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Recommended Action Checklists for Improving Indoor Air Quality in Schools

NOTE: This page contains only a summary of the recommended actions, follow links in the text below for additional detail and explanatory information.

Each recommended action is broadly categorized according to the following codes:

A=School Administrator/Facility Planner
D=Design Team
C=Construction Supervisor
F=Facility Manager


Preliminary Design Phases

See also: Preliminary Design Phases

  Task Code
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Set high performance goals early and include them in your educational specifications. A      
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Minimize the impact of the site. A D    
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Select design team with necessary qualifications and experience with high performance design. A      
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Communicate goals to designers. A D    
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Pursue integrated design. A D    
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Communicate goals to contractors. A D C F
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Monitor construction. A D C  
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Verify goals. A D    
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Train school staff A D   F

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Planning, Programming and Goal Setting

See also: Predesign: Planning, Programming and Goal Setting

  Task Code
form checkbox Establish superior indoor air quality as a design goal for the project in preliminary documents. A D    
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Include requirements for attention to indoor air quality in all appropriate phases of planning, design and construction. A D    

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School Site Selection and Evaluation

See also: Predesign: School Site Selection and Evaluation

  Task Code
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Prior to site acquisition, complete a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment using ASTM Standard Practice E1527-13 A D    
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If preliminary assessment suggests significant potential sources of contamination, conduct a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment using ASTM Standard Practice E1903-11

A D    
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Ensure that soil contamination is cleaned up or avoid site. A D    
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Provide opportunities for participation in the school site acquisition process by school administrators and staff, parents, age-appropriate students and community members. A D    

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Selection of the Architectural and Engineering Team

See also: Predesign: Selection of the Architectural and Engineering Team

  Task Code
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Select a design team with the necessary qualifications for designing a high performance school and include the requirement for a high performance school in the negotiated design services. A      
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Ask prospective design teams to answer key IAQ related questions. A      
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Request and check references to evaluate applicants' track record on health and safety issues, meeting budgets and goals, working with the community and familiarity with materials selection and indoor air quality issues. A      
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Communicate goals to designers. A      

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Controlling Pollutants and Sources

See also: Controlling Pollutants and Sources

Strategies and Processes for Material Selection

  Task Code
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Prioritize sensitive program areas. A D    
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Use product consensus standards.   D    
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Develop specification criteria. A D    
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Obtain MSDS/manufacturer certifications.   D    
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Require field approval for product substitutions. A D    

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Categories of Materials to Consider from an Indoor Air Quality Perspective

See also: Controlling Indoor Sources: Categories of Materials to Consider from an Indoor Air Quality Perspective


Flooring - Carpet

  Task Code
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If carpet is specified, select a carpet, cushion and adhesive that:
  • have been tested and labeled for VOC emissions under the Carpet and Rug Institute's (CRI) IAQ testing programs
  • can be easily cleaned and maintained
  • are constructed to prevent liquids from penetrating the backing layer where moisture under the carpet can result in mold growth
  • can be easily removed without the use of toxic chemicals
  D    
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Where new carpet odor is a concern, require suppliers to unroll and air-outcarpets in a clean, dry warehouse before bringing them into the building. A D   F
form checkbox
Specify the least toxic carpet adhesive system compatible with selected carpet product. Require installer to use the smallest amount of adhesive necessary to fulfill the manufacturer's performance specifications for that product. Alternately, specify tack-down carpet to eliminate gluing.   D    
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Air out space(s) where carpet has been installed for a minimum of 72 hours.   D C F
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In renovations, carpet installation should occur only when the school building is not in use.     C F
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Do not install carpet near water fountains, sinks, showers, pools, or other locations where it may get wet.   D C  
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Follow recommendations from the Carpet and Rug Institute Exit for installation (CRI 104-- Standard for Installation of Commercial Carpet).     C  
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Follow the carpet manufacturer's maintenance recommendations to protect the carpet warranties.     C F
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All spills must be cleaned up immediately and thoroughly. If carpet becomes saturated with a clean water spill, extract the moisture and be sure the carpet is dry within 24 hours. Spills of other liquids require immediate extraction and spot cleaning as well as drying within 24 hours.     C F

