Sick Building Syndrome: Advice for Mitigating Influenza in Commercial Buildings

Recently your trusty Just Venting blogger received in the mail a magazine (also available on the Web as a text-only pdf), sent out to all residents of his state, that called to mind this blog’s occasional focus on sick building syndrome.  It consisted of advice about preparing for and responding to a pandemic flu outbreak and the widespread dissemination of such a publication underscored a point that, given current circumstances, we simply can’t overemphasize: Preparing for flu in your commercial, industrial, or institutional building is mandatory.  Sick building syndrome has ramped up to a new playing field.

That’s why we’re pleased to direct you to resources like “Tips for Mitigating Influenza in Commercial Buildings” (Oct. 8), provided by Trane and presented at the Facility Blog from Today’s Facility Manager.  “With cold and flu season upon us,” Trane writes, “spending time reviewing your HVAC system, its major components, and air and water distribution is time well spent to help mitigate the spread of type A (H1N1) and other types of influenza.  Some of the precautions may be based on adopting simple common sense measures, while others are related to proper maintenance protocols.  In addition, there are system upgrades that can be performed to help mitigate risks.”

Then, of course, the article details the previewed advice, which includes:

  • Monitor your facility for warm, stagnant water, which can breed all sorts of bad things that contribute to sick building syndrome.
  • Monitor cooling towers, roof-pooled water, and clogged drains.
  • Upgrade your air-filter efficiency, and select new filters based on the type of particles you want to collect. Consider adopting a filter-changing schedule based not on regular time intervals but on performance metrics.
  • Make sure HVAC technicians wear respirators and gloves.
  • “Verify correct outside air intake dampers settings and operation,” as especially calibrated for commercial buildings.
  • Make sure exhaust fans are properly removing contaminants.
  • Prepare staff, staff technicians, and contract workers by training them in ways to reduce flu exposure.

And although it’s tangential, an August article titled “Airflow Monitoring: Techniques and technologies: the basics for beginners,” written by Steven R. Calabrese of Control Engineering Corp. for Automated Buildings,  might inject something useful into the sick-building-syndrome, HVAC-and-influenza conversation.

Matt Cardin
Goodway Blogging Team

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