Building Air Quality September 2018

BUILDING AIR QUALITY UNDER CONSTRUCTION When Contractors Create a Liability BAQ 281-448-1100 or TOLL FREE 866-367-1177 | | September 2018

Indoor air quality is everyone’s responsibility. I say this all the time, and I probably sound like a broken record, but I’m constantly stunned at how often people fail to understand that what they do inside a building can impact everyone else sharing that space. From “noxious” odors emanating from a woman’s daily breakfast of maple- flavored oatmeal to bacteria residing inside a taxidermy trophy, sometimes the indoor air quality culprit is totally unexpected and caused by someone who should really know better. Not long ago, we were called out to a medical building where tenants had been complaining about the indoor air quality. Fortunately, no one had gotten sick from it yet, but the building manager, being very wise, wanted to act fast. I knew there was definitely something up when I met a woman with irritated skin around her nose and eyes, and her elbows and wrists were rubbed raw from scratching. At the time, a quarter of the building was under construction, and the tenants who were complaining just happened to be located in offices closest to the construction. You can see where this is going. I set up some equipment to test for airborne particles and found that, in some areas, the count was 40 times higher than it should have been. I certainly had my suspicions about the cause when I looked down the hallway and saw some of the construction construction area was not zoned off, and the crew was unknowingly carrying fibers and contaminants to other parts of the building on their clothes and in their hair. After testing some suites that were farther from the construction zones, it was confirmed that these spaces weren’t experiencing a crew dragging a piece of fiberglass insulation over the carpet. Plus, the

problem, so I went to the client with my findings.

The long and short of it is that the construction company wasn’t managing the site well enough. They needed to contain the area, put it under negative pressure, set up some air scrubbers with HEPA filters to clean the air coming out of the area, clean the hallway carpets, and instruct the construction crew to stop dragging materials across the carpet. My client forwarded the report to the contractor and told him, in no uncertain terms, that he was creating a huge liability and was going to cause a lawsuit!

“Problems happen around construction areas a lot, especially when the contractor doesn’t know how they are affecting the IAQ.”

building in the future. The area with the construction has two A/C units mounted on the roof, and you won’t be surprised to hear that the contractor didn’t cover the return air vents and was letting the air handlers run during the entire construction period. Considering how he treated the construction process, I can’t imagine he’ll think to clean the air handlers or the supply air ductwork before the tenants move into that space. Consider this a cautionary tale. Before you let people do any work in your building, you need to make sure the contractors you hire are experienced enough to isolate the work areas, manage their construction dust and debris, and follow property management’s guidance in order to maintain good indoor air quality.

Problems happen around construction areas a lot, especially when the contractor doesn’t know how they are affecting the IAQ. Ideally, after hearing about the risks, a contractor will do everything in his power to remedy the situation. Considering we had to go back to that medical building four times for follow-up inspections, where we found the air scrubbers not running and more particles in the carpet each time, it’s safe to say that the contractor did not take our recommendations seriously.

This contractor’s carelessness could potentially pose a big problem for this

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