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Resilient Flooring

  Task Code
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Specify low-VOC adhesives and coatings to minimize the indoor air pollution load and health risks to both installers and occupants.   D    
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Ask for manufacturer's emissions data to aid in selection.   D    
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Require installer to use the smallest amount of adhesive necessary to fulfill the manufacturer's performance specifications for that product. (Note: In some applications, interlocked rubber tiles and heavy linoleum can be laid without adhesive.)   D C  
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Air out space(s) where resilient flooring has been installed for a minimum of 72 hours.   D C F

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Walls and Ceiling Materials

  Task Code
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Select formaldehyde-free acoustical ceiling and wall systems with recycled-content.   D    
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Where feasible, sequence work to avoid applying VOC-containing materials in spaces with exposed acoustical surfaces.   D C F
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Require adequate ventilation during installation of finish materials that emit indoor pollutants.   D C F
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Consult with the manufacturer before painting/coating any acoustical material. With most ceiling tiles, for example, the material loses its acoustical properties once it has been painted.   D C F
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Coordinate placement of lighting fixtures and other equipment in ceilings to provide clear access for inspection and servicing of HVAC system air filters and other components.   D C  
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Remove and discard any wetted ceiling tiles from the site immediately to avoid mold contamination.     C F
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Avoid using ceiling tile and sprayed-on ceiling finishes containing asbestos or formaldehyde.   D C  

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Paints and Coatings

  Task Code
form checkbox
Specify least toxic, formaldehyde-free, zero-VOC or low-VOC paint that meets durability and other performance requirements.   D    
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Specify products containing no lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium or cadmium. Though regulations have nearly eliminated many toxic components from consumer paint lines, industrial and commercial paints may still contain them. Check the MSDSs.   D    
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Specify isolation requirements (isolation of construction zones from completed zones to prevent cross-contamination; removal, coverage, or isolation of porous materials to avoid adsorption and subsequent re-emission of solvents, maintaining negative ventilation in construction areas). When sanding dried paint, a dust mask should be worn.   D C  
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Review recommended duration between paint application and occupancy and review for compatibility with maintenance schedules/requirements.   D C F
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When possible, schedule work during unoccupied periods or periods of least occupancy. Large projects should be scheduled during the summer vacation months or other breaks. The maintenance schedule should also factor in manufacturer recommended air temperatures for application. A D C F
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Where possible, perform painting and stripping off-site or select materials with factory-applied finishes.     C F
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For on-site interior painting, cover surfaces (e.g., with plastic sheeting), such as fabric-covered furnishings, that may adsorb VOCs. Specify sequence of installation so that painting and other "wet" applications occur before installation of "fleecy" materials.     C F
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Consider constructing barriers (for example, walls or curtains of plastic sheeting) to help isolate portions of larger areas and minimize the distribution of dust and other pollutants.     C F
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Wipe down all surfaces with a wet cloth as soon as practical after completing all dust-generating work typically associated with surface preparation.     C F
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Carefully observe manufacturers recommendation for cleanup, storage and disposal, for paints, primers and thinners. (Note: Some products are classified as "flammable liquids" under federal regulations and must be stored in a specifically constructed safety cabinet.)     C F
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Keep paint containers covered as much as possible during and following use to protect against VOC release.     C F

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Adhesives and Sealants

  Task Code
form checkbox
Avoid using solvent-based products, which include butyls and urethanes, indoors. Low VOC, low-toxic water-based, formulations are now available for many applications.   D C F
form checkbox
Specify the least toxic/lowest VOC product suitable for the application and require installer to use the smallest amount of adhesive necessary to fulfill the manufacturer's performance specifications for that product.   D    

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Engineered Wood Products

  Task Code
form checkbox
Use low VOC, low-toxic water-based, formulations which are now available for many applications.   D C F
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Specify the least toxic/lowest VOC product suitable for the application and require the installer to use the smallest amount of adhesive necessary to fulfill the manufacturer's performance specifications for that product.   D    

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Installation Sequencing

  Task Code
form checkbox
Specify air exchange rates and proper air filtration procedures for the ventilation system in construction documents to ensure that whenever possible, any necessary off-gasing from Type One materials is dissipated before Type Two materials are installed.   D    
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Require the contractor to properly clean all duct work and replace all air filters before building occupancy.   D C  

