Indoor air concerns are not just related to everyday office building settings. Construction and renovation projects present 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. Renovation projects often present the need to complete 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 various 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 may stimulate the growth of mold. A process should be in place to address spills on the site. Any spills need to be cleaned up immediately and saturated materials must be 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. Early identification of the issues will allow for adequate communication and public relations to educate workers, employees and other building occupants about the concerns and precautions in place.
As 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 an exchange of air that filtered out pollutants and brought in fresh air. Newer structures are tighter and, thus, the direct exchange of air is reduced or eliminated making the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system more critical. New standards for air quality and the exchange of air have been enacted to help eliminate the problem of contaminants.
In new construction or remodeling, efforts must be made to control poor air quality and to rethink the use of some building materials. New construction requires a concentrated effort to incorporate IAQ goals into the bid and construction documents. Contractors need to be aware of concerns about this issue and take measures to ensure that proper processes are in place.