College Planning & Management

DEC 2012

College Planning & Management is the information resource for professionals serving the college and university market. Covering facilities, security, technology and business.

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Maintenance & Operations MANAGING T HE PHYSIC AL PL AN T The Air That We Breathe Ensure good IAQ with proactive maintenance. BY MICHAEL G. STEGER N ONE OF US ARE IMMUNE to the dreaded call of an indoor air quality (IAQ) concern. My focus here is largely on a campus in the wet and warm subtropics of south Florida, but I am certain that issues that relate to IAQ affect buildings in drier climes as well. When we think of indoor air quality issues, most of us think immediately of mold or mildew, when in fact the term IAQ covers any of a large range of issues, from the off-gassing of new building materials to a lack of air circulation, as well as molds and mildews. The EPA defines IAQ this way: "Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in homes. Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the home. High temperature and humidity levels can also increase concentrations of some pollutants." Where IAQ Comes Into Play There are a number of factors that contribute to air quality issues, and most fall under the Facilities realm. They include HVAC, building envelope, construction/renovation, pest management, and cleaning and maintenance chemical usage. When it comes to the Maintenance department and IAQ, we are best served by maintaining a proactive stance, much the same as with all other aspects of facilities maintenance. By following a solid preventive maintenance program, we are able to control the primary impactors of IAQ in our buildings. Ensuring we have clean A/C fi lters, that the drain pans are freeflowing and free of excess algae and slime, that the coils are clean, and that supply and return grilles are kept clean and dust free will go a long way in maintaining a healthy environment. Also, within the HVAC system, we must make sure that the proper amount of outdoor air is mixed with the recirculated indoor air. Many building automation or HVAC control systems have some form of ventilation control as part of their control logic, basing largely on CO2, temperature, and humidity levels. Maintaining a tight building envelope is critical to the process… and something we struggle with in this area. We receive over 60 in. of rain per year here, and much of that in very short intense bursts, often wind-driven. We find it difficult to keep the outside out and the inside in! We often find ourselves chasing leaks during our peak rainy seasons. When encountering leaks, the key 12 COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / DECEMBER 2012 is to promptly repair the leak, remove any wet building materials, and dry out the remaining space as soon as possible to avoid any spore growth. Many of the residence hall IAQ complaints we receive are related to simple mildew in showers. Work closely with your Residence Life staff to ensure that students understand the importance of regular tub and shower area cleaning. The Effect of New Building Materials It is unavoidable that we will perform maintenance, repairs, or renovations that will introduce new building materials to our building interiors. These materials can include paints, adhesives, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, carpeting, and even wall hangings/artwork. By selecting materials with low VOCs, asking vendors to roll out carpeting or other materials in their warehouse to "breathe" before being installed, and performing installations that require adhesives during times the building will be closed will help create a better post-renovation environment. The products and chemicals we provide to our technicians also play a critical role. I believe that a great many of our departments have moved to green cleaning and maintenance products. Along with greener chemicals, we have methods of cleaning and maintaining that help limit the amount of product being utilized, thus reducing indoor contaminants from our facilities activities through process. When performing routine maintenance, ensure that technicians control the amount of product used in order to control the building occupants' exposure to these materials. Handling Customer Complaints Overall, it is most helpful to maintain a proactive stance toward the quality of our indoor air. However, when a response to a customer complaint is required, how we handle it can go a long way in avoiding a negative experience. The person making the complaint has very real concerns regarding his or her health and it is important that we respond to every complaint with the proper level of concern, investigation, and remediation. Being aware of pollen, mold, and other allergens in the air at any given time can help pinpoint issues outside of the building envelope and help identify issues that may not be associated with your IAQ at all. On a final note, educating the customer goes a long way in reducing some of the fear associated with IAQ issues. CPM Michael G. Steger is director of Physical Plant Services for National Management Resources Corp. at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL. He can be reached at mike_steger@pba.edu. WWW.PLANNING 4EDUCATION.COM

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