As property owners tighten building envelopes to make facilities more energy efficient, they also need to be more vigilant about properly maintaining cooling, heating and ventilation systems to ensure good indoor air quality. Buildings owners and operators who do the former and neglect the latter run the risk of recirculating stale — and possibly bacteria laden — air at their properties, which can make occupants sick.
In addition to proper maintenance of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, keeping fresh air intakes open as recommended by HVAC design is important, says Boyle. Here is her list of tips for improving indoor air quality:
- Relocate any fresh air intakes to avoid pulling in outside contaminants from incinerators, garbage bins or loading docks.
- Follow the maintenance schedules on HVAC systems.
- Increase the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of air conditioning filters to the highest level acceptable for the AC system.
- Minimize copy toner and other chemical use in office space.
- Purchase office furniture with low or no formaldehyde and other volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.
- Use low VOC paints for remodeling or decorating.
- Vacuum floors using equipment with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters.
- Respond to any leak in the plumbing system, roof or windows within 24 hours and thoroughly dry any moist materials to prevent mold growth.
- Store chemicals in a central location with adequate ventilation to the outside.
- Use natural or organic janitorial cleaning and pest control products.