Assessing the Indoor Health of Your Building

Indoor air quality is one of the most important characteristics that describe the health of a building and the corresponding health of its inhabitants. People now spend more of their time inside than at any other time in history, and it is vitally important that the indoor air that they breath meet a standard quality that does not compromise their health, productivity, or sense of well-being.

Facility managers and owners are responsible for the health of their buildings and responsible for exposing their inhabitants to safe conditions. Never has the importance of keeping the air they “manufacture” so vital. Organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency recognize the importance of indoor air quality and the overall health of buildings, as well as the need to create standards for buildings in order to prevent “sick buildings” from existing. To fill this need, the EPA conducted the Building Assessment Survey and Evaluation (BASE) Study, which took in data from public and commercial buildings across the United States to create a set of standards to analyze the health of buildings.  

The BASE Study 

To conduct the BASE Study, the EPA collected data that focused on three major areas of indoor air quality. These areas are:

  1. Environmental and comfort measurements
  2. Building and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems characterization
  3. Building occupant demographics, symptoms, and perceptions 

The study collected data from 100 randomly selected buildings in 37 cities and 25 states. It then created a composite database of survey data to characterize the indoor air quality conditions across the United States. 

Whole Building Physical Characteristics

The entire BASE report summarizes the data is collected across two major characteristics. These characteristics were: whole building physical characteristics and whole building pollutant sources. 

The whole building’s physical characteristics data considered multiple different building features and attributes that would contribute to the understanding of the current conditions of air quality inside buildings in the United States. Building age was the first attribute considered and it varied across a wide spectrum from buildings built before 1900 to those constructed in the 1990s. The majority of BASE studied buildings were constructed in the 1980s. 

Building size, to include representative statistics like the number of total occupants were collected, as was the square footage of each building to include physical footprint square footage and floor area. An additional consideration as part of the physical characteristics was the number of stories in the building, with the majority of buildings being 10 stories or less. 

A final statistic considered for the physical characteristics of a building was the number of operable windows in the building. Operable windows are important to indoor air quality management as they can provide an additional means of ventilation that removes load requirements from HVAC equipment. However, facility managers need to make sure that outside systems are operating well. For example, dirty cooling towers can harbor dangerous bacteria, and if left uncleaned and maintained can infect the very air being brought back into the building via natural venting. 

Whole Building Pollutant Sources

Each building in the BASE study had information collected that quantified the number of potential polluting sources that could have an impact on the building in terms of indoor air quality. The polluting sources tracked were specialty use spaces, water damaged areas, fire damage areas, and pest control areas. 

Information was also collected on the HVAC systems in each building, specifically, the HVAC strategy was recorded for each subject. The HVAC strategy of a building encompasses its ventilation strategy, building cooling system strategy, and building heating system strategy. 

The final aspect of the whole building analysis conducted was on the environmental parameters inside the building, specifically focusing on the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Volatile organic compounds are chemical compounds that make up most of the indoor products and material coatings that exist in buildings. Some volatile organic compounds can be dangerous at certain concentrations and need to be monitored by facility managers. 

Who is at Risk in an Unhealthy Building?

Facility managers and building managers should be concerned about the well-being of all their occupants, but some building occupants could be more susceptible than others. Children in particular experience higher rates of exposures than adults do inside “sick buildings.” Children breathe in more air per pound of body weight than most adults, and so might be inhaling indoor air contaminants at a higher rate than adults. The immune systems of children are also not necessarily as developed as those in adults, and so infants are particularly more susceptible to the adverse effects of poor air quality. Age, nutrition, metabolism, exposure levels, pre-existing conditions, and other adverse health factors can also make an individual more susceptible to the indoor air quality inside a “sick building.”

What is the Cost of an Unhealthy Building?

Unhealthy buildings not only have a societal impact on the health of occupants, but they also can impact the bottom line of building owners and business owners operating inside the building. Without proper maintenance and monitoring, an unhealthy building allowed to operate continually in poor condition can have significant costs in energy usage, maintenance downtime, and financial loss due to equipment replacement and productivity losses. Want another consideration? Legal risks to building owners.

Solutions for Preventative Maintenance to Improve the Health of a Building

There are simple solutions and maintenance management plans that can be instituted inside a building to improve and stabilize the indoor air quality. Goodway has numerous products and suggestions for managing the interior environment of buildings. 

Buildings need to be kept dry, clean, and well ventilated to maintain an environment of fresh, safe air and to reduce the presence of polluting materials or chemicals in the building. The BASE Study highlights numerous factors that buildings in its study had which contributed to poor building health. Keeping a building safe, free of contaminants, and pest free are simple ways to avoid some of the pitfalls of poor maintenance and “sick buildings.” 

