10 ways to keep tenants happy by ensuring indoor air quality

Since most people spend more than 80 percent of their time indoors, it is important to ensure that high levels of indoor air quality are maintained. It not only affects the health of the occupants, but also severely decreases employee engagement, comfort and productivity.

A building’s age, design, renovations, density of occupation, maintenance of HVAC, building material and furnishings and ventilation are some of the causes of poor indoor air quality in a building. Other causes can be associated with location of the buildings, outside activity, radon and internally generated contaminants.

ASHRAE Standard 62-2001 establishes the standard of care for the design of commercial, institutional and residential ventilation systems to “provide indoor air quality that will be acceptable to human occupants and is intended to minimize the potential for adverse health effects.”

There are multiple steps facility managers and building owners can take to maintain this standard, according to Senseware:

1. Control of source of contaminants

Most building managers perform common assessment and identification of indoor air quality throughout the year. Once a contaminant is identified, the immediate step is to find the source and control the spread of the contaminant to mitigate immediate risk.

To do that, building owners and managers must maintain the blueprints of the building layout, construction and any renovation documents.

The next steps would be source control. Removal, substitution and enclosure of the sources are the recommended method. Engineering controls, such as a canopy hood or setting up temporary barriers to access the area can be an intermittent solution. Temporarily increasing ventilation can help in situations like carpet cleaning and painting.

Other administrative controls like reducing the time the tenants occupy the building (by adjusting work schedules), educating tenants about the hazardous situation and housekeeping practices, such as removal or storage of food can be implemented.

2. Maintenance of equipment

Strictly adhering to the recommended procedure of the equipment manufacturer, including those that tell you how frequently to change filters. Proper maintenance is also important for new equipment. Other activities that provide an opportunity for preventing indoor air quality problems are:

  • Cleaning of air filters
  • Checking air dampeners and actuators
  • Humidifiers
  • Drain pipes
  • Air handling systems
  • Cooling towers

3. Maintain ventilation

ASHRAE Standard 62-2001 offers two methods for determining the amount of outdoor air required to properly ventilate indoor occupied spaces for acceptable IAQ: the Ventilation Rate Procedure and the IAQ Procedure:

The ventilation rate procedure is a three-step procedure. They are 1. Determine the outdoor air quality 2. If outdoor air quality is unacceptable, it needs to be filtered and 3. Determine the amount of air required in each space.

4. Check occupancy levels

A balance has to be maintained between the supply of air during times when the building is occupied to it’s highest capacity, compared to when it is unoccupied or intermittently occupied.

This starts with the construction of the building where an indoor air quality plan has to be implemented and the building is cleaned before occupancy. Once occupied, indoor air testing has to be constantly performed to avoid any emergency situations, incidents and complaints.

5. Air quality testing

Indoor air quality testing has to be conducted in a scheduled and frequent manner to ensure standards are maintained. Common test kits are available both for residential and commercial purposes to test the air for a variety of threats.

Testing can be a simple or elaborate procedure, depending on where you are with regards to tenant’s complaints. It can be a simple test performed in hours or longer depending on the sampling and analysis.

6. Outdoor controls

You can control and measure outdoor air using commercial rooftop air-handling units or dampers. A minimum outdoor air quality of (in units designed to deliver less than 2,000 cfm of supply air) should be measured at least every five years to verify the airflow rates are in compliance with the standard.

HVAC systems use either constant volume air handling or variable volume air handling to provide a constant flow of air ventilation. Maintaining these would depend on the outside temperate and climate of the region and form the crux to establishing a good quality IAQ.

7. Humidity management

Moisture in buildings causes major deterioration of indoor air quality and can damage building structure and furnishings. Most air-conditioning units use a cooling coil to cool the supply air and remove moisture by lowering the air temperature below its dew point.

8. Control of pollutants

Filtration systems help to filter both particle and gaseous substances from the air. Most HVAC systems have particulate filtration to remove particles from the air. Other pollutants can be controlled in the following ways:

  • Tobacco smoke: Using the gaseous filtration and increased ventilation
  • Pesticides: Use according to manufacturer’s directions and increase ventilation.
  • Lead: Remove lead from spaces using trained specialists.
  • Asbestos: Do not remove the asbestos if in good condition, since removal causes leakage. If necessary engage trained specialists for removal.

9. Alarm systems

Today, there are multiple notification systems in the marketplace that are either enabled on your computer or on your smartphone. Functions such as a dashboard of environmental information – temperature, humidity, levels of CO2, CO, real-time monitoring and alarm prompts are easily available in these apps.

These would be helpful to prevent damage and reduce the risk of impact to tenants.

10. Manage and design the construction of buildings

Many IAQ problems occur as a result of poor construction or renovation practices. Monitoring all work is critical to good internal air quality.

Some ways to address the quality of indoor air are:

  • Monitoring IAQ specification during various phases of construction
  • Proper installation of equipment, such as HVAC
  • Monitor contaminant isolation during construction
  • Emissions control during construction
  • Isolation of contaminants, if occupants are present


Topics: Healthy & Comfortable Buildings, HVAC - Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation, Office Buildings, Sustainable Communities, Technology, Urban Planning and Design, Ventilation

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