The Complete Guide to Indoor Air Quality for Property Managers


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Indoor air quality is the first concern of a commercial property manager. With the rise in global warming and other environmental pollution, the air quality is getting poorer day by day. This is a major concern in commercial buildings as it can result in mild to severe illness and discomfort to the tenants. As a matter of fact, quality tenants have started to demand a proactive approach to eliminate the indoor air pollution and make their places safe to live and work. According to a survey, people spend about 90% of their time in buildings, hence maintaining a healthy air quality is extremely important. 

A Complete Property Owner’s Guide To Indoor Air Quality

Perhaps the most tricky part of maintaining the air quality in commercial buildings is that the effect of air pollutants have different effects on different individuals. This makes it extremely tricky to tackle the problem. The symptoms and illnesses depend on the sensitivity of a person, the location and sometimes the time of the day.  Here we will talk about the most common illness and other problems caused by the poor indoor air quality and the ways to fix them. 

SBS (Sick Building Syndrome) 

The most common illness caused by poor indoor air is the sick building syndrome or popularly known SBS. This term includes all the symptoms faced by the employees and other people when they live inside a building. It is a tested and a legitimate condition. But till date, no serious health effect and other condition has been found. 

Headache, lethargy, nausea, skin irritation, lack of concentration are some common symptoms of sick building syndrome. In general, SBS is suspected when the symptoms go away when the sufferer leaves a particular building. It is also suspected if several people experience the similar symptoms when they’re inside a particular building. Sick building syndrome can be seasonal as well. 

Building Illness 

Building related illness is different from sick building syndrome from the fact that it is caused by poor indoor air quality or air pollution. Most of the time, it is caused when the indoor air is contaminated with some kind of biological pollutants. Some common building related diseases include humidifier fever, Legionnaires’ disease and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Also, building-related sickness is more dangerous than sick building syndrome. 

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity 

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is another medical condition mentioned by EPA. It generally results in chemical exposure in the individuals. However, similar to sick building syndrome, no serious effects have been identified till now. Also, the symptoms of multiple chemical exposure are very similar to those of sick building syndrome. The only difference is, it is more prevalent in the buildings with chemical exposure. The effects of this medical condition varies from person to person. 

Lethargy 

The most common but still unnoticed symptom of the poor indoor air pollution is lethargy. When the amount of carbon dioxide increases in a room with very little or no ventilation, people start feeling sleepy and lethargic. According to studies, the high levels of CO2 in indoor air can cause about 10 to 13 per cent decrease in cognitive functioning. 

Discomfort 

Discomfort is also a common cause of poor indoor air quality. It can cause mild to severe discomfort depending on the sensitivity of a person and other conditions such as the location and building type. While tenants tend to think that their discomfort is caused by the environmental conditions such as humidity and temperature, when in reality the poor indoor air is the real culprit. According to the claims of EPA, people who complain about the dry air might be suffering from mucous membrane irritation due to particulate matter. In the same way, stale air can be a result of odor. While this condition doesn’t impact a person’s health severely, the issue should be addressed immediately otherwise it can impact the performance of individuals. 

Common Air Contaminants And Ways To Control Them

Combustion Materials 

Smoke is the common air pollutant in the buildings. It can come from tobacco, poorly maintained furnaces, nearby traffic and even generators. These products generate harmful fumes that can be very uncomfortable in the closed spaces with lack of ventilation. 

To deal with indoor air pollution due to combustion materials, make sure that the furnaces are maintained well and generators are running smoothly and efficiently. Smoking of tobacco should be prohibited inside the buildings. Also, delivery vehicles shouldn’t be permitted to idle their engines during the delivery. 

Mildew And Mold 

Mold and mildew can cause respiratory issues to people with respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis and others with allergies. Mold and mildew can also be due to sick building syndrome. Further, the increased exposure to such conditions can give birth to infections like hypersensitivity pneumonitis. 

The main reason behind the formation of mold and mildew in commercial buildings is water leakage and lack of hygiene. Further, the equipment such as humidifiers, cooling towers, drain pains, insulation and duct filters also attract mold more than often. 

To prevent mold and mildew, water leakage should be checked and repaired and make sure appliances that are likely to attract mold are working properly and are in good condition. 

Other Biological Contaminants 

Apart from the above-mentioned contaminants, there are biological contaminants such as insects, rodents, dust mites that can pollute the air and make it infectious and full of odors. 

How To Improve Indoor Air Quality 

Here is a list of things you can to improve the quality of air inside a particular building : 

  • Make sure the generators, HVAC units and other appliances are working correctly. 

  • Keep changing the air filters on a regular interval. Keep the ductwork clean. 

  • Don’t allow the delivery trucks to keep idle during unloading. 

  • Don’t allow smoking inside the buildings. 

  • Check the water leakage and repair the damages immediately. 

  • Clean and check the wet equipment such as cooling towers, humidifiers, drain pains etc. 

  • Make sure the humidity level lies between 25% to 50%. 

  • Keep the carpets clean and disinfected. 

  • Treat the rodents and other insects immediately. 

  • Use low VOC cleaning products, chemicals and other paints. 

  • Make sure the living areas are well ventilated. 

  • Keep the furnaces and other fireplaces clean and ventilated. 

  • Keep a track of carbon dioxide levels in the buildings. 

  • Keep indoor air plants as they filter and purify the air. 

  • Perform annual Indoor Air Quality Testing

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is something that many people overlook. But, there are many hazardous and toxic chemicals that can be contaminating the air that you breathe everyday.  Midwest Environmental Consulting Services IAQ tests include ambient monitoring of indoor air pollutants as well as hazardous, toxic, and odorous chemicals. 

By measuring levels of air quality and pollutants over a given period, we generate results that can be used to establish actual pollutant levels and provide air quality trends. Call us today to discuss your project, our experts are ready to work with you.

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