Goodway has numerous product guides and management plans available, along with experienced professionals ready to provide expert advice on its website. Preventative maintenance is one of the best methods for maintaining a healthy building, and facility managers can turn to Goodway for best practices and assistance in achieving this goal. 

 

Next Steps:

See why Regular Cleaning Is The Key To HVAC Efficiency Success

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Sanitation in Gaming: Opening Back Up After COVID-19  

Many states are starting to remove the isolation policies that dictated closures for businesses, as the COVID-19 virus seemingly recesses during the summer. The gaming industry was hit significantly by the business closures, and even today, casino and game rooms remain empty. From the large casinos of Las Vegas, Nevada to off-track betting, race tracks, and small riverboat casinos throughout America, gaming markets have felt the significant impact of the COVID-19 virus on business, and they will need to change their operating measures to get back to normal.

Heightened Sanitation Procedures

As casinos and gaming businesses get ready to open back up for the first time this summer, all will have to deal with the new reality of sanitation measures and procedures mixed in with the gaming atmosphere. In official actions, the terms and conditions that a casino operates under will have to change.

Gambling by nature can have numerous physical exchanges and interactions between screens, buttons, cards, chips, or dice, all of which can pose a threat to spreading the Coronavirus. Joint surfaces are shared between players as they go back and forth between games, and this can pose a significant risk in the post-COVID-19 world.

An establishment’s failure to take seriously COVID-19 and hygiene safety measures can also affect its business performance. Customers now have a heightened sensitivity to the actions of the businesses that they patronize, and they expect a level of sanitation and safety to be maintained. A business that does not have proper health measures in place could lose business or, even worse, be the cause of outbreaks in the future.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairwoman, Sandra Douglass Morgan, stated that the state of Nevada is going to require significant health measures before allowing casino licenses to re-open. This warning from the Gaming Control Board Chairwoman should be a very real sign that business will not continue as usual. The best way for the gaming industry to prove that it is ready to resume business is to demonstrate heightened sanitation procedures built into its gaming operations.

Gambling with Your Health

A 2019 study conducted by Dr. Edward G. Keown, commissioned by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), determined that the casino environment, consisting of employees and customers, can present a significant risk for exposure to infectious diseases. The study focused on the bacterial diseases present on casino gaming chips.

Casino gaming chips are the currency inside casinos and exchange hands between gamblers and the house continuously without sanitation. Casinos prefer to use the gambling chips because their portability and bright colors entice gamers to play more and spend more in the casino. These chips are a significant source of bacteria and microorganisms which can be easily passed from one person to the next. The National Environmental Health Association study found that used chips had a statistically significant amount of pathogenic contaminants and even higher than normal presences of E. Coli.

Navigating the Current Climate for Casinos

Casinos, riverboats, and gaming halls will all need to update their procedures and policies to reflect the current COVID-19 pandemic. Amidst this time of confusion and isolation, however, novel solutions arise to both spur business and mitigate health exposure. Many casinos have already made the switch to house debit cards that act as virtual gambling chips to carry the balance of the players. These cash cards don’t need to exchange hands frequently like a poker chip, and they can serve the same function.

Some casinos may not have the capital available to make major changes to gameplay like cash cards. So these businesses will need to focus on sanitation practices to mitigate viral spread. The most common sanitation actions practiced by other businesses are wiping down surfaces, service personnel wear masks and gloves, and maintaining social distancing between guests. Likely gone are the days of a packed casino table following a hot streak of luck. Casinos will need to enforce social distancing practices on the gambling floor and will need to train individuals responsible for sanitizing down surfaces between players.

The challenge is what sanitizers to use and when. Products for sanitation and disinfection generally come in two categories. Water-based and alcohol-based. Both can be fantastic solutions for large scale sanitation and disinfection, however, when sanitation time is of the essence, and sensitive electronics are nearby (like slots, or touchscreen gaming) alcohol-based sanitizer wins the hand every time.

Goodway offers simple and effective solutions for casinos and gaming businesses to maintain new health standards and practices in their facilities. Goodway’s alcohol-based BioSpray® Sanitation System is an industrial and commercial cleaning product that is an excellent tool for maintenance and cleaning plans. The portable BioSpray system is easily wheeled around gaming floors and applies alcohol-based sanitizing, disinfecting, and sterilizing solutions that can reach multiple areas at once dry quickly and are safe on sensitive electronics.

 

Next Steps:

Learn more about BioSpray®.

