Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

The Lafayette College Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Policy establishes guidelines and best practices to maintain good indoor environmental quality.  The goal is to operate buildings in a manner that meets established performance standards regarding ventilation, temperature, relative humidity, air quality, odor, and noise.

Proper design, construction, commissioning, and ongoing maintenance of building systems are necessary to provide a healthy and productive campus.

EHS provides technical assistance on IAQ related topics and aids Facilities Operations in responding to IAQ concerns.

 

Resolving IAQ Problems

IAQ complaints can be subjective in nature and difficult to quantify.  As a result, sources of IAQ problems can be difficult to identify.  In some cases, a source may not be identified, but a solution can still be applied.

There is not one specific type of general indoor air quality sampling that can identify or resolve IAQ complaints.  Initially, EHS will interview building occupants and carefully document descriptions of the complaints including physical symptoms and perceptions (i.e. odors, thermal comfort) and timing of occurrences.  EHS focuses on identifying potential problems, not on proving or disproving a complaint.

EHS will follow this general outline when investigating IAQ complaints to help understand the problem and identify possible solutions.

  • Identify the problem
    • Nature of complaint
    • Building construction and HVAC information
    • Water events and damage history
    • When did issues start
    • What changed before issues started
    • Where are complaints in relation to building layout and HVAC
    • What odors have been identified
  • HVAC system evaluation
    • Ensure system meets comfort specifications (temp and humidity)
    • Confirm filtration criteria
    • Inspect drain pans
    • Check fresh air intakes and outdoor equipment
  • Collect measurements for common indoor air quality parameters
  • Additional air monitoring, if needed
  • Follow up consultation

 

Mold Basics

Molds can be found almost anywhere and are naturally present in both indoor and outdoor environments.  Molds reproduce by means of microscopic (2 – 10 microns) spores. 

To grow in an indoor environment, mold spores needs oxygen, organic material, a temperature range between 40 – 120 degrees, and moisture.  If any of the four fundamentals are taken away, mold will not grow.  Because oxygen and organic material are plentiful and molds thrive at indoor temperatures, controlling moisture is the best way to prevent mold growth.  If a building is properly maintained, and situations that involve water or moisture such as floods, leaking pipes, and areas of high humidity are addressed quickly and efficiently, mold growth will not be an issue. 

Before making decisions on how to treat microbial growth/mold within a building you first need to determine the extent of the infiltration.  This is accomplished through visual inspection, identification of the cause, correction of the cause and then, if needed, sampling as a last resort.

The main objective of any mold investigation is to locate areas of indoor mold growth in order to determine how to best control the underlying moisture problem and remove the contamination.  The key to solving a mold problem will always be to correct the source of water or moisture and remove mold contamination which can usually be accomplished without mold testing.  Mold testing rarely answers the difficult question of health risk and often leads to unrealistic expectations that can’t be met.  Testing should not delay corrective action or divert resources from moisture control and mold remediation. 

However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.   

It is impossible to eliminate all molds and mold spores in indoor environments.  The universal nature of molds in indoor and outdoor environments makes positive testing for molds certain.  There are no regulatory standards for mold spores.  Strict numerical values of what constitutes normal and abnormal levels have not been clearly defined by the scientific community.  Interpreting indoor air quality sampling results for mold spores requires an evaluation of both indoor and outdoor ratios of organisms as well as species present.  The presence of indicator species, for example, species typically found in flooded areas or whose presence may indicate a chronic water or moisture issue, must also be addressed.