Mold grows easily in flood-related conditions. (VFA, Inc. photo)

New Alliance Helps with Clearing the Air

AIHA is one of the partners in the new Indoor Environmental Quality Global Alliance.

Many agencies and organizations offer guidance, information, letters of interpretation (OSHA), model programs, regulations, etc. that concern the quality of indoor air inside workplaces. One of the newest organizations focused on this topic was created only three months ago, when a memorandum of understanding creating the Indoor Environmental Quality Global Alliance was signed June 29 during the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ 2014 annual conference.

The alliance (www.ieq-ga.net) was formed by a committee appointed by Bill Bahnfleth, ASHRAE's 2013-14 president, to explore ways for industry groups to work together to address all aspects of indoor environmental quality and health. Atlanta-based ASHRAE maintains two key standards--Standard 62.1-2013, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality, and Standard 62.2-2013, Ventilation and Acceptable Indoor Air Quality in Low-Rise Residential Buildings--and also offers an Indoor Air Quality Guide: Best Practices for Design, Construction and Commissioning.

Besides ASHRAE, members of the alliance are the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the Air Infiltration and Ventilation Centre, the Air & Waste Management Association, the Indoor Air Quality Association, and the Brussels-based Federation of European Heating and Air-Conditioning Associations (REHVA).

"In the built environment, indoor environmental quality must be our first concern," Bahnfleth said when the alliance was announced. "Before we address impacts of buildings and transportation systems on energy consumption and the environment--which, make no mistake, are also critically important--we must ensure that we are providing indoor environments that are safe, healthy, productive, and comfortable for occupants. Today, and for some time, we have strongly emphasized energy conservation and protection of the environment to such an extent that the need for progress in indoor environmental quality has been obscured. A broad, coordinated effort is needed to fill gaps in research, transfer the results of science to practice, advocate for higher standards, and better educate both the built environment professions and the public. I believe that formation of this alliance is a key to meeting those objectives. ASHRAE is eager to contribute its expertise to this group and to once again be a leader in the field of indoor environmental quality, beginning with a focus on indoor air quality."

"AIHA is very excited to join ASHRAE and other international stakeholders in the IEQ Global Alliance," added Christine A.D. Lorenzo, CIH, president of AIHA. "The alliance brings together key groups, each of which has members with unique sets of skills and knowledge. We look forward to working within the alliance to identify new ways to collaborate, and expand international alignment in this important area of occupational hygiene and engineering practice."

According to ASHRAE, the alliance "will provide guidance on the definition of acceptable indoor environmental quality, with an emphasis on thermal conditions and indoor air pollution, to ensure that the knowledge gathered from indoor environmental quality research is promulgated to and implemented by IEQ practitioners and regulatory bodies worldwide." And Bahnfleth said it will invite cooperation by other organizations that work in this area.

"Contemporary European architecture is undergoing fundamental changes caused by increased pressure to reduce energy consumption of buildings," said Karel Kabele, REHVA's president. "Modern approaches, methods, and technologies are capable of saving energy but also affect other functions of the building--i.e., indoor environmental quality. In energy-efficient buildings, we can resolve problems with thermal comfort, air quality, and other components of IEQ. I firmly believe that joint efforts of IEQ-GA will contribute not only to saving energy, but also to improve IEQ in buildings we build for next generations."

Writing in a recent issue of The REHVA European HVAC Journal, its editor-in-chief, Olli Seppänen, observed that ventilation is one of the most important factors affecting a building's indoor environment. He reported that two important European ventilation standards are being revised this year: EN 15251, Indoor environmental input parameters for the design and assessment of energy performance of buildings, and EN 13779, Ventilation for non-residential buildings.

Another recent development is the agreement in principle for the Indoor Air Quality Association to merge with ASHRAE, becoming an independently operating part of the ASHRAE organization while maintaining its brand and board of directors. IAQA announced that they're combining resources to improve indoor air quality in the built environment. The agreement was confirmed during the ASHRAE annual conference. "This merger is beneficial to both ASHRAE and IAQA in that it strengthens the programs and services of both organizations," said Tom Phoenix, ASHRAE's current president. "The work of IAQA complements the work of ASHRAE in its standards, research, publications, and educational offerings. We now combine our resources to ensure the industry receives the best indoor air quality technical guidance and educational programs possible, which means improved indoor air quality for the world around us."

Moisture Control Key to Preventing Adverse Health Effects
"Moisture Control Guidance for Building Design, Construction and Maintenance," a 144-page document written by EPA's Indoor Environments Division and published in December 2013, is filled with useful information for industrial hygienists, office managers, and other professionals who design, construct, operate, or maintain buildings and their HVAC systems. The document includes a roof inspection checklist, HVAC inspection checklist, and guidance on dampness and mold evaluation among its appendices; it is available at http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pdfs/moisture-control.pdf.

Moisture control in buildings is important for protecting their occupants from adverse health effects that include upper respiratory symptoms and asthma symptoms in sensitized persons, an expert committee convened by the Institute of Medicine concluded a decade ago. The EPA document notes that a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory meta-analysis published in Indoor Air concluded that building dampness and mold raise the risk of respiratory and asthma-related health effects by 30 to 50 percent.

Echoing Bahnfleth's remarks are findings last year by the laboratory's indoor air scientists that using natural ventilation in office buildings would significantly increase occupants' adverse health effects--so much so that the health costs would outweigh any savings from reduced "sick building syndrome" symptoms.

This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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