Learn more about BioSpray® D2 Sanitizer.

Contact a Goodway Representative to help find your best solution.

Indoor Air Quality Management In Hospitals Helps Prevent Infections

Hospitals are a unique environment for the spread of infectious diseases. COVID-19 aside, each year in the United States, healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) kill over 100,000 people annually. These healthcare-associated infections are considered errors in patient care and occur when a patient enters medical care for an ailment and becomes infected by a disease or virus unrelated to their original health issue. A comprehensive study completed by the Hospital Microbiome Project at the University of Chicago, Illinois, determined that healthcare-associated infections are most significantly caused by poor indoor air quality (IAQ). 

The climate of Health care facilities has been changed forever due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is more important than ever for health care facility management to fully understand their buildings IAQ and the effects it will have on their occupants. The use of highly efficient particle filtration in centralized HVAC systems reduces the airborne load of infectious particles (Azimi and Stephens 2013). According to ASHRAE  various strategies have been found to be effective at controlling transmission, including optimized airflow patterns, directional airflow, zone pressurization, dilution ventilation, in-room air-cleaning systems, general exhaust ventilation, personalized ventilation, local exhaust ventilation at the source, central system filtration, UVGI, and controlling indoor temperature and relative humidity. 

Contact Sanitation is an Incomplete Pathogen Eradication Method

Healthcare-associated infections occur in what the study describes as an environment of biological extremes. An environment of biological extremes does not occur naturally. Counterintuitively, it can exist in areas of limited physical space where there is a heightened state of virulence from anti-microbial medications and housekeeping disinfectants attempting to eradicate pathogens. 

Anti-microbial medications, sanitation equipment, and housekeeping disinfectants have historically been the common practice of hospital disinfectant programs, but in extreme cases, they can lead to stronger and more resistant pathogens that rapidly reproduce and thrive in the interior environment. There are often vulnerable patients inside hospitals with decreased immune defenses who are extremely susceptible to these pathogens. 

Contact sanitation, which is the use of anti-microbial medications, sterilizers, and disinfectants, targets the transmission of pathogens through contact and short distance interruption of large droplets. This sanitation strategy, however, does not interrupt all the means that pathogens have to spread throughout an interior space. 

Pathogens Can Spread Through the Interior Air

Pathogens can exist in droplet nuclei, which are aerosolized molecules less than five micrometers in diameter. Droplet nuclei can travel for extended periods through the air and are easily inhaled by patients or staff in a hospital.

Studies have shown that approximately 10 to 33 percent of all healthcare-associated infections travel through the air at some point between their initial source, the reservoir, and the eventual patient that they infect. Sanitation plans preventing pathogens spread through the air in medical facilities have historically not been as robust as contact sanitation plans. 

Using Indoor Air Quality Management to Prevent Infections

The study conducted by the Hospital Microbiome Project at the University of Chicago suggests that hospitals could target infectious disease spread economically and effectively by actively managing their interior air quality. 

As a result of the study, it was concluded that indoor relative humidity was the most statistically significant, independent variable affecting microbial spread throughout medical facilities. There was also a strong correlation detected between the presence of microbial communities and higher temperatures in rooms. The correlations between indoor air quality management and infectious disease spread are seasonal, and so air quality management becomes even more important during the winter months of a region. 

Relative humidity was the key air quality determinant in the study. The relative humidity is the amount of water vapor present in air expressed as a percentage of the amount needed for saturation at the same temperature. Proper employment of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in medical facilities is the essential way to manage indoor air quality and maintain proper relative humidity levels.

The study by the Hospital Microbiome Project at the University of Chicago determined that a relative humidity below 40 percent was associated with an increased prevalence of healthcare-associated infections. The study suggested that maintaining indoor relative humidity between 40-60 percent relative humidity may be an effective and cost-efficient method of decreasing the spread of pathogens inside facilities.

The Responsibility is on Hospital Engineers and Facility Managers

The study completed by the Hospital Microbiome Project at the University of Chicago provides hospital engineers and facility managers with better data to guide their building management. Facility managers should create comprehensive plans to both monitors and maintain the indoor air quality in patient’s rooms and hospital interior areas. 

Maintaining relative humidity levels economically requires accurate monitoring capabilities and efficient HVAC systems in place to manage the large interior space inside hospitals. Hospitals often must invest in robust HVAC systems to meet the stringent demands of their air quality management plans. The best method of protecting these investments in HVAC equipment is to emplace comprehensive maintenance plans for the equipment. 

Maintenance Opportunities To Reduce Risks

Keeping Cooling Towers Clean is an effective way to provide quality IAQ by reducing the risk that outdoor air isn’t infected. Cooling towers that supply water for central air-conditioning systems, in general, are a common culprit for outbreaks of disease. These cooling towers can add to risks by emitting infected water vapor, which can be brought inside through fresh air ventilation points, and general entrances like windows, doors, etc. The best maintenance practices to prevent both viral and bacterial contamination inside cooling towers are aggressive cleaning plans paired with personnel training, monitoring, and testing. Our CTV-1501 TowerVac® Cooling Tower Vacuum safely removes solids from boiling tower basins common areas for bacteria, like Legionella and other micro-organisms, to flourish.

Cleaning and decontaminating ductwork is also a effective method for maintaining a healthy building. When evidence of microbial growth in your HVAC system or ductwork is present consider chemical antimicrobial solutions specially designed for HVAC systems.

There are also experts available and willing to help facility managers review their current maintenance plans or to create new plans altogether. As demonstrated by the Hospital Microbiome Project, indoor air quality is one of the most important building conditions to manage the spread of healthcare-associated infections. Facility managers and hospital engineers owe it to their patients to take an active role in maintaining indoor air quality and provide the safest environment possible to their patients. 

 

Next Steps:
The AHSE has put together a guide with tips on how to achieve proper IAQ and lower infections.

Read our Complete Guide HVAC Maintenance Solutions

Check Your Basic Skills on Duct and Ventilation System Cleaning

Learn about Duct Cleaning in Health Care Facilities 

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ): A Key Factor

 

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a key factor in indoor environmental health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 93% of their life indoors. This time could be at work, at home, or anywhere in between. With that much time indoors people are susceptible to the effects of indoor air pollution. This is a wide definition that can run from airborne dust and allergens to bacterial problems, to VOC’s or chemicals in the air. Groups that typically are most in danger of poor IAQ are the young, the elderly, and the chronically ill suffering from respiratory or heart disease, but with that much stuff in the air, are any of us safe?. To improve indoor air, most HVAC  systems, when properly sized and maintained, are set up to avert illness by eliminating airborne microbial contaminants, mostly through effective filtering. When there is inadequate ventilation, improper humidity, and exposure to contaminant sources in a building, the health of the IAQ is compromised. As a business and facility building owner or manager, working to achieve a healthy building for occupants is essential.

As it relates to the current pandemic crisis, many are questioning what role HVAC systems and good IAQ have in our overall health. We can only look to the scientific community for answers. 

Epidemiological studies have shown that buildings previously occupied by individuals infected or colonized with MRSA, VRE, or Acinetobacter baumannii are at a significant risk of acquiring these organisms from previously contaminated environmental sites. (Dancer et al. 2006, Boyce et al. 1997, Huang et al. 2006, Denton et al. 2005)

Building factors or pollution in buildings that are most frequently associated with respiratory health effects include:

  • Presence of moisture, water damage, and microbiological pollutants.
  • Animal and other biological allergens
  • Combustion byproducts such as nitrogen dioxide.
  • Moisture or dirt in HVAC systems.
  • Low ventilation rates.
  • Formaldehyde.
  • Chemicals in cleaning products.
  • Outdoor pollutants or vehicle exhaust.

IAQ in your building

According to OSHA, when you have poor indoor air quality inside your home it can cause headaches, fatigue, concentration problems, skin rashes, and eye, nose, throat, lung irritation, and chronic health problems such as asthma. EPA states that your indoor air is likely 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outside. To keep indoor air quality inside a building in top shape, is it important to control the building’s humidity. The EPA recommends a range of 30-50% humidity in your space. Bacteria and viruses thrive and circulate through poorly maintained building ventilation systems, as with Legionnaires’ disease. Damp, humid air can increase the survival rate of viruses indoors. While keeping humidity down helps slow the process of mold, proper ventilation helps keep the air floor uncontaminated. Using a system with filters can help remove biological contaminants. When air is stagnant air disease is more likely to spread.  The EPA has created a Building Air Quality Guide: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers

With all the uncertainty of the current climate, it is important to take care of the things you can control, like your indoor air quality. Clean, maintained HVAC systems will help prevent the spread of many environmental health issues. To keep HVAC Systems healthy regular maintenance is essential. 

A good place to start to achieve a healthy environment at work and home is ASHRAE’s article on Good IAQ Practices. 

 

Next Steps:

Check your basic skills on duct and ventilation system cleaning

Read: Better HVAC IAQ with Copper?

Get some tips and tricks to cleaning ducts and ventilation systems

 

 

 

 

The Dangers In Your Cooling Tower

Foul Play? Cooling Tower Cleanliness Key to Plant Efficiency

What’s the Scoop on Viruses in Cooling Towers?

The current COVID19 pandemic has increased public visibility on infectious diseases throughout the world. Viruses like the novel coronavirus (aka COVID-19) that is currently impacting multiple nations worldwide comes with thousands of different characteristics that dictate their spread, survival rate, and degree of infection. With this particular virus, much is still unknown. 

Numerous viruses throughout history have shown the capability to survive in the water in cooling towers if untreated. The main factors that influence a virus’s survival in water include temperature, organic material in the water, and the presence of aerobic microorganisms. Of these factors, the most critical influence on any virus’s survival is temperature. Every virus has its survivable range, but generally, a virus’s survival rate decreases with increasing temperature. High heat (above 100C) causes the fast inactivation of most viruses. The survival potential of a virus decreases even further with the presence of predatory microorganisms, such as protozoa which increase the inactivation rate of viruses in water.

Currently, it is thought that the novel coronavirus causing outbreaks of COVID19 worldwide is a not significant risk of contaminating industrial cooling towers. But little e research has been completed to date. 

It may be worth noting, however, that when tested, the data has shown that most coronaviruses die off very rapidly in sewage wastewater, up to a 99.9% reduction of viral activity in water after two or three days of exposure. Viruses, however, adapt quickly to their environments as they spread across the world, and so facility managers need to continually update their maintenance plans to react to known global threats. 

Protecting and Maintaining Cooling Towers

A building may not be occupied at the moment, but regular maintenance must remain essential. Facility managers have a significant responsibility to mitigate and prevent the contamination of cooling towers from diseases. Although not much is know yet on the current COVID-19 virus threat to cooling towers, bacterial contamination poses an even more severe risk to cooling tower maintenance, Legionnaires disease. Legionnaires disease is a notable bacterial infection that can thrive in aquatic systems such as cooling towers used in industrial cooling systems, evaporative coolers, nebulizers, and hot water systems. Similar to viruses, bacteria like the legionella pneumophila can infect the lungs of people inhabiting and visiting buildings and facilities. 

Cooling towers that supply water for central air-conditioning systems, in general, are a common culprit for outbreaks of disease. These cooling towers spread recycled and fresh air throughout the interior climate of a building. The best maintenance practices to prevent both viral and bacterial contamination inside cooling towers are aggressive cleaning plans paired with personnel training, monitoring, and testing. 

The frequency and intensity of cooling tower cleaning should reflect the most recent government agency guidelines and the current local reports of contaminating risk levels. Frequent and lengthy scheduled cleaning of cooling towers will turn off critical building and operation equipment and will likely cause halts to facility operation. The risks to business operations need to be balanced with the current maintenance needs for facilities to ensure that business can continue while providing adequate maintenance for disease control. 

Facility managers can take numerous steps to mitigate the effects that increased cleaning plans and equipment downtime have on facility operations. These steps include tiered maintenance plans, where the facility shuts down only portions of cooling towers and related equipment at a time to maintain some level of operation while maintenance is cycled. Facility managers can also invest in the effectiveness and speed of their cleaning equipment. Smart investments in cleaning equipment can decrease the total downtime of equipment during cleaning. Goodway has numerous cleaning and maintenance solutions that facility managers can implement to reduce cleaning times while increasing effectiveness. Goodway’s cleaning solutions provide an economical and proven solution to preventing viral and bacterial build-up in cooling towers. 

The Dangers Of Ignoring Maintenance

Not correctly maintaining facility equipment, including cooling towers and water heating systems, can cost your thousands of dollars in repair and loss of efficient energy. But a danger much greater can be the fallout of a Legionella breakout. Take the mishandling of a Legionella breakout at an Illinois Veterans Home. After a year-long investigation of the break out that killed more than a dozen residents, Illinois paid nearly $6.4 Million to the families of the Veterans who lost their life to Legionella. General Frank Maution’s audit revealed the discharge of gallons of stagnant water when a hot-water heat was improperly returned to service that was previously offline. The leap that can be taken from a poorly maintained water tank to a cooling tower is not far apart. When water is left stagnant, a breeding ground for bacteria is created. Many buildings are unoccupied with non-essentials workers at home but make no mistake that regular maintenance is essential to keep buildings healthy for the return of occupancy.

Next Steps:

Research the complete line of Goodway’s Cooling Tower Cleaning Solutions to find the right solution for you.

Watch our webinar Preventative Maintenance for Cooling Tower Systems

Check out our 9 Tips To Controlling Legionella in Your Cooling Towers

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