Monday, May 19, 2014

The Air Quality Friendly Build-Out

Whether you are an owner/property manager or a perspective tenant, there are actions that should be taken to help prevent problems immediately and in the future when preparing a space to attract a new tenant.

An owner or property manage is likely to have the suite or building cleaned and painted after the current tenant moves out.  Replacing the carpeting or at least having it cleaned and shampooed is also likely.  Sometimes there are odors left over from the previous tenant and the painting and new carpet odor might cover it up.  But what if it re-emerges after the volatile organic compounds (VOC) odors from paint and carpet have dissipated? 

Thorough cleaning might eliminate odors, but according to what they are they might be so entrenched that even very thorough cleaning might not do the trick.  One of the first observations likely from a perspective tenant could be noticing an unpleasant odor.  If the odor can be identified the door might be opened to dealing with it.  Obviously a sewer odor can be tracked down, if not by a plumber then by a professional specializing in locating sources of unpleasant odors.  Some odors become absorbed by walls, ceiling tiles or any porous or semi-porous materials.  This makes the odors very difficult to remove. Ozone is very good at removing odors.  Ozone (O3) has an additional atom of oxygen.  That additional oxygen atom is easily given up and combines with odorous materials altering them and thereby removing the odor.  For relatively small spaces, there are some air cleaners available that produce ozone.  They can be purchased for a few hundred dollars.  For large spaces, renting an ozone generator from an after-fire remediation company can be done.  Keep in mind that at high levels ozone can be damaging to the lungs, so ensure the area being treated is well aired out prior to any occupancy of the building or suite.

The HVAC system(s) are infused with the lifestyle of the previous tenant.  I generally recommend that HVAC systems should be completely cleaned every five to eight years based on their use and their environment.  I also recommend that they be completely cleaned whenever an occupied building or residence is taken over by another occupant.  Cleaning should be done to National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) standards including sanitizing the coils with an EPA registered product such as Oxine. Any torn fiberglass liner should be repaired and coated with a sealant designed for use in HVAC systems.  Any deteriorated or microbially contaminated fiberglass liner should be removed and replaced with a non-fiberglass liner such as Reflectix.  That this is being or has been done should be promoted to the new or prospective tenant as a selling point.  This should be done after the build-out is done and in coordination with the environmental deep cleaning.  (See below)

After the build-out the area should be environmentally deep cleaned.  This consists of a thorough vacuuming of all surfaces (floors, walls and contents) using HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filtered vacuums.  Vacuuming should be followed by a wipe down of hard dust collecting surfaces (not electrical or fabric) with damp cloths. 

Removing walls and putting up new ones involves creating a lot of construction dust especially including all the sanding of new walls.  (See my article, "Construction Dust, A Stealth Irritant.") This activity not only contaminates the area where the work is being done, it also potentially contaminates the HVAC system.  Covering HVAC return vents with plastic sheeting is helpful, but might not be definitive.  This is why deep cleaning and cleaning of the HVAC system(s) must be coordinated.

Construction dust is an irritant that affects skin, eyes and respiratory system.  Even relatively small amounts can have adverse effects on particularly sensitive individuals.

These actions might add expense to the process of bring an occupant into a property, but especially for a lease of five years or more it is likely to pay off in terms of tenant satisfaction and peace of mind for both tenant and management.


12 comments:

  1. Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do some research about this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more from this post. I’m very glad to see such fantastic info being shared freely out there.

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    1. I'm happy to help and appreciate the readership.

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  2. For healthy environment it is necessary to clean HVAC system, sometimes mold starts to grow in there and because of that the air gets filled with bacterias which are harmful to us.

    Canaduct

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    1. Yes. Since there is moisture there, all that is required are organic material and spores that can germinate there.

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  3. How can you tell if there's something wrong with the air quality in your home? For awhile I've been thinking that something might be wrong with the air in the house I live in because lately I've been having some allergy problems. I haven't had them before and I don't have them once I go outside. How can I figure out where the problem is and decide on a solution? Should I call a consultant to look at the home? http://www.arguspacific.com

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    1. Sorry. I haven't checked for comments lately. I do think the best would be to find a good consultant who can inspect and test your home. First you can look for evidence of water intrusion by checking for indications on perimeter walls. Testing to be done based on observations.

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  4. I never thought of the fact that the HVAC in any home "Is infused with the lifestyle of the previous tenant." That really makes me rethink things. I need to get a company to come clean my vents, my kids have pretty bad allergies and I bet that's not helping. Indoor air quality is very important in my house. http://www.superiormechanicalinc.com/breathe-easy.html

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    1. Yes. Make sure you get a company that does a thorough job. Also checking for indications of water intrusion to see if you might have a mold problem would be prudent. Stains on walls or baseboards pulling away even slightly are indications. There are a number of others.

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  5. Even if not legally required in your area, it would have been helpful if your landlord had conducted an inspection with you before you moved out. At that time, you could have been given a list of any cleaning or repairs necessary for your security deposit to be returned. http://waterdamagerestorationdallastexas.com/tag/hail-damage-repair-arlington-tx/

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  6. Does the NADCA recommend any procedure for air duct cleaning? And if so, are these recommendations legally binding?

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  7. this is exactly what i am looking for. you have done a great job by posting it. Thanks for this and keep posting.
    Heating and Cooling london

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    1. Thanks, John. I appreciate all you have to say.

      Best,
      Steve

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