Indoor Air Quality Test

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that levels of indoor pollutants can be up to 100 times greater than outdoor levels.
Photo credit: Lee Jordan

Similarly, the World Health Organization claims that most of an individual’s exposure to many air pollutants comes through inhalation of indoor air. Inhaling these indoor pollutants can make occupants sick, limiting their productivity and decreasing their health.

For example, both Sick Building Syndrome and Legionnaire’s disease are illnesses caused by poor indoor air quality. Sick Building Syndrome is when building occupants experience symptoms such as fever and muscles aches as a result of poor indoor air quality. Legionnaires’ disease is a result of inhaling Legionella bacteria from aerosols or other particulates. This disease can be fatal.

Indoor air quality has become a bigger priority over the last two decades as a better understanding of the issue developed and green building standards and rating systems like LEED require it for sustainable building environments. Therefore, indoor air quality testing has become more popular in green building, because occupant health is considered an important component of green construction.
Air quality testing can be performed by professionals, or there are a number of do it yourself kits on the market. Some kits are as little as $90, though they can go up to $500 and more. Most of them require that you use the kit to collect a sample of your indoor air for a day or two, then send it to a lab for testing.

Air Quality Testing and LEED

Indoor air quality testing can earn points in the Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) credit category in LEED. IEQ addresses indoor air quality, thermal comfort, controllability of systems, and other strategies to achieve high levels of occupant health and productivity.

In particular, LEED for New Construction’s IEQ Credit 3.2, Construction Indoor Air Quality Management Plan - Before Occupancy, awards 1 point to projects that reduce indoor air quality problems from construction or renovation prior to the building’s occupancy.

The second option for this credit is called air quality testing. It requires that the project team uses testing protocols from the EPA Compendium of Methods for the Determination of Air Pollutants in Indoor Air to test the air quality after construction but before occupancy. This tests for pollutants such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, VOCs and particulates.
The minimum number of sampling points for this indoor air quality test is at least once per 25,000 square feet or for each contiguous floor area, whichever is larger.

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