Few things in life are as precious yet underappreciated as clean air. We take it for granted. Breathe in, breathe out—we rarely even notice the action.
Ensuring that the air we breathe is clean, fresh and safe is one of the myriad responsibilities that boards and building managers must undertake on behalf of their residents and shareholders. Fortunately, with the right expert advice and testing, the task need not be too daunting.
Keep it Moving
No one likes stagnation, least of all when it affects the air we breathe. “Ventilation is a central component of good air quality,” says Casey Birmingham, senior project manager for The Falcon Group, an engineering and consulting firm based in New Jersey with offices in New York City and around the country. And too often that component can be forgotten, leading to stale air, allergens, odors and other problems for residents.
“While there are often minor complaints about odor transmission, the bigger issue is buildup of molds as well as water infiltration,” says Birmingham. Another common issue in buildings built from the 1960s to the present is that they typically have mechanical ventilation and it can over-exhaust. That means the building does not get the correct amount of outdoor makeup air to balance the air it vents out, creating draftiness, which manifests itself in whistling windows, doors or elevator shafts. This problem is further exacerbated by the “stack effect” experienced in tall buildings.
Older buildings, says Birmingham, are not typically ventilated by mechanical equipment. Before the 1968 building code was implemented, buildings typically relied on natural venting through the opening and closing of windows and doors. And that can be a good thing.