Indoor air quality is protected through a well-thought-out work plan that implements safe work practices throughout. The odors associated with off-gassing are one of the major indoor air quality complaints after the completion of a renovation project. Through careful material selection, minimizing the use of materials that are off-gas, and a work plan that encompasses strategic engineering controls for proper ventilation, we can greatly reduce or eliminate odors.
Generally, a work plan will include:
- Selection of materials
- Process of airing out materials when needed
- Containment of the work area
- Engineering controls to properly ventilate the work area
- Abatement of hazardous materials, such as asbestos or lead, including clean-up procedures
- Demolition of remaining building components
- Clean-up of work area
- Building new design of renovation area
- Final renovation clean-up
Certain building components and supplies will be off-gas for shorter durations after manufacture or installation. This off-gas can be absorbed by other building components, particularly porous materials. When possible, building components that off-gas for shorter durations should be installed before the building components that tend to absorb off-gasses.
If the materials being used are the type that tends to emit off-gases, consider “airing them out” prior to bringing them to the worksite. Remove them from their packaging and unroll or space them out in a well-ventilated space, such as a warehouse, so fresh air can easily flow in and around them. If furnishings or cabinetry, open the drawers and doors. If electronics, turn them on and allow them to heat up and burn off the pollutants. Doing so minimizes the concern for workers during installation and the concern for absorption into other materials in the work area. In cases where there are heavy emissions of off-gases, force large amounts of outdoor air into the warehouse area for a period of days so the majority of pollutant emissions is removed.
Engineering controls should be established to protect adjacent areas, including containment and proper ventilation. Containment or isolating a work area from adjacent rooms is crucial. If construction dust, paint fumes, or a contaminant release occurs, we want to isolate it to one area. Poly barriers can be hung over doorways and taped around windows.
Tacky mats will limit the spread of dust and other contaminants by workers’ shoes. Booties are also ideal for wearing in containment areas and removing before leaving containment areas to avoid cross-contaminating areas outside the work area. Wearing booties when entering a property will keep soil from being dropped by worker shoes/boots as well. Drop cloths below work areas can catch debris and construction dust. They should be changed regularly so as not to spread contaminants.