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Indoor Air Quality: The Next Great Challenge for BSCs

Indoor Air Quality: The Next Great Challenge for BSCs

The pandemic has led to many changes for the commercial cleaning industry and building service contractors (BSCs) are at the forefront of bringing many of these changes to their customers’ facilities to protect public health and safety. One aspect of facility management that has increasingly been top of mind is indoor air quality (IAQ). IAQ is essential in every type of building, from schools to offices to restaurants to airports and more. As BSCs are responsible for overseeing cleanliness in many of these buildings, it is important for them to understand the trends around IAQ and how best to uphold it for their customers and those who frequent these facilities.

The Ins and Outs of IAQ

Indoor air can be polluted by numerous factors. Dust and allergens, mold, pesticides and even cleaning chemicals are among the things that can contaminate the air we breathe. When buildings have poor ventilation, inadequate temperature control and insufficient control over indoor and outdoor pollutants, IAQ can be greatly affected.

Protecting IAQ can help reduce symptoms like headaches, lethargy, and shortness of breath. Those with allergies and asthma are especially susceptible to poor IAQ. By supporting good health, IAQ can enhance productivity and wellbeing in environments like workplaces and schools.

The early days of the pandemic resulted in the installation of physical safeguards like plexiglass dividers and social distance floor markers. However, people are increasingly concerned about air flow in buildings, as this is how COVID-19 primarily spreads. Thus, taking a closer look at IAQ is necessary.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not yet have IAQ standards outlined. Plus, only a handful of U.S. states have standards that promote better IAQ. While LEED certification scores new and existing green buildings with a point system to determine compliance with minimum indoor air quality goals, only building owners and managers pursuing this program will be inclined to ensure they meet these requirements. Acing the Issue of IAQ

Improving IAQ is a task that many BSCs are trying to fulfill. However, with so many new IAQ innovations emerging during the pandemic and debates about the best methods, it can be an overwhelming process. Consider the following best practices for revamping IAQ in your customers' facilities:

  • Consult trusted standardsANSI/ASHRAE Standards 62.1 and 62.2 provide guidance on ventilation system design and good IAQ. Facility managers and BSCs can consult these standards together to determine areas where they can collaborate to protect and enhance IAQ.<?
  • Introduce outdoor air – In response to concerns about COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published several recommendations for introducing outdoor air in facilities. These include "opening outdoor air dampers beyond minimum settings to reduce or eliminate HVAC air recirculation" and if possible, opening windows and doors to let outdoor air easily flow inside. In some buildings and climates, it may not be possible to execute the latter strategy.
  • Install and care for carpet – People spend much of their time indoors, and even flooring can impact air quality and health. According to the Carpet and Rug Institute, having carpet installed in a facility can help trap allergens and contaminants and keep them out of the breathing zone. BSCs should then perform regular carpet care, as vacuuming and interim maintenance help remove these particles from the building.
  • Opt for safer chemicals – The frequency of cleaning in commercial facilities has increased dramatically during the pandemic, and with this shift, there is an increased risk that cleaning chemicals are negatively impacting indoor air. This is because some cleaning chemicals contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Research finds that indoor VOC levels can be seven times higher than outdoor levels. You can avoid using cleaning chemicals with potentially harmful ingredients by carefully vetting the product label and even purchasing solutions that are certified by a reputable sustainability leader, like Green Seal.
  • Use technology to your advantage – In certain environments, like hospitals and long-term care facilities, added assurance technologies can further enhance IAQ. For example, ultraviolet light can purify indoor air, and UV-C lights can be installed inside or outside HVAC ducting.

Breathing Easy in Commercial Buildings

Indoor air quality is a topic that will continue to be top of mind for facility managers and BSCs moving forward. Good IAQ can better protect building occupants and visitors. Having strategies in place to support IAQ also enhances everyone’s peace of mind, especially considering that we spend most of our time indoors. Carpet care is just one component of IAQ, but it is one that should not be overlooked. By following the above best practices, BSCs can uphold IAQ in both older and new construction buildings.

BSCs are challenged by their customers to uphold the highest cleanliness standards. Proper and regular carpet care supports good IAQ and brand reputation. To learn more about how Whittaker's low-moisture encapsulation method can support your cleaning company’s offerings, contact our sales team at 800.422.7686 or sales@whittakersystem.com.

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