In March 2022, the EPA announced the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge as a call to action for building managers, commercial property owners, and operators to meet recommended guidelines for improving indoor air quality. The goal of the challenge is to reduce the spread of airborne pathogens, biological matter, and other forms of contamination that can affect the health of a building’s occupants.
By adopting the following guidelines, buildings can easily promote the health and well-being of employees and visitors. While also helping to boost worker productivity, and hopefully reduce employee sick days.
This is a multi-tier challenge with several critical facets. So, if you’re dedicated to a building with improved indoor air quality, you’ll want to understand each of the components of the challenge in greater detail.
What Is IAQ?
IAQ is a common acronym used in place of “Indoor Air Quality.” The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy uses IAQ science in assessing the success of the Clear Air in Buildings Challenge. It requires an action plan, strategically optimizing fresh air ventilation. It also incorporates enhancing air filtration systems, implemented enhanced cleaning procedures, and even community participation!
Developing an Effective IAQ Action Plan
Just like answering any challenge in life, it helps to have a good plan. An IAQ action plan needs to include things like how outdoor air is brought into the building and understanding how the HVAC system operates.
The IAQ action plan phase also involves accurately assessing indoor air quality and how it is affected by ventilation throughout the building. Especially if your building or commercial property has multiple air handling systems, which can affect ventilation air quality in different parts of the facility.
After the comprehensive assessment is complete, you can better develop an effective plan to tackle problem areas. This might include making a variety of improvements in the building’s maintenance schedules as well as taking steps to educate everyone impacted by the building’s air quality.
Optimizing The Building’s Fresh Air Ventilation
One of the other critical components of the EPA’s Clean Air in Buildings Challenge highlights the importance of providing sufficient outdoor air coming into the building’s HVAC system. This phase of the challenge includes key recommendations on economizers that might be strategically used to accomplish this goal.
These recommendations should in included in the original action plan. Fresh outdoor air improves indoor air circulation. It can also help carry away chemical toxins from things like low-grade cleaning products, while also helping to reduce the volume of airborne pathogens. In some locations, fresh air might also have a slightly higher oxygen content than recycled air, along with a natural odor that can be invigorating for the building’s employees.
In the past, this has been seen as a helpful step in combating issues like “Sick Building Syndrome.”
Strategically Enhancing The Building’s Air Filtration & Cleaning
Enhancing a building’s air filtration and air handling typically requires a multi-prong approach. Right off the bat, it starts with making a lot of commonsense filtration improvements. Most commercial property managers choose to upgrade their HVAC filtration systems to use MERV 13 filters.
The next step in this process calls for increasing the overall ventilation in high-capacity areas. This might mean making changes in the air handling system, or might also call for increasing the influx of fresh outdoor air, which helps improve airflow throughout the building. This can help drive unwanted airborne particulate matter toward the upgraded MERV 13 air filters.
A lot of property managers caring for older buildings also turn to supplemental proven technologies, like portable air cleaners to help boost their indoor air filtration efforts. In some of these cases, Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) might also be able to help improve airflow when central air filtration is insufficient or ineffective.
The Benefits of Community Engagement, Communication, & Education
Most commercial properties and well-managed public areas benefit from community outreach and engagement efforts. That’s certainly true for properties that are embracing the EPA’s Clean Air in Buildings Challenge.
This phase is all about relaying information to people who will be directly impacted by the air quality improvements of the building. This includes not only employees and their families but also guests and retail visitors. In this facet, the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge recommends a robust communication plan that demonstrates your efforts to the public at large. This not only helps spread awareness of indoor air quality but encourages other buildings and businesses to follow suit.
The Benefits Of Bringing In Professional Help
Many of the indoor air problems found in professional buildings are also related to the cleaning and maintenance of the building’s interior. The truth is that improving incoming fresh air and upgrading the HVAC filters will only go so far. If you really want to embrace the EPA’s Clean Air in Buildings Challenge with gusto, then you also need to take the extra step in partnering with an industry-leading cleaning company like Building Services Inc.
Our highly trained technicians have access to cleaning products and equipment that you simply can’t find at the consumer level. This includes commercial-grade vacuum cleaners with high-quality HEPA filters that trap particulate matter, rather than expelling it back into the air.
Each of our expert cleaners has years of experience cleaning a wide range of professional spaces. This means we tend to catch problems like mold issues, mildew, and other biological contaminants that can affect indoor air quality. We can work with you to develop an effective remediation and cleanup plan for any of these problems before they escalate into a more serious threat to your building’s indoor air quality.
Building Services Inc. is also very proud to offer a special “Green Cleaning Service.” This is an arsenal of ecologically friendly cleaning products that have been scientifically proven to be just as effective as outdated chemical cleaners. Yet they leave behind a refreshing organic, natural odor, rather than toxic chemical odors.
This is definitely the sort of thing that your employees and guests will notice. It sends a clear sign to everyone that you are fully onboard with the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge!