Building Air Quality April 2019

For Building Owners and Facility Managers BUILDING AIR QUALITY

281-448-1100 or TOLL FREE 866-367-1177 | www.BAQ1.com | April 2019

THE PROBLEM WITH HIDDEN IAQ PROBLEMS Secret Agent IAQ Man

There are two kinds of calls I can get when a client hires me to investigate indoor air quality complaints in their building. I estimated that 99 percent of the time when I get a call from a building owner or property manager, they ask me to come investigate the building, run the tests, and talk to the people who have been complaining. Their goal is to address any possible problems quickly, and they want the building occupants to know they take complaints seriously. This is what I call the“best approach.” Then there’s the odd 1 percent of clients who want me to become James Bond — but without revealing my identity to every super villain or damsel in distress. Recently, a facility manager of a large building contacted me about doing some testing. There had been some complaints from one of their department supervisors, and they wanted to tackle the problem quickly. However, he asked me to come in on Saturday, or after hours during the week, when the building was empty. They didn’t want any of the occupants to know they were having the IAQ tested. Now, I can come into a building after hours, no problem, but if I come in on a Saturday, then the building won’t have been occupied for at least 12 hours. Having people in a space affects the general IAQ. If people express concerns about IAQ when there are people in the space, I should be testing when people are around. When I told the facility manager this, he went back to discuss it with his boss.

Ultimately, they decided to have me come out on a Friday afternoon, while the building was still occupied, but I could not talk to the woman who’d complained. She was worried that if the people in her department learned she was complaining, they’d have a psychosocial problem on their hands. They didn’t want to risk the staff thinking they don’t feel good because their supervisors aren’t feeling good. This isn’t the ideal scenario for investigating a complaint, but I’m not in the habit of turning down work and leaving clients to go to someone else who might not do their best job. I went out to the building, conducted the tests, and wrote up the report. After delivering the report, the company asked me to make changes to the paperwork, removing any specific details about the problem, including the gender of the person who had complained and name of the person whose office I tested. At this point, you would have thought I was working for the CIA, with all the secrecy they wanted. “... when clients decide they have to keep an investigation under wraps, I end up going into the job with blinders on.”

There are understandable reasons as to why building owners or property managers wouldn’t want to advertise that they’ve brought in someone to test the IAQ of a building, especially if there’s only been one person complaining. They’re afraid people might assume there’s something unsafe about the building. However, when clients decide they have to keep an investigation under wraps, I end up going into the job with blinders on. In this situation, I only got secondhand knowledge about what this woman was experiencing. Without being able to ask for finer details, I couldn’t determine timing or spatial patterns. I had no idea if the problem was just in her office or if the adjoining offices were also having problems. Fortunately, based on the information I did have, the problem sounded like something we already tested for. Even with limited information, I was still able to go in and get the job done. That said, it would have been a lot more thorough if I had been able to get all the information I needed. There are a lot of merits to being open and upfront when a complaint occurs versus trying to hide it. For one, occupants are usually much happier to know the building owner and manager will take complaints and safety seriously by seeking professional help. Additionally, when there’s a possible problem in your building, you want all the information you can get to make sure it’s solved right.

Protecting the Built Environment

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281-448-1100 or Toll Free 866-367-1177

www.baq1.com

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