THEY ARE OFF THE TABLE, BUT I’M STILL HARD AT WORK!
In an ideal world, I wouldn’t be writing this article. It isn’t that I don’t want to stay in touch with you — believe me, I do — but I have some disappointing news. Do you remember back in the January edition when I wrote about the vacation my wife Kaye and I were planning to take to Mexico? Well, it didn’t happen.
Despite our plans and preparations, the COVID-19 pandemic heated back up and we decided to cancel the trip just to stay on the safe side. You’ve probably been in that same boat at some point in the last year. This pandemic has made life difficult for people all around the country. And while I know that canceling my vacation isn’t the end of the world, I can’t help but be disappointed.
That said, for the last few weeks I’ve been working hard to see the bright side of this scenario. I decided that since I was home, I might as well use my extra time as productively as possible. Spring has finally arrived and our office has been busy conducting proactive indoor air quality surveys. These are needed across the region, so I threw myself into that work.
During these surveys, my team and I visit large buildings where nothing seems to be amiss and proactively investigate their HVAC systems. We also walk through the unoccupied and occupied tenant spaces and take a careful look at the appliances, clutter, and under- and over-watered plants they’ve brought into the building. Sometimes, these innocuous-looking items can cause big indoor air quality issues. In fact, in my experience, when a tenant complains about a building’s air quality, about 70% of the time, it’s often the result of their own actions rather than the building’s equipment.
My team and I conduct these surveys every year for our regular clients and new customers. For one of our clients, we scour 11 large buildings in downtown Houston from top to bottom, starting with the mechanical room, then moving to the tenant spaces, and finally heading downstairs to the next floor to do it all again. We also survey buildings in the Houston suburbs, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and even New Orleans. This year, though, those familiar proactive indoor air quality surveys look a bit different.
The biggest change is that the buildings we’ve surveyed are mostly empty due to COVID-19 and tenants working from home. Our clients aren’t worried about occupant complaints. Instead, they’re requesting surveys because when their tenants return, they want to have paperwork proving they’ve dotted their I’s and crossed their T’s while the tenants were away. Positive survey results show that the building manager cares about their tenants’ health and wants them to return to a safe place.
The other change is internal — an adjustment we’ve made to our proactive indoor air quality surveys in response to a new health-safety rating called WELL Certification. The WELL Health-Safety Rating is a third-party rating system designed to prove to tenants and visitors that a building is safe in the wake of COVID-19. Indoor air quality is just one component of the WELL Certification, but it’s fairly comprehensive. To achieve WELL Certification, a building must meet a host of indoor air quality markers, including specific ozone levels. In the past, we didn’t usually test for ozone in our proactive indoor air quality surveys, but enough of our clients have expressed interest in WELL Certification that we’re now adding ozone testing to our regimen.
As you might imagine, conducting surveys and doing research on the WELL Certification has kept me busy! The biggest perk of canceling my vacation was that it forced me to spend more time getting up to speed on the latest developments in indoor air quality and coming up with new and interesting things to offer our clients. I always enjoy a challenge, and I’m looking forward to seeing where else this year — and our new survey process — takes me.