Home Air Quality Why an Indoor Air Quality Assessment is Important

Why an Indoor Air Quality Assessment is Important

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Nothing keeps guests coming back like a fresh, clean, healthy indoor environment. The average hotelier most likely assumes that if the temperature is not too hot or too cold and if the humidity is not overly dry or clammy that they are supplying a sufficient indoor environment for their guests. That mistake could cost you repeat guests or find you on the receiving end of a subpoena.

Microscopic bioaerosols such as fungals, bacteria, virals and even chemicals are present everywhere. Temperature, humidity and air movement are tactile. We feel them physically. Microscopic bioaerosols affect us in different ways. We cannot touch them or see them but our bodies react to their presence.

Do your guests complain about stuffy noses, runny, itchy eyes, headaches or other respiratory type symptoms before they leave? If so, they are experiencing a classic case of SBS—Sick Building Syndrome. They are being affected by those bioaerosols contained within the indoor environment.

Unfortunately we live in a litigious society. With the demise of the asbestos industry and with the tobacco companies being regularly pummeled, attorneys are now turning their sights on the issue of indoor air quality (IAQ). The conundrum you face is that while there is no scientific proof that mold causes illness, there is also no scientific proof that it does not.

Furnishings, Carpet Out-gas

Chemical hazards are more defined and that could be a part of your problems. The majority of furnishings and carpeting are produced through a process that involves chemicals. Those chemicals leach out into the atmosphere over an extended period of time after installation. The scientific term for this phenomenon is out-gassing.

Chemicals react and combine with other chemicals and the toxins produced by mold to create secondary compounds. Formaldehyde, which is a common chemical used in carpeting and furniture manufacturing, can combine with ozone to form an acid. Electronic air cleaning devices typically produce ozone as a byproduct. Ozone, by itself, cannot kill viables such as fungals and bacteria unless the concentration level is so high as to be toxic to humans.

Studies and statistics tell us that an unhappy client will tell an average of 10 people about their unpleasant experience but only 10 percent of those will actually complain to the source of the problem. They simply will take their business elsewhere. Your main responsibility is to see that those situations do not plague your facility. You should consider the safest most effective method of protecting yourself and your profits.

Today, more than ever, it is critical to benchmark your facility’s indoor environment. An indoor environmental assessment is simple, quick, and non-intrusive and will provide you with valuable scientific documentation that can protect you from litigation and give you a unique way to market your facility. Having a Certified Healthy Building will reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and redefine the limits of your corporate vision of excellence.

A benchmarking assessment begins with a complete visual inspection of your facility and the surrounding area. It includes the exterior building envelope, the grounds, the mechanical systems such as plumbing, electrical and HVAC, and should include an employee survey. It should conclude with sample collection of air, water and surface conditions within the structure.

Outdoor Air Quality Impacts IAQ

Your 300-room hotel is totally different from every other 300-room facility. Your geographic location and the flora around your building play a pivotal role in what the typical outdoor atmosphere holds on a daily basis. This outdoor atmosphere directly impacts your indoor conditions through normal egress as well as ventilation to the building. An adjacent building’s function also impacts your indoor environment through byproducts produced there.

You must understand that your indoor environment is a “mini-environment” not subject to quick changes as is the outdoor environment. In the outdoors, wind, rain, temperature and humidity fluctuations and even vehicular traffic will shift bioaerosol content significantly and quickly. A fairly constant indoor temperature and humidity will impact good air quality just as evenly as it will bad air quality.

Samples can be collected for lab analysis by various methods. They break down into two basic categories: viable and non-viable. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. Your Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP) must have enough experience to determine exactly what kinds of samples to collect and where to collect them in your unique facility.

Carpeting, air and HVAC systems should be tested both viably and non-viably. Tests should be conducted for fungal as well as bacterial contamination. Any location within the structure that has been subjected to water intrusion will be on the top of the list of test locations. Fungals and bacteria will grow and proliferate within approximately 48 hours of a water event.

Have you ever stayed awake at night wondering how to turn guests into repeat guests? Have you agonized over your occupancy rates and flinched at your REVPAR numbers? You will be happy to know that there is a way to sleep better. Get your facility benchmarked. Get your facility certified as a Healthy Building. Be better than the competition that is only promoting smoke-free facilities. Go Allergy Friendly. Ally yourself with a competent, qualified provider so that your assurance of excellence is secured.

Arthur V. Martin is president of Arthur V. Martin Associates Inc., Bluffton, S.C. As an Indoor Environmental Consultant, he has personally conducted more than 4,000 IAQ investigations in more than a dozen countries during his 30-plus year career. He may be reached at martina@aircertification.com.

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