INDOOR AIR QUALITY

Pioneering Indoor Air Quality Certification For Buildings

UL developed the first comprehensive certification and preventive maintenance program to help building professionals design, construct and manage buildings with healthier indoor air.


WHY PIONEERING INDOOR AIR QUALITY CERTIFICATION FOR BUILDINGS MATTERS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) as one of the top environmental health risks and one of the most significant overall risks to human health.1 Issues with building IAQ have become more common over the past 15 to 25 years for a number of reasons, including tighter, more energy efficient construction;2 poorly designed, maintained or operated ventilation systems; the presence of indoor air pollutants; and unanticipated or poorly planned building uses.3 Despite the scale and potential impact of this issue, until now there was no comprehensive program to help building professionals design, construct and manage buildings with healthier indoor air.

CONTEXT

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Until now there was no comprehensive program to help building professionals design, construct and manage buildings with healthier indoor air.

According to McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2012 World Green Building Trends study of built environment professionals in 62 countries, the percentage of firms dedicated to green building (60+ percent of their work is green) has increased 115 percent from 2008 to 2012.4 An additional 82 percent growth is projected by 2015, when the majority of firms (51 percent) will be dedicated to green building.5 According to the McGraw-Hill survey, the key driver of green building growth is the desire for “improved health and productivity benefits,” which relates directly to IAQ and has increased from 29 percent in 2008 to 55 percent in 2012.6

 

The importance of health and productivity benefits is interesting because today’s green building certifications tend to focus on sustainable materials and building practices, energy consumption, carbon footprint and water conservation. IAQ is a component of many of these programs but is not addressed to a comprehensive degree. This is problematic because people spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors,7 where they receive the majority of their environmental exposure to chemicals (70+ percent).8 In fact, air pollution levels indoors are typically two to five times higher (and, in some cases, as much as 100 times higher) than those found outside.9

 

World Health Organization experts believe that up to 30 percent of new or remodeled commercial buildings may have unusually high rates of health and comfort complaints from occupants that may potentially be related to IAQ.10 Today, 14 percent of healthcare costs are driven by conditions related to IAQ,11 including asthma and allergies; headaches; respiratory disease; eye, nose and throat irritation; reproductive and developmental defects; neurological disease; cardiovascular disease; and some forms of cancer.12 Poor IAQ in commercial buildings can lower worker productivity, while conversely improving IAQ can significantly reduce absenteeism and improve productivity.13

 

Beyond the health impact, remediation costs to address building IAQ issues are 100 times higher than the cost of prevention.14 More specifically, remediation costs related to mold and moisture incidents as well as chemical air quality problems can reach tens of millions of dollars and potentially lead to the complete loss of a building.15 A U.S. Department of Energy study determined that the cost of mold and moisture programs over the life of the building are, on average, just one percent of the remediation cost when a mold and moisture incident occurs.16 Because two to four percent of all buildings experience moisture problems, implementing a preventative program can be three times more cost effective than not doing so.17

WHAT DID UL DO?

UL’s innovative building IAQ certification is designed to help improve indoor environments to mitigate risks to workers, students or residents.

UL’s innovative building IAQ certification is designed to help improve indoor environments to mitigate risks to workers, students or residents.

UL created the world’s first and only comprehensive IAQ certification and preventive maintenance program for buildings. With our new offerings, we aim to detect existing challenges, provide effective solutions to current and potential IAQ problems, and prevent future problems from occurring.18 The objective of our program is to identify and prevent mold, odors, exposure to harmful VOCs, and other IAQ issues during building operations; highlight the impact of multiple related or interdependent systems; and give facility managers and maintenance staff the tools to avoid costly IAQ problems and maintain a healthier building environment. In addition, the program provides reasonable measures to detect recognized and common sources of IAQ problems where they occur.19

 

Our building IAQ certification is delivered in three phases. Phase 1 consists of the initial building assessment and evaluation. Phase 2 includes training of staff and introduction to IAQ and moisture management. And Phase 3 is the annual monitoring of the building to maintain the certification. In total, our offering is designed to fill in gaps in current building management programs; specifically, to help identify and prevent IAQ issues during building design, construction and operations. UL helps to identify weak spots in construction plans and potential health impacts in existing buildings. We also work with building owners and management to develop preventive solutions or remediation plans.20

 

The UL IAQ certification for buildings includes a review of basic information about the building, an initial assessment of the status of the building as related to IAQ and ongoing periodic assessments of building conditions that relate to IAQ.21 Key program elements include:

  • Visual inspection of the building and its systems.
  • Verification that key systems are installed and operating properly.
  • Review of existing maintenance and indoor air quality (IAQ) monitoring documentation.
  • Interior moisture monitoring.
  • Testing for CO2 levels and particulates.
  • Sampling and testing for volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Training of operations and maintenance staff.
  • Implementation of IAQ and moisture management plan.
  • Incident response and communication tools.22

IMPACT

UL’s innovative and comprehensive building IAQ certification is designed to help improve indoor environments to mitigate risks to workers, students or residents. Our unique offerings can also help built environment professionals:

  • Reduce building maintenance cost through early detection of IAQ issues and effective solutions.
  • Minimize downtime through avoidance of IAQ challenges (odors, public health risks, remediation efforts) early and before they become major problems.
  • Decrease compliance risk and uncertainty through IAQ assessment, following the latest standards and methods and providing ongoing IAQ performance records.
  • Reduce vacancies and raise occupancy rates through strongly communicated value of UL certified buildings and IAQ.
  • Enhance the quality control of contractors and third-party vendors through ongoing monitoring and, if warranted, inspection of IAQ related work.
  • Differentiation, brand enhancement and demonstration of market leadership through marketing and promotion of UL certification.
  • Reduced documentation and certification effort for green building programs such as LEED, Green Globes or Estidama through detailed IAQ reports and monitoring data.23
Sources

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