How to Clear the Air Over Indoor Air Pollution and Sick Building Syndrome Concerns and Increase the Health and Comfort of Building Occupants
Take a nice deep breath. Now, slowly breathe the air out. That's nice, isn't it?
But how confident are you that the air you just breathed in and out is fresh and healthy—free from pollutants?
As a building owner or facility manager, indoor air quality (IAQ) monitoring is one of the most important tactics you can take to help ensure the health of your occupants, tenants, and guests. How else can you sense if there's harmful indoor air pollution so you can eliminate it?
In the process, IAQ monitoring can also help you improve heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system performance and energy efficiency. Here, we offer recommendations for your IAQ action plan. Plus, review what Monnit Sensors to use to benefit those who breathe in your buildings.
What is IAQ?
It's the air quality within and around buildings and structures that affects the health and comfort of occupants. Gases, including carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), radon (Rn), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulates, microbial contaminants—mold and bacteria—or any mass or energy stressor that can induce adverse health conditions affect IAQ.
Indoor air pollutants can cause short- and long-term health conditions, including asthma, respiratory tract infection and disease, allergic reactions, headaches, nasal congestion, eye and skin irritations, coughing, sneezing, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea. Exposure to prolonged poor IAQ can contribute to more severe health concerns.
Control at the source, filtration, and ventilation to reduce or eliminate these contaminants are the main ways to improve IAQ in most buildings. Collecting samples in the air and on surfaces, monitoring human exposure to pollutants, and modeling building airflow are all elements of IAQ analysis.
What is an IAQ Management (IAQM) Plan?
For facility managers, school district maintenance managers, or apartment building owners, an IAQ management plan can include policies, objectives, and tactics to assess IAQ 24/7, cleaning and maintenance procedures, and corrective actions to protect people from harmful contaminants.
If in the United States, for example, we recommend building and executing a management plan in compliance with the requirements of various regulatory bodies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provide a wealth of guidelines to help you formulate a management or IAQ action plan.
Essential Elements of an IAQ Management Plan
An IAQ management plan aims to create an environment that protects the health and safety of occupants and decreases exposure to indoor air contaminants. All employees should follow the plan's outlined procedures.
We recommend plans include the following:
Offer a scope—Define the roles and responsibilities of plan administrators, vendors, maintenance and cleaning staff, and occupants or employees. Outline your organization's response to IAQ reports, training, maintenance standards, and employee communications.
Conduct a facility IAQ assessment—Evaluate and document the exterior and interior of facilities and the function and current condition of building systems, including air-handling units, air distribution, and HVAC components. Deploy wireless sensors to assess baseline IAQ data.
Detail reporting and investigation procedures—Describe how employees or occupants should report IAQ concerns, incidents, and emergencies to managers or plan administrators. Report forms, investigative checklists, and communication protocols should be clearly outlined and readily accessible.
Develop a preventive maintenance schedule—Ensure building systems operate effectively and efficiently by outlining monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, and annual inspections and assessments. Schedule priorities and 24/7 IAQ monitoring tactics, use checklists and create maintenance activity descriptions.
Summarize ongoing housekeeping and construction projects—Demonstrate how to perform proper facility cleaning and maintenance through written and visual instruction. Provide an oversight framework for renovation, restoration, or repair activities.
Provide plan updates, training, and reviews—Conduct periodic training sessions and communicate policies, plan changes, quarterly and annual assessment findings, and IAQ issues or incidents.
ALTA® Wireless Sensors, including the Air Quality Sensor, Air Velocity Sensor, Differential Air Pressure Sensor, Carbon Dioxide Sensor, Carbon Monoxide Sensor, and Motion+ Sensor, can collectively help you improve IAQ. The sensors provide data and insights that allow you to monitor, analyze, and take action to enhance air quality and prevent the effects of unhealthy episodes. Here's how each of these sensors contributes to IAQ improvement:
Tracks motion and occupancy, ambient temperature, and relative humidity (RH) in a wide variety of building areas.
Allows monitoring of key environmental and IAQ conditions and occupancy simultaneously.
Alerts you when preset parameters change so you can maintain occupants' preferred comfort and safety.
By integrating these wireless sensors into your IAQ management strategy, you can collect comprehensive data on various aspects of air quality—from temperature and humidity to gas concentrations and air movement to HVAC performance. This data enables you to take proactive steps to maintain a healthy indoor environment, reduce the risk of health issues, and optimize the performance of your HVAC systems and IAQ management strategies.