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Preventing the Entry of Pollutants from Outside the Building

See also: Controlling Indoor Sources: Categories of Materials to Consider from an Indoor Air Quality Perspective


Radon Barriers

  Task Code

form checkbox
Install 4 inches of 1/2 to 1 inch clean aggregate and a vapor barrier under all slab areas.   D C  
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Install one centrally located sump pit per 100,000 square feet of earth-contact floor area   D C  
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Install a 6 inch PVC vent pipe from the sump pit to the roof.   D C  
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Install a 120VAC, 15A weatherproof junction box on the roof next to the 6 inch vent pipe, to permit installation of a fan to vent soil gas if post-construction testing finds elevated radon levels.   D C  
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Seal all major slab openings, cracks, or penetrations with polyurethane sealant   D C  
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Make post-construction radon measurements using EPA's Radon Measurement in Schools Protocol (EPA-402-R-92-014). A   C F

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Sewer Gas Barriers - Drain Traps

  Task Code
form checkbox
Install automatic drain trap primers, available from several major manufacturers, in all floor drains to ensure that a small amount of water is periodically delivered to the trap, preventing the trap from drying out.   D C  

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Sewer Vents

  Task Code
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Make sure sewer vents are not located where gases can be pulled back into the building or install an air admittance valve.   D C  

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Entry Mat Barriers

  Task Code
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The entry mat system should be at least 20 feet long and as wide as the entry doors and employ three different types of matting.   D C  
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All mats should have anti-slip backings or other locking mechanisms to reduce sliding and tripping hazards.   D C  
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Since daily cleaning will be required, the ease of cleaning should be considered during selection.   D C  

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Shell Penetration Barriers

  Task Code
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Seal all openings in walls, floors and ceilings that separate conditioned space (heated or cooled) from unconditioned space.   D C  

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Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC)

See also: Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC)

Codes and Standards

  Task Code
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Design in accordance with ASHRAE standards A D    
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Ensure familiarity with and adherence to all state and local building codes and standards. A D C  

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Potential for Natural Ventilation and Operable Windows

  Task Code
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Designers should consider the use of natural ventilation and operable windows to supplement mechanical ventilation.   D    
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If operable windows will be used to supplement the HVAC system, ensure that: 
  • openings for outdoor air are located between 3-6 feet from the floor (head height);
  • the windows are adjustable and can close tightly and securely;
  • they are placed to take maximum advantage of wind direction, with openings on opposite sides of the building to maximize cross-ventilation;
  • consider outdoor sources of pollutants (including building exhausts) and noise when determining if and where to provide operable windows;
  • avoid placing operable windows near building exhaust openings.
  D    

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Selection of HVAC Equipment

  Task Code
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Where feasible, utilize central HVAC air handling units that serve multiple rooms in lieu of unit ventilators or individual heat pumps.   D    
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Specify IAQ compatible features for all air handling units.   D    

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Energy Recovery Ventilation

  Task Code
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Consider specifying energy recovery ventilation equipment. A D    

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Location of Outdoor Air Intakes and Exhaust

  Task Code
form checkbox
Locate outdoor air intakes away from pollutant sources and prevent blockage.   D C  
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Intakes should not be placed within 25 feet of any potential sources of air contaminants, including sewer vents, exhaust air from the school, loading docks, bus loading areas, garbage receptacles, boiler or generator exhausts and mist from cooling towers.   D C  
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Grilles protecting air intakes should be bird- and rodent-proofed to prevent perching, roosting and nesting.   D C F
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Intake Screens must be accessible for inspection and cleaning.   D C F
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Consider adding a section of sloped intake plenum that causes moisture to flow to the outside or to a drain if intake grilles are not designed to completely eliminate the intake of rain or snow.   D C  

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Outdoor Air Quantity - Air Filtration

  Task Code
form checkbox
Air filters should have a dust-spot rating between 35% and 80% or a Minimum Efficiency Rating Value (MERV) of between 8 and 13.   D    
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Design more filter surface area into ventilation systems.   D    
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Consider installing a simple pressure differential gauge across all filter banks.   D    

