Providing a safe, healthy environment for workers requires proper indoor air quality. The same is true for visitors to retail outlets, medical clinics, gyms, and restaurants. It’s also true for homes and apartment buildings. When problems arise that affect the integrity of the building envelope, IAQ suffers. Therefore, facilities managers need to understand how the building envelope impacts IAQ.
How The Building Envelope Impacts IAQ
The building envelope separates the interior and exterior of a building. It protects the inside environment from the elements of rain and snow. When functioning as intended, it prevents flooding and excess moisture from entering and causing mold problems. The building envelope also keeps drafts from entering around doors and windows. It includes mechanical systems within the building. It helps create healthy indoor air. When cracks form in the foundation or roofs become compromised, this is when the building envelope impacts IAQ.
Since we spend the majority of our time indoors, it’s important to address how IAQ impacts the building environment. In North America, for example, adults spend 87 percent of their time inside either at work, at home, or in commercial buildings such as churches, restaurants, and stores, et cetera. Another five percent is spent inside automobiles leaving the remaining eight percent spent outdoors.
Negative Effects of Poor IAQ
Factors contributing to poor IAQ include contaminant sources such as carpeting, furniture, and building materials. Poor design and construction contribute to the problem. Stone and brick bearing walls and brick and block current walls retain water and have high humidity rates. Humid weather conditions or periods of excessive flooding also impact the building envelope and IAQ as a result. These conditions provide an ideal environment for mold and other fungi to grow. Fouled HVA components provide a breeding ground for mold as well with mold spores traveling throughout the building via HVAC ductwork.
Other contaminants from outside sources that breach the building envelope and affect IAQ include the following:
- Fungal spores
- Industrial pollutants
- Vehicle exhaust emissions
Poor IAQ in buildings affects occupants in an adverse way. Short-term exposure triggers symptoms such as red, watery eyes, itchy skin, nasal congestion, and fatigue. Long-term exposure could include serious respiratory illnesses. Poor IAQ also impairs cognitive functioning leading to lower test scores in classrooms and lower productivity in office buildings.
Testing How Building Envelopes Affects IAQ
Moisture inside buildings welcomes mold and bacteria. These microbes cause the health issues mentioned above. WTI – PACS helps building owners and facilities managers identify risk and improve IAQ. Our Building Science services include methods and systems to evaluate buildings based on HVAC zones as well as monitoring indoor conditions.
Assessments and Screenings
Visual inspections, as a part of our Building Health Check, look for mold and bacteria which is then confirmed through sample analysis by our laboratory at WTI. In addition, the assessment also measures and records relative humidity and temperature as well as wall and floor moisture.
Testing also includes the following tests and screenings:
- Mold assessments
- Allergen and dust screening
- Contaminant source and risk assessments
- Infrared Thermography
- test and balance reporting
Air pressure testing of the building envelope is another way to improve IAQ. It helps facilities managers increase building performance by minimizing air leakage. This not only creates a healthier indoor environment but lowers energy bills.
The HVAC Impact on IAQ
Another method to gauge the impact of the building envelope on IAQ is through our HVAC Hygiene Assessment. Mechanical systems get dirty over time and performance suffers as a result. Our assessment evaluates the condition of the EV coil, drain pan, blower, and ductwork. Our technicians send collected samples to the laboratory at WTI and the resulting report advises managers on the next actions.
Keeping Indoor Conditions Safe
The IAQ Guard® 2.0 system uses monitors to track changes within the building envelope that affect IAQ. A remote team monitors conditions of temperature and relative humidity and total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs) as well as particulate matter, CO2, and other gases. Monitoring allows building engineers to address problems fast and is an important part of keeping building occupants safe.
Learn More About How the Building Envelope Impacts IAQ
Is your building envelope intact? There’s too much at stake to let problems that impact IAQ go unaddressed. To learn more about how WTI – Pure Air Control Services creates healthy buildings, contact us today.