If contractors want to make interior air quality (IAQ) a priority for their next construction project, look no further than the requirements in LEED v4.1.
The requirements, which are currently in pilot phase and expected to be ratified this year, incorporate the latest California Department of Public Health standards and reflect updated requirements for environmentally safe products and materials that do not emit unhealthy volatile organic compounds.
Establishing good IAQ is easiest if the goal, and the means to achieve it, are addressed before construction even begins. Even if a contractor is not trying to achieve LEED certification, the guidance can enhance the project’s value. Green construction results in buildings that are not only energy efficient but healthier for the occupants—and air quality is a big part of that equation.
Looking at the LEED guidance, there are a few obvious factor a builder should consider when assessing air quality for their project.
- Entryway systems: The installation of permanent, 10-foot entryway systems in the primary direction of travel that are equipped with grates, grills or slotted systems, as well as rollout mats, that can be regularly cleaned. This cuts down on the amount of dirt and particulates that can enter a building.
- Filtration: Ventilation systems that supply outdoor air to occupied buildings should have filters or air-cleaning devices that meet LEED standards. Filters should be replaced after construction is over and before tenants move in.
- Carbon dioxide monitoring: Install carbon dioxide monitors between 3 feet and 6 feet off the ground that can alert to concentrations exceeding the setpoint by 10%. Carbon dioxide monitoring is good for densely occupied spaces.
- Products and materials: Only use paints and coatings, adhesives, sealants, flooring, wall panels, furniture and composite woods that are certified low-emitting.
In addition to following LEED guidance, a great way to keep contaminants out of a jobsite is to be vigilant during construction. It comes down to some evergreen advice: keep the jobsite clean, don’t allow smoking, and make sure to keep moisture away from HVAC equipment to prevent mold from getting into the structure at air intakes. During construction, partition off finished areas from unfinished areas so pollutants don’t migrate from one place to the next.
Outdoor Air Quality
Outside air quality can have a big influence on the quality of air inside a building. The Environmental Protection Agency has an Air Quality Index that measures five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act. The five major pollutants are ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter, including PM2.5 and PM10), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide
There are organizations like AirNow.gov that provide interactive maps so contractors can track daily air quality and forecasts, drilling down into cities and regions. Building owners or managers can install air quality monitoring devices or even air cleaning devices for ozone that can be activated when high ozone levels are present.
Moving Forward with IAQ Management
Whether seeking LEED certification or not, the guidance can be a great way to ensure air quality for a project. Covering everything from entryways to office furniture, the new standards serve as great mile markers for excellent IAQ. And construction teams also play a vital role in protecting the IAQ of buildings by incorporating best practices. Contractors should set priorities at the start and stick to them.