The Complete Guide to Indoor Air Quality Standards

Did you know that 90% of the global population breathe in highly polluted air? These people live in areas with excessive levels of fine particulate matter (PM). PM, in turn, is a mixture of tiny solid and liquid matter classified as dangerous air pollutants.

The thing is, PM can enter buildings through people, structural gaps, and ventilation. In fact, about two-thirds of the dust you find inside your home consists of particles from outside.

All that should be enough to prompt you to learn more about indoor air quality standards. The better a home or an office’s indoor air quality (IAQ) is, the safer and healthier its occupants can be.

To that end, we created this guide on how meeting IAQ standards can help keep indoor air pollution at bay. Read on to discover the indoor air basics all building property owners should know.

Air within the home and commercial buildings should be safe and breathable. Here are the basics about indoor air quality standards.

What Is Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is the quality of air within a building, be it a home or a commercial property. It relates to how indoor air can affect the health and comfort of a building’s occupants. Do note that scientists have found strong links between poor IAQ and impaired health.

Poor IAQ is a result of indoor air contamination due to both indoor and outdoor pollutants. Indoor pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), result from indoor activities. VOCs can come from products like paints, pesticides, and even cosmetics.

Many other indoor pollutants also exist outdoors, such as carbon monoxide. The EPA lists at least 13 indoor air pollutants that are present in outdoor air, too.

So, What Then Are Indoor Air Quality Standards?

IAQ standards are requirements meant to maintain clean, fresh air inside buildings. Their establishment helps protect building occupants from possible indoor air pollution health hazards.

However, the US doesn’t have general or specific federal laws on indoor air quality issues. What it does have are federal agencies and programs that deal with indoor air pollution.

An example is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) non-regulatory IAQ program. The EPA doesn’t regulate indoor air quality, but it does offer help and guidance in improving IAQ.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) doesn’t have specific IAQ standards, either. However, OSHA implements ventilation standards that can help address IAQ issues. It also regulates some air contaminants that may cause or contribute to IAQ problems.

Building codes in the US also touch on some aspects of indoor air quality. An example is the ASHRAE Standard 62.1 and 62.2.

Those ASHRAE standards specifically deal with Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality. The 62.1 Standard is for commercial and institutional buildings, while 62.2 is for homes.

Some states have also enacted IAQ laws for homes and commercial buildings. For instance, California enforces about two dozen codes related to indoor air quality. These cover homes, schools, commercial properties, and public structures.

IAQ-Related Standards for Businesses

If you’re a business owner, be sure to check if your state and local government have IAQ standards. At the very least, you’d need to comply with OSHA regulations and building codes.

Here are a few standards concerning IAQ in office buildings.

OSHA Standards

OSHA’s ventilation standards apply to the general industry, maritime, and construction sectors. For starters, it warrants the use of exhaust ventilation systems. These are devices that effectively remove indoor contaminated air.

Standards Based on ASHRAE Guidelines

Aside from the 62.1 Standard, there’s also the ASHRAE Indoor Air Quality Design Guide. It lists the best IAQ practices that professionals, such as architects, can adopt.

ASHRAE also recommends offices maintain carbon dioxide (CO2) levels below 800 ppm. This is part of its Standard 62.1 that many states have adopted and now refer to. You can install CO2 monitors to determine how high (or low) CO2 levels are in your office building.

There’s also the ANSI/ASHRAE/ACCA Standard 180, which covers equipment maintenance. It provides a guideline on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system maintenance. Following this helps keep your ventilation system effective in reducing indoor CO2 concentrations.

Besides, according to Schneider Mechanical, HVAC maintenance is key to preventing system breakdowns. In this way, it also helps keep your office’s indoor climate comfortable at all times.

Additional IAQ Guidelines

Since most IAQ standards don’t apply to homes, experts instead provide IAQ guidelines. You can also use these to improve IAQ in your office building.  

As guidelines, they are recommendations, not rules, for protecting IAQ in buildings. They’re still helpful, though, as their roots trace back to existing IAQ standards.

Let Some Outdoor Air In

So long as it’s safe to do so, open windows and doors to allow some outdoor air to flow indoors. This can help boost ventilation, which, in turn, reduces the amount of polluted indoor air. Check your location’s air quality data via AirNow to ensure your outdoor air is safe.

Keep HVAC Filters Efficient

Your HVAC system has built-in air filters that capture airborne particles. Its main purpose is to protect your HVAC unit from dirt, debris, and residue build-up. In the process, though, it also helps clean the air circulating inside your building.

For that reason, you need to replace or wash HVAC filters as soon as they show signs of build-up. In a typical US house, this can be once every month or two. Offices or larger buildings often require more frequent filter changes or washing.

Enhance Indoor Air Filtration

You should also consider supplementing your HVAC filters with HEPA fans or filters. HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. There are portable HEPA fans and air cleaners that you can set up in higher-traffic areas in the office.

Set Smoking Restrictions

About 22,710 US municipalities enforce a 100% smoke-free provision in non-hospitality workplaces. In some of these areas, the same laws apply to restaurants and bars.

A strict non-smoking policy is crucial to keeping optimal IAQ levels. However, business owners may still designate an outdoor smoking area.

At home, make sure to set rules that prohibit smoking indoors. If someone does smoke in your household, have them smoke outside.

Everyone Deserves Clean, Fresh Air

There you have it, your ultimate guide on indoor air quality standards and guidelines. As you can see, their main purpose is to ensure everyone can breathe in clean, safe air. So, whether it’s the IAQ in your home or at work, make sure you abide by these rules or, at least, follow the guidelines.

Ready for more health and safety tips for your home or business? Feel free to dig through this site for more educational posts like this!

Author: SHABL

Rob has been traveling the world and living abroad for over a decade. The goal was to stop having a boring life and it turned into something far greater. He's worked with national tourism boards and been mentioned in National Geographic. These days he lives abroad and loves business, technology, the tropical lifestyle, good food and travel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *