Building Air Quality

December 1998
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 98-123
cover of 98-123

Action Plan


An Overview of EPA’s Large Buildings IAQ Management Practices Guidance

Managing a building is a difficult and complex job. There are many competing demands — health and safety, building maintenance, housekeeping, and communications with occupants and tenants. Building owners and managers are under pressure to contain or reduce operating costs and increase revenues. Such fiscal pressures can easily draw attention and resources away from important elements of building management such as indoor air quality (IAQ).

Over the past twenty years, indoor air quality has emerged as a major concern for building owners and managers. As the public recognizes the importance of healthy, comfortable and productive indoor environments, its awareness and demand for good IAQ increases. People spend about 90 percent of their time indoors and air within homes and other buildings can be more polluted than the outside air, even in the largest and most industrialized cities. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies that compare risks of environmental threats to public health consistently rank indoor air pollution (including secondhand smoke, radon, organic compounds and biological pollutants) among the top five.

Maintaining a healthy and comfortable indoor environment in any building requires integrating many components of a complex system. Indoor air problems are preventable and solvable and practical guidance on how to manage your building for good indoor air quality is available.

The core of EPA’s large buildings IAQ management practices guidance is contained in Building Air Quality – Action Plan: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers (BAQ), widely recognized as one of the best references of its type since publication in 1991 (see Appendix 1 for ordering information). Much of what BAQ recommends you will recognize as common principles of good facility management. It is organized as a comprehensive reference volume, by subject area. As such, BAQ is extremely useful in learning the principles of IAQ and how to manage a building for good IAQ. It is also a helpful resource if problems occur or if more detailed information is needed. However, despite BAQ’s wide availability, EPA and other organizations continue to learn about indoor air problems that could have been easily prevented or fixed by implementing good building management practices.

It is worth noting that the guidance emphasizes changing how you operate and maintain your building, not increasing the amount of work or cost of maintaining your building. Good IAQ does not have to compete with other building management priorities; in fact, it can enhance some. For example, the efficiencies gained by keeping your HVAC system clean and better controlled both enhance IAQ and reduce energy costs.

To promote the use of these straightforward practices to improve IAQ, EPA and other leaders in the IAQ field developed this 8-step Building Air Quality – Action Plan Action Plan (BAQ Action Plan). This additional resource meets the needs of building owners and managers who want an easy-to-understand path for taking their building from current conditions and practices to the successful institutionalization of good IAQ management practices. The BAQ Action Plan leads you through a logical set of steps to achieve the goal of better indoor air quality in your building. There is broad agreement that both documents, BAQ and the BAQ Action Plan, used together, can significantly improve IAQ and reduce the likelihood of IAQ problems, thus lowering health risks, increasing comfort and productivity, and reducing exposure to liability from IAQ problems.

The Building Air Quality – Action Plan Action Plan is intended to be used in concert with the more comprehensive Building Air Quality – Action Plan: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers (BAQ).
(See ordering information below).

In order to use the Building Air Quality – Action Plan Action Plan effectively, one must have a thorough understanding of the concepts and practice of managing indoor air quality, an understanding that can be gained from a thorough reading of BAQ. In addition, there is extensive internal referencing in this BAQ Action Plan to the original BAQ guide, making it helpful and easy to use both documents together.


This document has been reviewed in accordance with policies at the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Information provided is based upon current scientific and technical understanding of the issues presented. Following the advice given will not necessarily provide complete protection in all situations or against all health hazards that may be caused by indoor air pollution. Mention of any trade names company or commercial product does not constitute endorsementor recommendation of use. This document is in the public domain and may be reproduced in whole or in part. EPA requests appropriate acknowledgement of authorship if the work is reproduced. In the event this EPA work is changed, EPA requests that the acknowledgement includes language about adaptation or revision.

Record keeping

One important element underlying the actions described in this guidance is the development and maintenance of a comprehensive, easy-to-use record keeping system. In fact, the Action Plan contains many activities regarding the availability and location of records. The IAQ Manager may want to designate a file cabinet, bookshelves, or notebooks to store information on the IAQ program, including steps taken to complete the Action Plan. Alternatively, the IAQ Manager may wish to develop a single list of all pertinent IAQ records and their locations. These records will be a valuable tool to help the IAQ Manager coordinate day-to-day IAQ activities as well as respond efficiently and effectively to IAQ problems. These records will also serve as documentation of program implementation.


To assist building management in verifying implementation of the Action Plan, EPA provides a Checklist. The Checklist is designed to highlight the guidance presented in Building Air Quality – Action Plan: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers and closely matches the recommendations contained in the eight steps described above. Answering these questions will help you determine whether you have taken all of the steps EPA recommends to implement good IAQ management practices or whether additional actions should be taken to bring your building up to the level described in the guidance. As you address the issues discussed in the Checklist, keep records of your progress so you can refer to them later if questions or related issues arise.

Building Air Quality – Action Plan [PDF – 905 KB]