There is a balance in your building between airtightness to protect your energy efficiency and proper air ventilation in order to protect people’s health. In recent years, our understanding of the impact of indoor air quality has increased significantly, and building codes haven’t always kept up. Older buildings were constructed with a different conception of what “good” air quality is. But, you can still retrofit older buildings to provide better breathing for everyone inside. That is, if you recognize the problem. How do you know when your commercial property has poor air quality? Here are signs to look for.
Lingering Smells or “Stuffiness”
When you feel like a room is “stuffy” or not fresh, it is actually a signal that there is too much carbon dioxide in the air. The air you’re breathing out in the space isn’t being ventilated away and replaced with fresh oxygen fast enough. This can be uncomfortable, and when severe, it can be harmful.
Sometimes if you’re used to the building, you don’t really sense the stuffiness but you can notice if smells last too long in the space. They don’t even have to be unpleasant smells. If you burn a candle in your lobby for a few hours, and you feel like the next day you can still smell it, chances are your ventilation is very poor. Of course, you’ll notice lingering smells more in kitchens and bathrooms.
Respiratory and Other Symptoms in Building Users
The health impact of poor air quality can be quite broad and dramatic to those who aren’t used to the building. But, those who always work in it may have trouble connecting their symptoms to anything in the air. Look out for these symptoms in the people who spend time on your property:
- Allergy symptoms
- Dry eyes, nose or throat
- Poor concentration
If you’re in an office, talk to people who return from a week or more vacation about how they feel a few hours after breathing in the building air for the first time. People have varying levels of sensitivity, so don’t assume that if you’re fine, everyone else is too.
Difficulty Managing Dust and Pollutants
How are your cleaning or sanitation staff finding their work? If they are struggling to keep dust under control, or find they can’t easily remove pet dander after a dog visits or deal with the pollutants that the building itself causes (like paint fumes in an arts and crafts shop), then it is like the issue is the HVAC system. Sometimes air ducts that haven’t been cleaned will actually spread dust and contaminants throughout the building, instead of catching it in the filters.
While not an air quality issue, uneven temperatures are often a sign that you don’t have proper ventilation. That’s because proper ventilation and air flow will also move heat or cool air through the building and create a consistent, even temperature. If something is preventing this process it is likely also undermining your air quality.
An HVAC professional can help you assess and fix the air quality problems in your commercial property.