Some estimates place the cost of poor indoor air quality (IAQ) to the United States' economy at $200 Billion in today’s dollars. In the age of COVID-19, good IAQ as we have known it is no longer enough. (Updated chart, 2/25/21)
(updated chart, 2/25/21) As those of us in the building management and maintenance field prepare to “re-open” buildings, the health and safety of our tenants, guests, patients, staff and residents remains top-of-mind. Soon the general public will leave the comfort and safety of their homes where they have been limiting human contact for weeks, and venture out into the world with other people.
We must be prepared for them so they can feel safe when returning to shop, work and play in “the new normal.”
Nothing about building maintenance will be normal – perhaps for quite a while. Every commercial building in the US and probably in most industrial nations, is now taking – or should be taking – extra precautions to ensure safety. People should feel safe going back to work, and building owners and managers must enact measures to both ensure safety and prevent, or at least minimize, potential litigation.
Spring is supposed to be a time of growth, renewal and hope. Many cultures and religions celebrate sacred holidays, most of which take place communally, with family and friends.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year many of us are observing these special occasions alone or with family and friends but only virtually.
While we are celebrating with social distancing, we can pause to give thanks for what we have, and offer immense gratitude to the doctors, nurses, first responders, grocery store workers, maintenance and sanitation workers and all those other front-line workers who are giving so much of themselves to help others.
Two weeks ago I shared on our social media pages (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn), an article by one of my favorite local speakers and writers, Josh Linkner. He wrote about ANTs. Not the kind that are the bane of any facility manager or building owner, but Automatic Negative Thoughts as described by psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen.
When giving a talk on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in 1991, I was discussing one of the consequences of poor IAQ – Sick Building Syndrome. A woman raised her hand and said, “I have that.” The room went silent. She continued, “I was teaching at school and they started painting. By the time I left that first day I had tingling in my fingers. The second day I had tingling all the way up to my elbows. On the third day I went home very sick. I went to several doctors in the area who weren’t able to diagnose it – they all said it was in my head. I finally found a holistic doctor who diagnosed it as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).”
With the proper diagnosis, she could finally start treatment. To this day she is still hyper-sensitive to the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) such as the odors from fresh paint, carpet and glue found in many buildings.
VOCs. Viruses. Stale air. Mold
They spread through the air and can lead to Sick Building Syndrome. Left unchecked, they can cause serious health issues.
Sometimes the underlying source is easily seen, detected and mitigated. Sometimes exposure causes long-term health issues for those exposed.
Most often, especially in flu season or as a result of adverse events such as flooding or an epidemic like COVID 19, it pays to monitor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ).
Having worked in the HVAC optimization and wellness field for the last 15 years, I have never seen a better opportunity to have a long overdue discussion about how our mechanical systems direct and drive building wellness. The current worldwide focus on halting the spread of COVID-19 has brought this topic to a level of urgent action.