State of Washington IAQ Program
Product emissions testing
Further testing of products
In the early 1980s, one of Washington State's office buildings fell victim to sick building syndrome, also called building-related symptoms. After numerous corrective measures failed, the structure was turned into a warehouse. Because of this incident and the awareness of other indoor air issues in additional state buildings, the state's Department of General Administration recognized indoor air quality (IAQ) as a primary concern. As it began to plan for construction of four new office buildings for the Capitol Campus in Olympia and the surrounding area, the state incorporated IAQ guidelines into the buildings and designs to ensure creation of healthy and productive environments for its employees. This was the first state initiated program to ensure the design of buildings with acceptable indoor air quality. Air Quality Sciences (AQS) consulted with the state in the design and implementation of the program.
These IAQ guidelines were written into the design and construction specifications for the buildings and were known as the "IAQ Program." Two basic components addressed in the specifications included ventilation and pollutant source control. Ventilation specifications were based on the ASHRAE/ANSI Standard 62-1989, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality, and 20 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of outside air per building occupant were required. The design specification included a provision for providing this outside air level even if occupancy increased 100 percent over that initially expected. The ventilation system had other design features directed toward improving the indoor environment. One of these was the requirement of a 90-day, continuous building flush out with 100 percent outside air before building occupancy.
For pollutant source control, the specifications required the use of "low-emitting" construction materials, interior finishes and furnishings in the construction and furnishing of the building. Pollutant specifications were made for general construction materials, systems office furniture, seating, and carpet. Contaminant specifications required that each product not contribute more than the following levels of pollutants to the building air:
Additionally, those individual volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found to be emitted by the products and known to be carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins, or compounds that emit greater than 1/10th of the threshold limit values (TLVs) had to be reported, along with their levels. Manufacturers were given the opportunity to remove these from their products or to ensure that levels were below health concerns.
Product Emissions Testing
In order to meet these specifications, manufacturers were required to test their products' emissions using environmental chamber methodology following the testing guidelines of ASTM D-5116 and EPA Report 6000/8-89-074 (ASTM, 1990; EPA, 1989). Using specific building assumptions supplied by the state, a computer exposure model was used for predictions of the contaminated concentrations that would result in the building for use of the specified product. Product compliance sheets were required from the manufacturers indicating product compliance or non-compliance with the pollutant specifications. If a product required a period of conditioning or "airing-out" before it could meet the specification, the manufacturer was asked to supply this information. It was necessary for all products to meet these specifications within 30 days after installation.
In May, 1992, the Natural Resources Building (NRB), the second of the state office buildings designed and constructed under the IAQ program, was completed. This six-story, $73 million, 352,320 square foot building on the Olympia Capitol Campus with 1,300 parking stalls, was built to consolidate and house employees among the state's departments of Fisheries, Forestry, and Agriculture. A 90-day flush out of the building with 100 percent outside air began upon building completion, after which normal HVAC operation began. Before the start of the flush out, all interior finishes and furnishings were in place with the exception of the modular office furniture. Modular furniture was installed during the first 60 days of the building flush-out period.
As a cooperative project involving the State of Washington (SOW) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a pilot study was undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of Washington State's IAQ construction program in meeting its goal of ensuring good indoor air quality in office buildings. This study, which was conducted by AQS, evaluated the impact of using low-emitting materials, furnishings, specialized building design, and preparation techniques on the indoor air quality. Pollutant monitoring was conducted in the building and source emissions data was evaluated relative to the pollutant emissions information obtained form the manufacturers.
Further Testing of Products
The data showed that the process worked. Within 30 days of initial furniture installation, the indoor formaldehyde and VOC levels were found to be acceptable. Studies showed that construction materials and furnishings contributed to most of the chemicals in the building. The use of qualified, low-emitting products and appropriate installation techniques resulted in low, acceptable indoor pollutant levels.
Because of the success of this program, other states and construction projects continue to adopt the SOW pollutant control program. The EPA adopted similar emissions criteria and test methodology for their Headquarters construction project. These specifications are now used by the EPA in most of its own facilities for materials and building management.
To meet these specifications, products must contribute less than the following pollutant levels to the building air within one week of installation:
0.50 mg/m3 (500 µg/m3) TVOC
0.05 ppm (50 ppb) formaldehyde
0.05 mg/m3 particles
6.5 µg/m3 4-phenylcyclohexene (for carpet only)
More than 100 different products were tested for their chemical and particle releases in the air. Data from the natural Resources Building, the first to be completed, showed that the majority of chemicals found in the building air originated form the products used to construct and furnish the building. However, the data showed very low levels as expected from the selective use of low-emitting products.
Today, the State of Washington product specifications are included in many state and building project requirements. To find out if a product meets these specifications, products are tested for their chemical and particle emissions following ASTM D 5116. The results are then entered into an exposure model, which helps predict indoor air concentrations in buildings based on these emissions data. The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, a third party independent organization that certifies low-emitting materials, tests products using stringent environmental chamber techniques to ensure they meet these low-emitting specifications. Click here to find a listing of products currently meeting the low-emitting pollutant requirements.