Manage Interior Systems for Healthy Indoor Air

  May 18, 2012

As a kid, I loved that new car smell. I even remember a certain air freshener that promised to prolong the scent. Of course, it's common knowledge now that smelling the newness of products is not a good thing at all, rather indicating the off gassing of potentially harmful compounds into the air, whether that's air in a car or in a building.

Maintaining good indoor air quality in a facility depends on a lot of factors, but one of the big ones is monitoring and managing the various products which can emit harmful compounds into a facility. To do this, facility managers should take several steps.

First, develop a procurement policy. This policy should give consideration to low-emitting furnishings, finishes, adhesives and cleaning chemicals. Also, consider finishes that have been formulated with an antimicrobial agent or have had an antimicrobial agent applied. Antimicrobial agents are intended to inhibit the growth of many types of fungi and bacteria on surfaces. These agents can provide an additional safeguard against microbial contamination provided the treatment remains intact and the treated surfaces remain clean.

Of course, whenever possible, select low-emitting furnishings and make sure contaminants are allowed to off gas prior to installation. Facility managers can request new furniture be stored unwrapped for a sufficient amount of time for pollutants to off gas and ask for it to be shipped in open containers. It is also a good practice to store new furnishings unwrapped in an unoccupied area of a facility before installing them.

When dealing with new construction or a major renovation, be sure to ventilate newly constructed or newly renovated areas before occupancy. After initial occupancy, continue to operate the HVAC systems on a high rate of outside air. One way to measure the quality of the indoor air is to monitor the levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) weekly and maintain this continuous ventilation until acceptable levels are attained. This may take eight or more weeks after occupancy.


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