Indoor air concerns seem to haunt facility directors during construction projects. The future expansion or operation of any type of building is a complex process that leaves facility managers little time for unnecessary activities such as employee relations or mediation. It is difficult to prevent indoor air quality (IAQ) problems especially if building areas are undergoing renovation while adjoining areas continue normal operations. One crucial component of a construction project is helping the building occupants understand that these construction activities can create indoor air quality problems. The beginning steps identified in this article can have a tremendous impact on the progression of your project.

It is not unusual for facility directors to incorporate a manager or a consultant to assist faculty and staff in identifying what to expect prior to any indoor construction project. As we all know, with every construction project performed inside a building, a number of complaints about room temperature, noise, excessive dust, and other elements of the building environment seem to come daily. These complaints will always be common due to the fact that people do not understand that renovation, redecorating, and remodeling activities can create indoor problems such as dust, odors, and emissions.

In the preliminary stage of any indoor construction project, establishing a consistent, healthy indoor environment for occupants can contribute to productivity, comfort, and a sense of health and well being during their workday. Indoor air quality can be managed efficiently with quality maintenance and by employing procedures used in operating and maintaining the building components during construction. Facility personnel such as custodians, HVAC employees, or general mechanics are not generally trained to think about IAQ issues as they go about their daily activities even though building occupants may be reporting events and conditions that are affecting them during their workday.

In order to eliminate potential problem, establishing an IAQ Assessment Program should be performed in the beginning stages with the architect and engineers. This proactive IAQ program will help to develop a profile of the building, looking for potential indoor air quality problems, before they actually occur. This IAQ profile is a picture of building conditions from the perspective of indoor air quality and potential air pathways. A review of construction and operating records, combined with an inspection of building conditions, helps reveal potential indoor air quality problems and identify building areas that require special attention to prevent problems during a construction phase. Additional baseline data collected for the IAQ profile can make later investigations much easier, should problems arise.

The process of developing an IAQ profile should require only a modest effort, from a few days to a few weeks of staff time, depending on the complexity of your building and the amount of detailed information collected. The work can be done in pieces over a longer period, if necessary, to fit into the pre-construction schedule. On the other hand, professional consultants can be hired to perform the review and develop the profile on your behalf.

The information needed for an IAQ profile is similar to that which is collected when solving a heating problem or indoor air quality problem, but includes the entire building rather than focusing on areas that are going to be under construction. The IAQ profile should be an organized body of records that can be referred to in planning for renovations, negotiating with contractors, or responding to future complaints. It is important to remember that an indoor air problem will take over an entire building and not just focus in the direct area of construction.

The process of gathering information for the IAQ profile can be divided into three major stages: