While many people are aware of the negative effects of outdoor air pollution, something less discussed and potentially dangerous is poor indoor air quality (IAQ). In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a sharpened focus on IAQ, its role in human health, and why residential and commercial buildings need to measure IAQ. Clean air […]
The post What Are the Regulations for Indoor Air Quality in Commercial Buildings? appeared first on The Moderate Voice.While many people are aware of the negative effects of outdoor air pollution, something less discussed and potentially dangerous is poor indoor air quality (IAQ).
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a sharpened focus on IAQ, its role in human health, and why residential and commercial buildings need to measure IAQ. Clean air is a basic requirement, but it can be challenging to control air quality within a building, and commercial buildings are no exception.
Below is more information about IAQ requirements and regulations for commercial buildings.
Is IAQ in Commercial Buildings Regulated?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that the only two states with IAQ regulations are California and New Jersey. However, governments are starting to focus more on IAQ due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronavirus particles spread between people more easily indoors than outdoors. This is because the concentration of particles indoors is higher than outdoors. Even light winds outdoors can reduce concentrations, leading to less exposure and lower disease risks.
Research during the pandemic has illustrated the importance of IAQ and the role aerosol transmission plays in infection rates. However, IAQ regulation has fallen behind in the United States. Many countries have gradually developed robust regulations to address food- and water-borne illnesses, but IAQ has largely remained untackled.
A multidisciplinary team of specialists wrote a new paper that calls for more aggressive measures to address issues of IAQ. The report suggests that there needs to be a paradigm shift in how governments view and manage the transmission of respiratory infections to prevent economic losses and human suffering.
IAQ Guidance from Distinguished Agencies
Long-term or significant exposure to indoor air pollutants can have various negative health effects on humans. For example, poor IAQ can cause immediate symptoms, such as:
Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
It’s critical for commercial building managers and business owners to understand the implications of failing to maintain proper IAQ. Clean air is a necessity, not a luxury. Below are some of the recommendations various agencies set forth to help building owners navigate IAQ.
Environmental Protection Agency
According to its website, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate indoor air but rather offers assistance to protect IAQ. The EPA has a webpage dedicated to IAQ, with topics such as IAQ by building type, learning about IAQ, and how to network and collaborate regarding IAQ.
Under the “Office and Other Large Buildings” section, the EPA states that many office buildings, for example, have significant air pollution sources. This may be because the buildings are poorly ventilated or because people generally have less control over the air in an office building than in their homes.
The EPA website also listed a free IAQ design guide from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
Finally, building owners or facility managers can access the EPA’s Building Air Quality Guide for more information about maintaining IAQ and related factors.
World Health Organization
On September 22, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) revised its IAQ guidelines for the first time in 15 years. It includes more evidence-based data and information about IAQ. Essentially, the WHO suggests that no amount of pollutants is safe for human beings.
Here are some of the pollutants that were revised in 2021:
The WHO guidelines are not a legally binding standard or document. Various countries and agencies use it as a reference for creating pollutant-control legal policies. The WHO also lists more IAQ information and resources on its website to spread awareness of IAQ issues and implications.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Another organization that addresses IAQ is OSHA. The OSHA has an IAQ overview section on its website and sections that break down IAQ in schools, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and the role of IAQ in building operations and management.
According to OSHA, the main purpose of its site is to give employers and workers updated, relevant information and tips for identifying, correcting, and preventing IAQ issues. On its building operations and management webpage, OSHA describes research conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a part of the CDC.
NIOSH reviewed the first 500 IAQ investigations it conducted and found three main reasons for IAQ problems. They were:
Contamination inside the building
Contamination outside the building
OSHA suggests various poor-IAQ mitigation techniques, such as maintaining heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems, routinely cleaning spaces, properly storing cleaning chemicals, and following guidelines to ensure proper ventilation. Additionally, OSHA has a lengthy list of resources for building management, investigating IAQ issues, and sample and analytical methods for measuring specific air contaminants.
Again, OSHA does not have a general IAQ standard but does stress the importance of ventilation and maintaining proper IAQ to create a safe work environment for employees.
The Biden Administration’s Clean Air in Buildings Initiative
Aside from the agencies and guidelines outlined above, the federal government is working to step up IAQ efforts. The Biden Administration announced the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge to address growing concerns over IAQ and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The initiative encourages schools, building operators, colleges and universities, building owners, and organizations to adopt critical measures to improve IAQ in their buildings and reduce the spread of COVID-19. It’s a main component of the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, which outlines a plan for the country to move forward and fight COVID-19 in the future.
The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge is essentially a major call to action for building owners, operators, and leaders to identify current IAQ issues and take the necessary steps to improve IAQ in their facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The EPA developed a fact sheet for the initiative that includes guidelines and actionable steps they can take to improve IAQ.
Here are some of the principles and recommendations to improve IAQ:
Create a clean IAQ action plan that assesses IAQ, includes upgrades and improvements, and schedules HVAC maintenance and inspections.
Optimize fresh air ventilation using clean outdoor air.
Enhanced air cleaning and filtration in HVAC systems and any in-room air-cleaning devices.
Increase community awareness, commitment, and participation in the initiative.
In addition to these recommendations, it may be wise for commercial building owners, managers, or operators to consider adopting new technologies to monitor air quality. For example, sensors are often used to check air quality, humidity, temperature, and particulate content to ensure businesses can monitor the environmental condition of their workplace.
While improving IAQ is a growing concern, it may lead to negative environmental effects. For instance, taking steps to enhance IAQ may lead to increased energy consumption because the air being pulled in from outside needs to be heated or cooled. Several factors have to be considered when it comes to IAQ monitoring.
The Need for Formal IAQ Regulation
Some organizations are trying to increase awareness about the dangers of poor IAQ in commercial buildings. However, there’s also room for improvement and there’s a growing need for more formal IAQ regulations.
Formal policies will help ensure the commercial building industry is maintaining proper IAQ for the health and safety of everyone in their respective buildings. It will be interesting to see if more federal or state regulations emerge because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The post What Are the Regulations for Indoor Air Quality in Commercial Buildings? appeared first on The Moderate Voice.Emily Newton