Creating a Safe Indoor Environment During the School Construction Season

Construction oversight will ensure IAQ is safe for contractors and staff during asbestos abatement projects.

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is an ongoing battle for facility managers and school officials. The summer months provide the most opportunity for facility managers to address any IAQ issues head on. As summer construction and renovations begin, air quality concerns from the past school year such as strange odors recognized by staff members or high humidity levels can be investigated without interfering with the academic schedule. Facility managers aren’t necessarily in the clear though, classroom renovations that restore damaged building materials can create their own set of air quality concerns.

Whether contractors are adding or subtracting, dust and particulates will be dispersed throughout the air. Demolition causes dust from drywall, plaster, and carpets to become airborne, reducing the quality of the air for workers and school occupants. The removal of fiberglass insulation can be a lung irritant for workers, while particulates can cause coughing and irritation as well. These airborne fibers and particulates are an increased concern during the summer months due to reduced airflow in school facilities. School districts cut costs by reducing HVAC use in the summer months. Without air conditioning or adequate airflow, the air of the facility increases in temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide. Add several types of pollution which can be traced back to demolition and construction equipment and machinery, such as sound and vibration pollution, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds and the indoor environment of a school can become a headache in more ways than one.

Summer months can be used for:

  • HVAC unit updates, repairs, or servicing
  • Hazardous materials abatement (Asbestos, Lead, PCBs, etc.)
  • Mold abatement
  • Encapsulation of asbestos or lead materials
  • Renovation, construction, and demolition projects

IAQ Management Tips for the School Construction Season

In the long term many of these projects benefit the indoor environment of a building, but in the short term they can have a negative impact on air quality during the activity. There are many interventions and precautions that can be implemented to help ensure your facility has clean, fresh air during construction activities:

  • Ensure airflow in all areas of the facility using dampers, air exhausts, and vents. Not only does airflow maintain recommended carbon dioxide and humidity levels, it also reduces mold growth.
  • Hire a licensed professional, such as a Certified Industrial Hygienist to investigate mold, sound, vibration, and odor concerns. This professional should have the expertise and experience to ensure your facility addresses any issues effectively.
  • Contract quality, well-regarded abatement companies to remove all hazardous materials and mold following all laws and specifications. You don’t want to be left with a bigger problem than you started with.
  • Create an IAQ management plan for renovation and demolition projects, including plans to reduce emissions and particulates generated by activity. IAQ quality issues should be adequately addressed in your specifications.

Element Environmental Solutions (E2S) has over 50 years of experience with IAQ consulting, investigating, and project oversight. E2S has the expertise to manage any IAQ concern that your school or facility may have. If you need help finding a quality contractor to mitigate any IAQ issues, contact us and we’ll recommend a few firms we have partnered with in the past.

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