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Ventilation Controls - Volume Monitoring and Control

  Task Code
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Specify the addition of a measuring station that actively controls the amount of outdoor airflow by modulating the outdoor air damper and if needed to overcome wind and stack effects, the return (recirculation) damper.   D    

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Moisture and Humidity Control

See also: Moisture and Humidity Control


Air Distribution and Duct Insulation

  Task Code
form checkbox
Pay special attention to preventing moisture from entering duct work.   D C F
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If specifying duct board or internal duct lining for thermal and/or acoustical control, be sure to consider the potential for uncontrolled moisture to enter the duct over the life of the system.  Select products that will minimize the potential for moisture retention in the event of unforeseen moisture contamination of the duct system, such as those with properties that reduce the potential for moisture to penetrate the air stream surface. Ensure that all duct systems are properly fabricated and installed.   D C  
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Degrease sheet metal air ducts.   D C  
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Seal air ducts to prevent HVAC system air leakage.   D C  

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Exhaust Air

  Task Code
form checkbox
Provide exhaust ventilation for janitors closets.   D C  
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Provide exhaust ventilation for copy/work rooms.   D C  
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Provide exhaust ventilation for arts and crafts preparation areas where off-gasing from significant quantities of materials and products may occur.   D C  
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Consider specifying a differential pressure monitor to monitor building pressurization.   D    
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Do not operate exhaust systems when the HVAC system is turned off to avoid bringing in unconditioned moist air that may condense on cooler indoor surfaces.   D C F

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Designing for Efficient Operations and Maintenance

  Task Code
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Ensure that all system components, including air handling units, controls and exhaust fans are easily accessible.   D C F
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Label HVAC system components to facilitate operations and maintenance.   D C F

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Building Materials

  Task Code
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Keep building materials dry during construction.   D C  
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Dry water damaged materials as quickly as possible, preferably within 24 hours.   D C F

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Precipitation Control

  Task Code
form checkbox
Sloped Roof   D C  
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Ground Slope — Ensure that ground next to the building slopes away from the foundation.   D C  
form checkbox
Covered Entries — Ensure that exterior entries have sufficient overhang to prevent rain or snow from being blown into the building, or from large amounts of moisture collecting directly in front of the entry and being tracked into the building.   D C  
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Sloped Intake Plenum — Consider adding a section of sloped intake plenum that causes moisture to flow to the outside or to a drain if intake grilles are not designed to completely eliminate the intake of rain or snow.   D C  

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Building Envelope

  Task Code
form checkbox
To prevent moisture migration, framed walls, floors and roofs should have a vapor barrier on the warm, moist side of the insulation.   D C  
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For floor slabs in immediate contact with the ground, consider installing a 3-6 mil continuous vapor barrier under the slab to prevent moisture entry through the slab.   D C  
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In addition to correctly installing a vapor barrier, it is important to provide adequate ventilation of spaces where moisture can build up.   D C F
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Pay close attention to both the design and proper installation of roof flashing, pan flashing for windows and doors, capillary breaks for footings and other areas where moisture can enter the building envelope.   D C  

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Controlling Moisture in Ventilation Air

  Task Code
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To protect health, comfort, the school building and its contents, it is important that indoor relative humidity be maintained below 60%, ideally between 30% and 50%. A D C F
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Avoid over-sizing the HVAC system, particularly in high humidity climates.   D    
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Consider specifying energy recovery ventilation equipment. A D    
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If humidification equipment is installed in very dry climates, care must be taken to avoid microbiological problems associated with excess humidity and to ensure maintenance of humidification equipment. A D   F

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Summer Breaks and Humidity Control

  Task Code
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Consider cycling the air conditioning system (if present) several hours every day to reduce indoor moisture, or run portable de-humidifiers. A     F
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Consider establishing policies that moisture generating activities (e.g., carpet cleaning) not be conducted in the summer in humid climates unless air conditioning or other moisture removing equipment is available. A     F
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Consider manual thermostat overrides.   D    
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Consider CO2 sensors in each zone to control outdoor air dampers during summer periods when occupancy may be intermittent.   D    

