As mentioned in previous articles, IAQ refers to the Indoor Air Quality within a commercial building and its immediate surroundings. The importance of good air quality cannot be over emphasized, as it is the primary sustaining factor for life. Poor IAQ, depending on the impurities in the air, their concentration, hours of exposure and state of occupant's health, could lead to long term health complications which could potentially be lethal. With the number of commercial buildings in the US alone growing by 14%, with a floor area growth of 21%, coupled with the fact that these commercial buildings are increasingly serving as residential complexes as well, building managers have definitely got to pay more attention to IAQ.
Commercial buildings often host offices, supermarkets, medical units, malls and residential areas. These are places where people spend at least 8 hours of their daily life. In the case of offices, good air quality is very important, as studies have shown that air quality has a direct relationship with performance. Poor quality air leads to poor employee performance, and vice versa.
IAQ problems are however not only limited to building occupants. Construction workers stand a greater chance of exposure to air contaminants during commercial building construction and renovation projects. During these projects, workers carry out a variety of processes and use chemicals, which corrupt the air around them, producing particulate matters, volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. IAQ is therefore central in sustaining the health of commercial building construction workers and those in the surrounding areas of such projects.
5 Steps in Ensuring Proper IAQ During Construction Projects
INCORPORATION OF IAQ GUIDELINES IN PLANNING
Before the execution of any commercial building construction or renovation project, a lot of time is first allocated to planning. The planning stage is critical, because it lays out the entire framework for the execution of the project - what is to be done, where, when and by whom, including duration. It is at this stage that all the main aspects of the entire project are thought out and programmed. This is the stage at which IAQ's importance should begin getting incorporated. To accomplish the objective of ensuring good air quality for the duration of the work, IAQ must be recognized at the conceptual and planning stages, and proper procedures must be identified and injected in to the project as a whole. If the commercial building is being constructed in line with a pre-existing protocol, the protocol must be studied to ensure that it has IAQ as one of its priorities. Should the protocol be lacking in this aspect, necessary steps must be taken to ensure that IAQ is prioritized during construction.
IDENTIFICATION OF POTENTIAL IAQ THREATS
After acknowledging IAQ as an important activity in the planning phase, the next step is to identify potential IAQ threats in each phase/activity of the construction project. Will there be VOCs arising from wood and other organic materials, what of the production of CO2 from combustion and burning activities? PMs arising from sanding and dusting must also be taken in to consideration. IAQ threat producing activities will vary greatly, depending on the uniqueness of the commercial building construction project in question. The identification of all these threats (activities and purities) is important in effectively combating them. Should all the threat producing activities not be properly identified, alongside the accompanying impurities, workers and those in the surrounding area of the construction project risk being exposed to poor quality air, which in turn might impact the entire construction negatively.
COMBATING THE IDENTIFIED THREATS
The main reason for the identification of potential threats is so that deterrents can be put in place to curb the possibility of occurrence. When working in identified areas or on activities with potential IAQ contamination, construction workers should be properly clothed, complete with helmets, protective eye covers, gas masks and foot coverings wherever necessary. Workers safety as far as air quality is concerned must be prioritized at every stage of the construction project. Signs should be put up, informing people entering a particular sector of the construction project of the potential threats in that area, as well as informing them of what protective procedure to follow. If the construction is such that some of its activities could also pose a threat to surrounding neighbors, steps must be taken to ensure that those within the radius of contamination are moved/relocated. States often have construction laws, which penalize construction firms for negligence in project execution.
For IAQ contamination hazards to be kept at bay, the key is to hire professionals who skilled in their fields of execution. Experience is often said to be the best teacher, which is true even in a commercial building construction scenario. The point in hiring professionals is in the hope that their skill and experience puts them in the position to counter circumstances arising from their field of expertise. A skilled painter will for example know how best to position and exhaust suction fan, to ensure that the air in a freshly painted area is sucked out efficiently and replaced with clean air. Skilled wood and flooring workers will also ensure that wet materials are immediately dried off to avoid the accumulation of mold. Where tech devices are used to monitor air quality, experts will be needed to operate such devices. Hiring professionals for construction jobs might initially come across as expensive, but the alternative might be even more costly - unskilled workers could easily fall sick from wrong practices, leading to overall inefficiency and a possible law suit which could bring the overall project to a standstill.
CONTINUOUS IAQ COMPLIANCE CHECKS
All the aforementioned steps are necessary in ensuring an IAQ compliant commercial building construction or restructuring. However, to ensure that the standards set in the planning face are complied to at all times, the construction project will have to put in place routine compliance checks. These checks are to ensure that the standards agreed upon in the planning phase are adhered to during implementation. IAQ compliance checks will also ensure that those threats that were not anticipated during planning are adequately taken care of in case of occurrence. Break downs in the IAQ sustenance process will also be addressed by these routine checks. The aim is to ensure that all IAQ procedures with respect to the construction project are adhered to within a threshold that is generally acceptable by building and legal norms, without compromising the integrity of the execution being carried out. It also provides an effective communication framework for interactions and feedbacks, which goes to boost the overall efficiency of the construction project at hand.
In conclusion, IAQ, whether with respect to commercial building occupants or construction projects is of great importance as far as performance is concerned. The quality of human life can be directly linked to air quality; thus, great attention should be paid to IAQ. For a commercial building to be built efficiently and in time, construction firms will have to pay more attention to the quality of air being breathed at the construction site. Poor air quality will mean more off days for workers due to sickness, and extra cost in hiring replacements (which may not be readily available).