Hiring Professional Assistance to Solve an IAQ
|Building Air Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and
|NIOSH and EPA, December
|NIOSH Publication 91-114.
Many IAQ problems are simple to resolve when facility staff have been
educated about the investigation process. In other cases, however, a time
comes when outside assistance is needed. Professional help might be necessary
or desirable in the following situations, among others:
You may be able to find help by looking in the yellow pages of your telephone
book (e.g., under "Engineers", "Environmental Services", "Laboratories-Testing"
or "Industrial Hygienists"). Local or State health or air pollution agencies
may have lists of firms offering IAQ services in your area. It may also
be useful to seek out referrals from other building management firms.
Mistakes or delays could have serious consequences (e.g., health hazards,
liability exposure, regulatory sanctions).
Building management feels that an independent investigation would be better
received or more effectively documented than an in-house investigation.
Investigation and mitigation efforts by facility staff have not relieved
the IAQ problem.
Preliminary findings by staff suggest the need for measurements that require
specialized equipment and training beyond in-house capabilities.
Local, State, or Federal government agencies may be able to provide
expert assistance or direction in solving IAQ problems. It is particularly
important to contact your local or State Health Department if you suspect
that you have a serious building-related illness potentially linked to
biological contamination in your building.
If available government agencies do not have personnel with the appropriate
skills to assist in solving your IAQ problem, they may be able to direct
you to firms in your area with experience in indoor air quality work. Note
that even certified professionals from disciplines closely related to IAQ
issues (such as industrial hygienists, ventilation engineers, and toxicologists)
may not have the specific expertise needed to investigate and resolve indoor
air problems. Individuals or groups that offer services in this evolving
field should be questioned closely about their related experience and their
proposed approach to your problem.
As with any hiring process, the better you know your own needs, the
easier it will be to select a firm or individual to service those needs.
Firms and individuals working in IAQ may come from a variety of disciplines.
Typically, the skills of HVAC engineers and industrial hygienists are useful
for this type of investigation, although input from other disciplines such
as chemistry, chemical engineering, architecture, microbiology, or medicine
may also be important. If problems other than indoor air quality are involved,
experts in lighting, acoustic design, interior design, psychology, or other
fields may be helpful in resolving occupant complaints about the indoor
MAKE SURE THAT THEIR APPROACH FITS YOUR NEEDS
As you prepare to hire professional services in the area of indoor air
quality, be aware it is a developing area of knowledge. Most consultants
working in the field received their primary training in other areas. A
variety of investigative methods may be employed, many of which are ineffective
for resolving any but the most obvious situations. Inappropriately designed
studies may lead to conclusions that are either false negative (e.g., falsely
concludes that there is no problem associated with the building) or false
positive (e.g., incorrectly attributes the cause to building conditions).
Diagnostic outcomes to avoid include:
Considerable care should be exercised when interviewing potential consultants
to avoid those subscribing to these strategies. A qualified IAQ investigator
should have appropriate experience, demonstrate a broad understanding of
indoor air quality problems and the conditions which can lead them, and
use a phased diagnostic approach.
an evaluation that overemphasizes measuring concentrations of pollutants
and comparing those concentrations to numerical standards, and
a report that lists of series of major and minor building deficiencies
and links all the deficiencies to the problem without considering their
actual association with the complaints.
Most of the criteria used in selecting a professional to provide indoor
air quality services are similar to those used for other professionals:
Experience. An EPA survey of firms providing IAQ services found
that almost half had been providing IAQ diagnostic or mitigation services
in non-industrial settings for ten or fewer years.
company experience in solving similar problems, including training and
experience of the individuals who would be responsible for the work
quality of interview and proposal
knowledge of local codes and regional climate conditions
Quality of Interview and Proposal. Several guidelines may be of
assistance in hiring IAQ professionals.
Ask how much IAQ work and what type of IAQ work the firm has done.
Have the firm identify the personnel who would be responsible for your
case, their specific experience, and related qualifications. Contract only
for the services of those individuals, or require approval for substitutions.
Competent professionals will ask questions about your situation to
see whether they feel they can offer services that will assist you.