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Condensation

  Task Code
form checkbox
Fully insulate all cold water pipes and fittings and condensate drain pipes, with appropriate insulation (see discussion of duct insulation under HVAC--Air Distribution). There should not be any gaps or unsealed seams in the insulation and all fittings, including valve stems, should be insulated.   D C  
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Fully insulate all cold refrigerant lines similar to cold water pipes.   D C  
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Fully insulate cold-air supply ducts.   D C  
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Minimize thermal bridging in the building shell.   D C  
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If renovating, add appropriate levels of insulation to prevent cool interior surfaces of windows, walls, ceilings and floors.   D C  
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Specify windows and doors with frames and spacers around edges that have thermal breaks.   D    

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Construction

See also Construction


IAQ Management During Construction Planning

  Task Code
form checkbox
Incorporate indoor air quality goals into the bid and construction documents. A D    
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Ensure that all members of the project team are knowledgeable about indoor quality issues and have defined responsibilities for implementation of good indoor air quality practices. A D C F
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Require the development and use of an indoor air quality management plan. A D C F
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Conduct regular inspection and maintenance of indoor air quality measures including ventilation system protection and ventilation rate. A D C F
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Conduct safety meetings, develop signage and establish subcontractor agreements that communicate the goals of the construction indoor air quality plan. A D C F
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Require contractors to provide information on product substitutions sufficient to enable O&M staff to properly maintain and repair materials in place. A D C F

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Construction Practices

  Task Code
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Keep building materials dry.     C F
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Dry water damaged materials quickly.     C F
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Clean spills immediately.     C F
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Seal unnecessary openings.     C F
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Temporarily seal duct-work.     C F
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Ventilate when needed.     C F
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During installation of carpet, paints, furnishings and other VOC-emitting products, provide supplemental (spot) ventilation for at least 72 hours after work is completed. A D C F
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Require VOC-safe masks for workers installing VOC-emitting products (interior and exterior).     C F
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Reduce construction dust.     C F
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Use wet sanding for gypsum board assemblies. Exception     C F
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Avoid use of combustion equipment indoors.     C F
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Store liquids outdoors.      C F
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Use less toxic cleaning agents.     C F
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Consider a building flush-out at the end of the construction process and before occupancy. A D C F

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Commissioning

See also: Commissioning

  Task Code
form checkbox
Commission key building systems. A D C F

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Operations and Maintenance

See also: Operations and Maintenance

  Task Code
form checkbox
Obtain, adapt as needed and implement EPA's Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program Tool Kit. A D   F
form checkbox
Require that an "Owners Manual" be developed and maintained at the school that contains all of the information needed to maintain the school and its equipment. A D   F
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Ensure that "as-built" blueprints and/or drawings are provided and maintained as building modifications occur. A D C F
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Provide training to school staff appropriate to their roles. A D   F
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Establish and implement a cleaning program. A     F
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Establish and implement an Integrated Pest Management plan. A     F

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Renovation and Repair

See also: Renovation and Repair

Techniques for Protecting Occupants from Renovation Pollutants

  Task Code
form checkbox
Before performing any demolition, check for lead-based paints and asbestos. A D C F
form checkbox
When possible, perform work at times when the occupants are not in the building, such as vacation breaks, weekends, or evenings. A D C F
form checkbox
Keep building occupants as far from renovation activities as possible. The further the distance between pollutants and occupants, the less concentrated the pollutants will be upon reaching the occupants. A D C F
form checkbox
Install temporary barriers such as plastic walls to seal the work areas from the occupied areas. Cover all supply and return air grilles if the HVAC system in the renovation area also serves occupied areas so that the air ducts will not spread pollutants to occupied area. Exhaust air from the construction area so that pollutants cannot flow from the construction area to the occupied areas.   D C F
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When possible, keep pollutants confined to as small an area as reasonably possible, rather than allow them to spread to larger areas.   D C F
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At least daily, construction debris, dust and scraps should be adequately cleaned up so that there is less chance that these pollutants will enter occupied areas.   D C F

