Building Air Quality

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

Action Plan


Step 6: Manage Processes with Potentially Significant Pollutant Sources, Including Remodeling and Renovation, Painting, Pest Control, Shipping and Receiving, and Smoking

Reference: Building Air Quality – Action Plan: Section 5, “Managing Buildings for Good IAQ,” Pages 37-41.

Purpose: To control potential contaminant sources within a building during special activities.

Indoor contaminants can be drawn in from outside or can originate within a building. If contaminant sources are not controlled, IAQ problems can arise, even if the HVAC system is well-maintained and running properly. Step 6 involves managing some of the major sources of indoor pollutants in your building, including: 1) remodeling and renovation; 2) painting; 3) pest control; 4) shipping and receiving; and 5) smoking.

Unless remodeling and renovation are planned with IAQ in mind, these activities can create indoor air quality problems by emitting dust, odors, microorganisms and their spores, and VOCs. Take steps to prevent IAQ problems by isolating work areas. These steps include:

  • Ensuring that the IAQ Manager reviews the designs and construction activities for all proposed remodeling or renovation activities prior to their initiation (see Step 7 , for communication responsibility of tenants and the IAQ manager regarding remodeling projects),
  • Scheduling work during periods of low occupancy,
  • Blocking return vents in the work area and/or installing temporary barriers to isolate work areas,
  • Pressurizing spaces that adjoin the work space in order to prevent transportation of pollutants,
  • Using specialized cleaning procedures (e.g., HEPA vacuums),
  • Changing filters more frequently, especially after work is completed,
  • Minimizing emissions from materials processes (e.g., wet sanding dry wall), and
  • Buying safer products (e.g., formaldehyde-free cabinetry).

Specific Steps:

  1. Request information from product suppliers on contaminant emissions.
  2. Discuss IAQ concerns with architects, engineers and contractors.

Remodeling and Renovation

  1. Use and require contractors to follow the special procedures described in Building Air Quality – Action Plan, pages 40 and 99, to minimize contaminants and odors during buildouts.


  1. Minimize exposure to paint vapors through the use of low-emitting products, scheduling or ventilation.

Painting interior spaces can also produce irritating or harmful vapors. Methods to prevent problems include using low VOC-emitting paint (now commercially available — ask your product supplier), performing work during periods of low occupancy and arranging ventilation to isolate work areas.

Pest Control: Pest control methods often depend on the use of pesticides, whose storage, application, and handling can have serious health effects if label instructions are not followed. Chemical pesticides must be dealt with carefully to avoid indoor air quality problems. For example, mixing of pesticides should occur either outdoors or under a mixing hood specifically designed for pesticide mixing. One way to minimize the risk of IAQ problems from pest control is Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which emphasizes the use of non-chemical pest management practices wherever practical. The EPA brochure, “Pest Control in the School Environment: Adopting Integrated Pest Management,” (EPA# 735F93012) may provide useful information on IPM practices. You can obtain this document through the National Center for Environmental Publications and Informationexternal icon (NCEPI) by calling 1-800-490-9198.

Use Integrated Pest Management to the extent possible:

  1. Know what pest control products are used in your building.
  2. Prepare written pest contract procedures that detail the proper purchase, use, mixing, storage and disposal of pesticides according to label directions.
  3. Use non-chemical pest control strategies where possible.
  4. Purchase the safest available pest control products that meet your needs.

Shipping and Receiving

  1. Take steps to prevent vehicle exhaust from entering your building.


  1. Institute smoking policy that prohibits smoking or provides direct exhaust and adequate ventilation to areas where smoking is permitted (see American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAEexternal icon) Standard 62 (Appendix 3) and EPA Brochure “What You Can Do About Secondhand Smoke”external icon).

Shipping and receiving areas have the potential to create indoor air quality problems regardless of the types of materials being handled. Provide adequate ventilation for activities or materials that produce odors, dust or contaminants. Also, building managers should take steps to ensure that vehicle exhaust from loading docks does not enter the building. For a typical vehicle area that is predominantly open to the atmosphere, you can prevent engine exhaust from migrating into surrounding building areas by maintaining the rooms surrounding loading docks under substantial positive pressure (relative to the vehicle areas). Alternatively, for vehicle areas that are predominantly enclosed, you could maintain the vehicle area at a substantial negative pressure (relative to the surrounding building areas). In either case, this task is made easier through the use of vestibules or air locks.

Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) can be a source of irritation and is known to cause cancer. Establishing a smoking policy that protects occupants and visitors from exposure to ETS is essential to maintaining good IAQ in your building. To accomplish this, you should institute a smoking policy that prohibits smoking or restricts smoking to areas that are separately ventilated, maintained under negative pressure and directly exhausted to the outside.

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

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

Page last reviewed: June 6, 2014