The causes and potential remedies for indoor air quality problems vary
greatly. A firm needs at least a preliminary understanding of the facts
about what is going on in your building to evaluate if it has access to
the professional skills necessary to address your concerns and to make
effective use of its personnel from the outset. Often a multi-disciplinary
team of professionals is needed.
The proposal for the investigation should emphasize observations
rather than measurements. Section 6 (of BAQ) describes the four
types of information that may need to be gathered in an investigation in
order to resolve an indoor air quality problem: the occupant complaints,
the HVAC system, pollutant pathways, and pollutant sources. There is also
a discussion of the role of monitoring within an investigation. Non-routine
measurements (such as relatively expensive sampling for VOCs) should not
be provided without site-specific justification.
In some cases building investigators may have accumulated a breadth of
knowledge. For example, a mechanical engineer and an industrial hygienist
see buildings differently. However, a mechanical engineer with several
years of experience in IAQ problem investigations may have seen enough
health-related problems to cross the gap; likewise, an industrial hygienist
with years of experience studying problems in an office setting may have
considerable expertise in HVAC and other building mechanical systems.
The staff responsible for building investigation should have a good
understanding of the relationship between IAQ and the building structure,
mechanical systems, and human activities. For example, lack of
adequate ventilation is at least a contributing factor in many indoor air
quality problem situations. Evaluating the performance of the ventilation
system depends on understanding the interaction between the mechanical
system and the human activity within the building.
Either in the proposal or in discussion, the consultant should:
Describe the goal(s), methodology, and sequence of the investigation, the
information to be obtained, and the process of hypothesis development and
testing, including criteria for decision-making about further data-gathering.
The proposal should include an explanation of the need for any proposed
measurements. The goal is to reach a successful resolution of the complaints,
not simply to generate data.
Identify any elements of the work that will require a time commitment from
the client's own staff, including information to be collected by the client.
Identify additional tasks (and costs) which are part of the solving the
IAQ problem but are outside the scope of the contract. Examples might include
medical examination of complainants, laboratory fees, and contractor's
fees for mitigation work.
Describe the schedule, cost, and work product(s), such as a written report,
specifications, and plans for mitigation work; supervision of mitigation
work; and training program for building staff.
Reputation. There are no Federal regulations covering professional
services in the general field of indoor air quality, although some disciplines
(e.g., engineers, industrial hygienists) whose practitioners work with
IAQ problems have licensing and certification requirements.
Discuss communication between the IAQ professional and the client: How
often will the contractor discuss the progress of the work with the client?
Who will be notified of test results and other data? Will communications
be in writing, by telephone, or face-to-face? Will the consultant meet
with building occupants to collect information? Will the consultant meet
with occupants to discuss findings if requested to do so?
Building owners and managers who suspect that they may have a problem
with a specific pollutant (such as radon, asbestos, or lead) may be able
to obtain assistance from local and State Health Departments. Government
agencies and affected industries have developed training programs for contractors
who diagnose or mitigate problems with these particular contaminants.
Firms should be asked to provide references from clients who have received
comparable services. In exploring references, it is useful to ask about
long-term follow-up. After the contract was completed, did the contractor
remain in contact with the client to ensure that problems did not recur?
Knowledge of Local Codes and Regional Climate Conditions. Familiarity
with State and local regulations and codes helps to avoid problems during
mitigation. For example, in making changes to the HVAC system, it is important
to conform to local building codes. Heating, cooling, and humidity control
needs are different in different geographic regions, and can affect the
selection of an appropriate mitigation approach. Getting assurances that
all firms under consideration have this knowledge becomes particularly
important if it becomes necessary to seek expertise from outside the local
Cost. It is impossible for this document to give specific guidance
on the cost of professional services. If projected costs jump suddenly
during the investigation process, the consultants should be able to justify
that added cost. The budget will be influenced by a number of factors,
complexity of the problem
size and complexity of the building and its HVAC system(s)
quality and extent of recordkeeping by building staff and management
type of report or other product required
number of meetings required (formal presentations can be quite expensive)
air sampling (e.g., use of instruments, laboratory analysis) if required.
. Cal Iaq. All Rights Reserved. Terms | Site Map