GREEN BUILDING AIR TESTING

GREEN BUILDING AIR TESTING

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, green buildings can reduce energy consumption by 26 percent, and retrofitted existing buildings may reduce energy usage as much as 30 to 40 percent.  On the down side, however, there are those who claim that “going green” will increase construction costs as much as 10 to 20 percent. Yet, going green ultimately, unquestionably creates a more energy efficient environment.

In the past, energy efficiency was synonymous with a tight building. Tighter is better!  But is it? Closing in and sealing off occupied, conditioned air spaces can and does lead to trapped emissions from building materials, furnishings, and other products. And tight buildings resulted in occupant “sick building syndrome.”

In the 21st century, the term “green building” has been redefined.  Health and indoor air quality must work in consort with energy efficiency. The U.S. Green Building Council developed technical criteria for certifying green building construction which includes the universally recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Rating Program for environmentally friendly building designs in which is a flush-out protocol and indoor air quality management plan with prescribed air testing parameters and prescribed limits. The target air contaminants under the more recent 2013 LEED v4 include the following:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Particulates–PM 10 and PM2.5
  • Ozone
  • Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC)
  • Speciated VOC–list of 35 organic chemicals and isomers
  • Carbon Monoxide

The air sampling and analytical methodologies have been defined. Initially, air sampling methods were at the discretion of the environmental consultant. They may be challenged in the future.

In keeping with the LEED, ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 189.1 has also published a pre-occupancy flush-out methodology and air sampling for each HVAC service area, not to exceed 25,000 square feet per unit.  The parameters for the recommended Standard were stricter than the 2009 LEED.  Yet, today, they are strictly similar to with but a few exceptions as follows:

  • The list of speciated VOCs is slightly different for the LEED as opposed to the ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 189.1.
  • Annual sampling is required by the Standard for those samples which tested marginally during the post-construction monitoring.

We go the extra mile to document pre-occupancy indoor air quality while controlling costs. For example, particle measurements were initially measured by many consulting firms by real-time particle counter/mass measuring data logger.  While convenient, data logger mass measurements are estimated on the basis of actual measured particle size and mass (or weight) of a specified atom or molecule . . . usually carbon as opposed to typical construction gypsum dust. We use a data logger to obtain a quick, generalized estimate of the general levels of airborne particulates to project outcome prior to approved impactor sampling. This is a time-saving approach along with cost containment.

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