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Portable Classrooms

See also: Portable Classrooms


Specifying New Portable Classrooms

  Task Code
form checkbox
When specifying a new portable classroom, ensure that the HVAC system can: (a) provide a minimum of 450 cfm of outside air (based on 30 occupants at 15 cfm/occupant); and (b) heat and cool this outdoor air at design outdoor temperatures for the specific geographic location where each classroom is installed. A D    
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Some manufacturers of portable units do not include outdoor air intakes in their standard classroom models. It is important that an additional "outdoor air kit" be ordered for this purpose. Further, installation of an outdoor air intake must be specified as part of the exhaust system. A D    
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Outdoor air should be supplied continuously when a classroom is occupied. A D   F
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Air filters are needed for protection of HVAC components and reduction of airborne dust, pollens and microorganism from recirculated and outdoor air streams.  Air filters should have a dust-spot rating between 35% and 80% or a Minimum Efficiency Rating Value (MERV) of between 8 and 13.   D C F
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When carpets are specified, use carpets that have been tested under the Carpet and Rug Institute's Indoor Air Quality Carpet Testing Program. A D    
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Locate classroom away from locations where: (a) vehicles idle, (b) water accumulates after rains or (c) there are other major sources of air pollution.   D    
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Ensure that at least one supply air outlet and return air inlet are located in each enclosed area.   D    
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Ensure that building air intakes are located away from any exhaust outlet(s) or other contaminant sources.   D C  
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Specify operable windows to provide user-controlled ventilation when needed. A D    
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Consider covered entries with an exterior entry mat.   D C  
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Do not use carpet in entryways to classrooms with direct outdoor access. Supply waterproof mats over carpeted entryways for drying of clothing and umbrellas.   D C  
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Check that special-use classrooms (e.g., for chemistry, biology, fine arts, etc.) have local exhaust ventilation (e.g., hoods or window fans) and appropriate ventilation rates.   D C  
form checkbox
Locate HVAC and air handler units as far away as possible from teaching areas to reduce noise.   D C  
form checkbox
If specifying duct board or internal duct lining for thermal and/or acoustical control, be sure to consider the potential for uncontrolled moisture to enter the duct over the life of the system.  Select products that will minimize the potential for moisture retention in the event of unforeseen moisture contamination of the duct system, such as those with properties that reduce the potential for moisture to penetrate the air stream surface. Ensure that all duct systems are properly fabricated and installed.   D    
form checkbox
Ensure that HVAC ducts and plenums have easy access for inspection and cleaning.   D    
form checkbox
Specify that low VOC emitting building materials be used in construction. A D    
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Specify complete documentation of operation and maintenance requirements. A D   F

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Commissioning Portable Classrooms

  Task Code
form checkbox
Prior to use of any new portable units by staff or students, operate HVAC systems at their maximum outdoor air intake rate continuously for several days. Start the "flush out" as soon as the HVAC system is operational and continue after furniture installation. During this period, do not recirculate return air.  In humid climates, use conditioned air to avoid introducing significant amounts moisture during the flush out.   D C F
form checkbox
Measure the amount of outdoor air entering the outdoor air intake of the HVAC unit to ensure it meets or exceeds the amount specified or 15 cfm per person, whichever is greater.   D C F
form checkbox
Do not "bake-out" the unit. "Bake-out" is defined as increasing temperatures up to 100F in order to "artificially age" building materials. It's effectiveness has not been proven and it may in fact damage parts of the HVAC system or building components.   D C F
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Continue "flush-out" ventilation during periods of first use.   D C F
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Establish an Integrated Pest Management plan. A D C F

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Operations and Maintenance of Portable Classrooms

  Task Code
form checkbox
Provide training on operation and maintenance of new HVAC equipment to appropriate staff. Be certain that operation and maintenance documentation is kept readily accessible to staff servicing the system. A D   F
form checkbox
Allocate sufficient staff time and funds for maintenance. A     F
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Instruct teachers and staff on proper use and settings of thermostat and ventilation controls — provide each classroom with hardcopy (plastic-covered) instruction sheets.       F
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Establish a regular and timely plan for inspecting and performing specific maintenance tasks: Inspect roofs, ceilings, walls, floor and carpet for evidence of water leakage or intrusions and for mold growth or odor. Replace water damaged materials promptly. A     F

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