Decoration Disease-Post renovation (pre-occupancy) IAQ Testing: Indoor Air Quality Challenges of the Green Economy

As more and more buildings are being built and commissioned under Green Building guidelines such as Green Mark and LEED, there is growing recognition that property owners, developers, and architects need to ask the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) question if they want their building to achieve the sustainability goals they desire.

Off-gassing is the name for given when chemicals are released from manmade objects containing volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde from resins, adhesives, sealants.

Green building materials must also to be addressed as low levels of air pollutants are still emitted and can cause sensitivities in individuals. IAQ Consultants environmental services provide a variety of IAQ evaluation services, including LEED EQ 3.2 testing, evaluation of moisture and mould in buildings under construction, renovation or existing buildings.

IAQ can substantiate new products and finishes with suppliers before installation to ensure levels of VOC emissions and formaldehyde are acceptable prior to fit out. This will help with overall levels of off gassing when in confirmed spaces such as a re-designed office space. This is essential knowledge for the unsuspecting tenant, developer or interior designer, who are reportedly receiving more and more complaints regarding serious health complaints, post refurbishment for up to 6 months in some cases before levels of off-gassed chemicals are expelled.

Prior to IAQ test: Prepare the space to operate as intended for occupancy with the HVAC set for the minimal outside air contribution (Fresh Air). The IEQ testing does need to be completed during normal occupancy hours for the new space and with a minimum testing duration of 4-hours continuous monitoring.

In a statement from Emma Precious, one of IAQ’s Managers: “We have tested hundreds of offices spaces over the years, and recurrently the same high test results are appearing from the chemical parameters tested during the post occupancy, post renovation stages. – This is too late, and people as already showing signs of poisoning. Our results tell us that so many materials and products are off gassing seriously high levels of VOC emissions especially found during cheap punch list touch-ups. Post renovation (Pre-occupancy) IAQ clearance testing is essential to test that good air quality levels have returned after improvement works, upgrading or renovation works to avoid ‘Decoration Disease’ the worrying new term coined for the health effects caused by chemical pollutant releases from the installation of new composite materials, carpets, paints, and plastic objects and furnishings into enclosed spaces that have not been expunged before occupants return”.

The health effects of Formaldehyde, which are classified as a human carcinogen can cause nasopharyngeal cancer and probably leukaemia. As China is the largest producer and consumer of formaldehyde products in the world, it stands to reason that Singaporeans, as a major importer of Chinese goods, are potentially at increased risk for developing cancer and other associated health effects from bringing these products into the office or home where air is confirmed and allows levels to concentrate. More than 65% of the Chinese formaldehyde output is used to produce resins mainly found in composite wood products — on of the major sources of indoor pollution.

Every building project is unique so the variables for indoor air quality testing need to be carefully considered to assure the results are representative of the space evaluated. IAQ Consultants has decades of experience performing indoor air quality assessments. Our breadth of experience and tight relationships with our vendors allows IAQ Consultants to customize these evaluations to fit within physical and time constraints of most any planned renovation project.

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