4 WAYS TO FAIL YOUR LEED IAQ TESTING
One of the most misunderstood aspects of receiving LEED 3.2 indoor air testing clearance is how a building can fail or succeed. At Building Air Quality, we’ve worked on a number of projects in recent years where general contractors have been successful, and other projects where the contractor failed miserably. We know where many mistakes are made and how to prevent them. Here are four mistakes made during real projects that can cause your building to fail.
School House Blues
Three years ago, we were involved in a school project where everyone knew what should and should not be done prior to the air testing. Unfortunately, one of the subcontractor’s people noticed a spot of glue on a stair riser. They quickly grabbed a cleaning compound and scrubbed the glue away. Though the bottle was only open for 30 seconds, he later admitted that it took him almost two minutes to get all the glue off of the riser. Two days later, the VOCs emitted by the cleaner showed up during the final air test, causing this project to fail the TVOC air sampling in the area where the work was done.
Takeaway: Manage the emission of airborne chemicals. Limit the use of wet products prior to testing. Things like touching up paint, cleaning smudges, or attempting to glue down loose items can all generate chemical levels that can cause you to fail.
This project involved LEED air sampling done at a senior center that was attempting to receive the LEED IAQ points. Everything was going along quite nicely until the final location. After setting up the equipment, our investigator walked around the corner and noticed an unusual smell approximately 35 feet from our air sampling. Following his nose, he found a contractor had placed all of his tools and equipment, including open containers of caulk and poorly sealed paint buckets, in a back storage room. The biggest problem was the gas-powered generator, which was leaning to one side and causing gasoline to leak onto the floor. This room was within the occupied spaces and considered part of the test area. The emissions from the gasoline failed the TVOC sampling levels in this area.
Takeaway: Relocate contractor equipment and tools to a location outside of the building.
When Vacuuming is a Big Mistake
While completing a LEED IAQ test in the division headquarters for an Army base in Kansas, custodians came in through a back door and began to sweep and vacuum the office spaces during our sampling. Though we stopped them the moment we caught them, 30–45 minutes had passed before we noticed, and the damage was done. The project had high levels of airborne particulate and needed to be retested three weeks later.
Takeaway: Be aware of airborne particulate matter, and certainly keep the custodial staff “in the loop.”
Who You Gonna Call?
If you want your building to score those LEED IAQ points, you even need the telephone guys in on the act. During a recent project, in spite of all of our warnings and meetings with the general contractor and his subsequent direction to all subcontractors, we encountered a crew of four data installers who were running cabling through wall cavities. On the day of our testing they had removed cover plates to pull cables through dusty wall cavities, kicking up a sufficient amount of particles and dust to cause this project to fail.
Takeaway: Don’t leave cable applications until the last minute.
It is incredibly important that you make sure the areas to be tested are clean and controlled during the days leading up to the air sampling. There are many ways to succeed, but these stories show how easy it is to fail. The contractors we worked with on these particular projects have learned important lessons at expensive costs.
When it comes to LEED testing, you only have one chance to get it right. Once the space is occupied, it is technically too late to get that IAQ point!