Building Air Quality

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

Action Plan


Step 2: Develop an IAQ Profile of Your Building

Reference: Building Air Quality – Action Plan: Section 4, “Developing an IAQ Profile,” Pages 19–29.

Purpose: To gain a comprehensive understanding of the current IAQ situation in your building, including all of the factors that could influence your building’s IAQ.

The next step in the process is to document the current IAQ situation and existing operation and maintenance practices in your building. The Building Air Quality – Action Plan guide refers to this step as developing an “IAQ Profile.” The IAQ Profile describes the features of your building’s structure, function, and occupancy that impact IAQ. Completing the IAQ Profile gives you an understanding of the current status of air quality in your building and baseline information on the factors that may cause future problems. If you do not have the information or expertise to complete a certain part of the IAQ Profile, seek assistance from other members of your IAQ team, such as a building engineer or similarly trained professional (see BAQ, page 20).

The IAQ Profile focuses on:

  1. identifying and reviewing records, such as blueprints and operating instructions;
  2. conducting a walkthrough inspection to document information on IAQ-related Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) practices and conditions, and possible pollutant sources throughout the building.

Step 2, Part One: Identify and Review Existing Records

Building Air Quality – Action Plan: Section 4, “Developing an IAQ Profile: Collect and Review Existing Records,” Pages 21–22; also, Ventilation Worksheet, Zone/Room Record Form and Pollutant Pathway Form, Pages 175-177.

The first part of developing the IAQ Profile focuses on identifying and reviewing the documents that should already exist at your building. These documents are critical to the development and implementation of the Action Plan. If you find that you cannot locate many of the documents listed in the “Specific Activities” section below, you should try to collect these from outside sources if at all possible. The original architects, engineers and/or equipment suppliers may be useful sources for this information. If you are unable to obtain an updated set of architectural and HVAC blueprints or the set points and ranges under which the HVAC system operates, you should create these documents either in-house or through an outside contractor. These documents are integral to efficient and effective diagnosing of IAQ problems, if they occur.

Make sure to revise the records mentioned in the “Specific Activities” section as needed, but particularly at the conclusion of any renovation/construction activities.

Specific Activities

  1. Identify, review, and familiarize yourself with construction, operating and other documents including:
    • “As built” blueprints and building specifications that have been up-dated to indicate current conditions,
    • Up-to-date list of control system set-points and ranges for all HVAC equipment, including variable air volume (VAV) supply terminals and exhaust systems,
    • Up-to-date drawings of tenant buildouts and interior building renovations,
    • Information on major space use changes,
    • Up-to-date information on pressure relationships (see Pollutant Pathway Form, BAQ, page 175),
    • Up-to-date schedules and procedures for facility operations and maintenance,
    • Up-to-date manufacturers’ operating instructions and maintenance records for HVAC system components,
    • If available, historical complaint logs relating to air quality and comfort (see Step 8 ).
  2. Set up procedures to revise the above records, as needed, but particularly with any renovation/construction.
  3. Request from suppliers and keep on file Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for products used in the building (see also 29 CFR 1910.1200 OSHA Hazard Communication Standardexternal icon.
  4. Determine quantity of outside air entering building (see Ventilation Worksheet, BAQ, page 179).
  5. Compare capacity of HVAC system with current loads to make sure there are no shortfalls in the amount of outside air provided.

Step 2, Part Two: Conduct a Walkthrough to Assess Current IAQ Situation

Building Air Quality – Action Plan: Section 4, “Developing an IAQ Profile: Conduct a Walkthrough Inspection of the Building,” Pages 22–29.

Conducting a building walkthrough inspection helps you acquire a good overview of occupant activities and building functions that may impact IAQ. Even if you are intimately familiar with the operations of your building, the walkthrough allows you to view your building specifically with IAQ in mind. You should consider conducting the walkthrough with other staff familiar with the building — additional perspectives may help you notice problem indicators otherwise missed. If you can not conduct the walkthrough with others, at least talk to other building staff both for help in identifying potential or existing problems as well as to gain feedback on the cause(s) and solution(s) to problems you identified.

As you walk through your building, pay careful attention to indicators of possible IAQ problems. Seemingly inconsequential items could indicate IAQ problems. For example, discolored walls could indicate mold growth, while fans on occupants’ desks could indicate inadequate ventilation or cooling. A more detailed list of IAQ problem indicators is included in the “Specific Activities” table below.

Building Walkthrough Specific Activities

  1. Conduct a whole-building walkthrough inspection.
  2. During the walkthrough, complete a pollutant/source inventory (see Pollutant/Source Inventory Form, Building Air Quality – Action Plan, pages 213-219).
  3. Look for IAQ problem indicators including:
    • odors,
    • dirty or unsanitary conditions,
    • visible fungal growth,
    • mold or mildew,
    • moisture in inappropriate locations,
    • staining or discoloration of building materials,
    • smoke damage,
    • presence of toxic substances,
    • poorly-maintained filters,
    • potential for soil gas entry,
    • unusual noises from equipment,
    • leaks,
    • uneven temperatures,
    • overcrowding,
    • personal air cleaning devices (ion generators, ozone generators or portable filtration units),
    • personal fans, and
    • blocked or re-directed vents/diffusers.
  4. Take notes on a floor plan during the walkthrough identifying potential or existing problems indicating a need for either close monitoring or corrective action.
  5. Inspect HVAC condition and operations.
    • List components that need to be repaired, adjusted, cleaned or replaced.
    • Record actual control settings and operating schedules for each air handling unit.
  6. Check to see if significant sources of contamination are directly exhausted to the outside or can be moved close to an exhaust fan.

Building Air Quality – Action Planpdf icon [PDF – 905 KB]

Building Air Qualitypdf icon [PDF – 2,851 KB]

Page last reviewed: June 6, 2014