Indoor Air Quality and Wellness Services

Good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a key indicator of healthy indoor environments

Intertek helps our clients achieve healthier buildings

People now have elevated expectations that the buildings they occupy be designed and operated to support their health and wellness. In schools, offices, senior living, and other building types, people want to know that they are breathing healthy air. In addition to reducing disease transmission risks, healthy buildings improve productivity and cognitive function, reduce stress, reduce absenteeism, and support general wellbeing. Intertek’s team includes architects, engineers and industrial hygienists who specialize in assessing indoor air quality issues and implementation of effective, customized solutions to maintain healthy indoor environments.

Intertek helps our clients achieve healthier buildings in the following ways:

  • Good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a key indicator of healthy indoor environments, and an elevated concentrations of pollutants reveal opportunities for improvement. IAQ testing can be used to diagnose problems, guide solutions, and validate the efficacy of interventions. Intertek’s experts develop and implement customized IAQ investigations to address the specific needs of our clients.
  • Optimized ventilation and filtration are central to maintaining healthy indoor air, while maintaining energy efficiency. As a compliment to IAQ testing services, Intertek performs assessment and guides improvement of mechanical systems to optimize IAQ, occupant comfort, and energy performance.
  • The WELL Building standard provides a comprehensive certification of building design and operation to support occupant health and wellness. The WELL Health and Safety Rating gives building owners and occupants assurance that pathogen risk reduction best practices are in place. Intertek has a team of WELL Performance Testing Agents approved to perform WELL performance verification testing and inspection, and WELL Accredited Professionals, Industrial Hygienists and other experts who conduct air quality, water quality, lighting, acoustic and other performance testing in support of WELL certifications.
  • Similar to WELL, the FitWel certification system gives building owners and managers a complete framework for healthy building design and operation. Intertek assists clients with FitWel certification, including performing the required air quality and water quality testing.
  • Intertek performs the post-construction air quality testing required to earn the LEED Air Quality Assessment credit

Indoor Air Quality Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is meant by indoor air quality?
A: Indoor air quality refers to the state of air inside of buildings and its impact on the health and comfort of occupants. According to the EPA, levels of indoor air pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor levels, and in some cases these levels can exceed 100 times that of outdoor levels of the same pollutants. 

Q: What is acceptable indoor air quality?
A: The science of indoor air quality is evolving. There are established standards that set minimum ventilation rates and recommend maximum concentrations of certain pollutants, focused on maintaining acceptable indoor air quality to protect human health. Recent studies have better quantified the impacts of pollutants on human health, comfort, and performance (e.g. cognitive function), defining new standards for optimal, not just acceptable, indoor air quality. 

Q: What are the four major indoor air pollutants?
A: The four primary indoor air pollutants of concern in most buildings are carbon dioxide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and ozone. Other pollutants of concern may include carbon monoxide in spaces with combustion equipment, mold in buildings with moisture issues, and radon in the lower floors of buildings in certain geographies where it is naturally present in soils.

Q: What are the five main factors that affect indoor air quality?
A: Indoor air quality can be affected by the following factors:

  1. Ventilation rates – Poor ventilation leads to higher concentrations of indoor pollutants.
  2. Filtration – Lower efficiency filters do not remove fine particulate matter from outside air and recirculated air, poorly fit filters allow pollutant to bypass them without being captured, and infrequently maintained filters will clog and impede air flow resulting in poor ventilation.
  3. Outdoor air quality – Outdoor air pollutants from industry, traffic, wildfires, and other sources, if not removed by high-efficiency filters, can result in poor indoor air quality.
  4. Indoor pollutant sources – Interior finishes (e.g. carpet and paint), fixtures and furniture (e.g. composite wood and upholstery), cleaning chemicals, and equipment (e.g. copy machines) can introduce pollutants to indoor air, including volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, and ozone. Additionally, vacuum cleaners without HEPA filters can re-suspend particulate matter and other pollutants that have settled in carpets.
  5. Indoor moisture – Exterior leaks and interior condensation due to poorly designed or failed building enclosures, and interior leaks and condensation from plumbing and mechanical equipment can result in mold and mildew, which release spores that are allergens, respiratory irritants, and can lead to other more serious health impacts. 

Q: How do you treat indoor air quality issues?
A: In existing buildings, treating IAQ issues begins with assessment and testing to identify specific pollutants of concern and the likely sources. Depending on the findings, recommended mitigations may include removal of pollutant sources, changes in operational practices, increased ventilation, improved filtration, and sometimes the addition of supplemental air cleaning devices. To avoid IAQ issues in new buildings, projects should include HVAC design for enhanced IAQ, specification of healthier materials and furniture, enclosure design to avoid moisture issues, and implementation of a construction indoor air management plan.

Q: What are the primary causes of indoor air quality problems?
A: The primary causes of poor IAQ include:

  • Inadequate design or poor maintenance of ventilation systems
  • Inefficient or poorly maintained filters
  • Local/regional outdoor air pollution
  • Interior materials, equipment, and operation and maintenance practices that release pollutants
  • Leaks and other indoor moisture control issues
 

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Alan Scott is a registered architect and sustainability expert with over 30 years of experience and a lifelong commitment to the environment. Learn more.

Building & Construction Industrial Hygiene - learn more.

 

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