assess the toxic or polluted building status.  It is the staff and employees in the building.  The Department of Labor and OSHA require that a building or company conduct a simple review of workers as a real-time indicator of building concern.

In a building rated at a 40 on the scale, workers who are healthy will likely have no symptoms.  That does not mean that the building is a good place to work.  If we see 5% or 10% of workers with the well-known symptoms of a sick building, there is a good reason to go to the next step of building testing.

The review is simple.  Workers are asked to honestly complete a questionnaire of several questions.  This should be done by an outside person to make this a transparent and honest review.  The ratio of health concerns will indicate the need for further testing.  

We are told that about 30% of the population has some latent or actual health problems.  The indoor air quality level will likely affect a percentage of workers.  Using this metric, the 10% to 30% adverse results tell us that the problem is easily solved to lower those numbers.  Any adverse results above 30% is a strong indicator that there is a need for testing and proactive treatments.

Here's the good news.  Most poor IAQ results are easily solved and have tremendous positive effects on the healthy as well as the not-so-healthy workforce.