A look at monitoring and improving indoor air quality
Indoor air quality (IAQ) in the workplace is the subject of much attention these days, and for good reason.
Good IAQ in buildings is an important component of a healthy indoor environment. It contributes to a favorable and productive environment for building occupants, giving them a sense of comfort, health, and well-being. Research studies have shown significant increases in worker productivity have also been demonstrated when the air quality was adequate. Research has also shown that workers in buildings with adequate air quality have reduced rates of symptoms related to poor air quality.
The Industrial Hygiene Unit (IHU) of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) is staffed with experienced industrial hygienists with the expertise and equipment to properly evaluate indoor environments. Based on these evaluations, they can also provide recommendations, if deemed warranted, to improve working conditions.
Research and studies have demonstrated that the implementation of the following recommendations can improve work conditions:
- Routine maintenance of HVAC systems including periodic cleaning or replacement of filters.
- Replacement of water-stained ceiling tiles and carpeting.
- Providing designated smoking areas located at least 25 feet (7.5 meters) from all entries.
- Venting contaminant source emissions to the outdoors.
- Storage and use of paints, adhesives, solvents, and pesticides in well-ventilated areas, and use of these materials during periods of non-occupancy.
- Allowing time for building materials in new or remodeled areas to off-gas before occupancy.
- Increasing ventilation rates and air distribution.
- Education and communication with building occupants.
Currently there are no regulations or requirements specific to Aramco or the Kingdom for IAQ in buildings. However, EPD regularly conducts qualitative and quantitative IAQ assessments in buildings and responds to building occupants’ IAQ complaints. IAQ measurements are currently compared to applicable international best practice standards and guidelines. Additionally, EPD has completed a study that includes IAQ assessments in different types of buildings. The results of these assessments will be utilized as a proactive measure and a benchmark to prevent any potential IAQ issues within Aramco buildings. Some of the indoor air quality parameters that were addressed included (but were not limited to) relative humidity, temperature, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, biological aerosols, particulate matters, and selected chemicals. The ultimate goal of this comprehensive study is to develop an IAQ Aramco Engineering Standard, which will act as a reference to prevent poor indoor air quality, mitigate indoor air quality problems, maintain healthy and comfortable environments, and be of use during the design of new buildings or modifications of existing buildings.