Indoor air concerns are not just related to every-day office building settings. Construction and renovation projects provide numerous indoor air quality (IAQ) problems that the construction superintendent and building owner must address. IAQ exposures for construction workers and other employees during these projects need to be identified and addressed. A proactive stance to identify and remove IAQ concerns before they affect the workplace is the best approach. During renovation projects, there is often the need to complete the work in areas closely adjacent to active, working employees who may not be used to the odors, dust and noise associated with these types of projects.
Extensive renovation and construction projects often result in a variety of IAQ concerns including using chemicals such as glues and mastics, solvents, and other products. Equipment and furniture can off-gas chemicals such as formaldehyde. The building may contain sources of IAQ concerns such as asbestos or lead-based paint. Processes used to complete the work can result in IAQ concerns such as welding fumes. Any strange odor can set off a string of complaints.
In addition, protection of construction materials and rapid containment and cleanup of spills are essential. During construction, building materials should be kept dry and off the ground. Allowing moisture to enter building materials such as wood or fabric stimulates the growth of mold. A process should be in place by a safety foreman to address spills on the site. Any spills need to be cleaned up immediately and saturated materials removed from the site.
The early identification of these chemicals, products, and processes is key to avoiding the delays and liabilities resulting from improper containment of these chemicals. The early identification of the issues will allow for adequate communication and public relations to educate workers, employees, and other building occupants on the concerns and the precautions in place.
As the nation's buildings are being remodeled or replaced, the issue of air quality becomes more evident. While older buildings had designs that needed improvement, they had one symptom that actually helped air quality-they were not airtight. These buildings had numerous entry points for air to flow in and out.
While this played havoc on heating bills it sometimes allowed the exchange of air to take place that filtered out pollutants and brought in fresh air. As buildings were replaced, newer structures became tighter and thus the exchange of air was reduced or eliminated. New standards for air quality and the exchange of air were set to help eliminate the problem of contaminants.