According to the EPA, there are four potential causes of indoor air quality (IAQ) problems during renovation and repairs:
- Demolition that releases mold or toxic materials (lead-contaminated debris and asbestos fibers).
- Construction dust (from wood, sheetrock and cement) and fumes (from either construction equipment or toxic products like paints, glues, sealers and roofing tar).
- Designs that interfere with ventilation (changes in ductwork or constructing walls that separate air intakes from exhausts).
- Off-gassing from building materials and new products (carpets, particle board and plywood).
These IAQ problems pose health hazards for students and school staff. Children, pregnant women and occupants with chronic illnesses or impaired immune systems are at higher risk from exposures that occur during school renovations.
Renovation plans should include procedures for protecting school occupants from potential exposures while the work is being done. Students and staff should be isolated from any dust or fumes generated during renovation work. This can be done by temporarily relocating people away from problem areas. Plastic sheeting and portable fans can be used to prevent dust and fumes from reaching school occupants through hallways, doors, windows and the ventilation system.
During renovation periods, increased housekeeping practices may be needed, not only for the renovated area, but also in the rest of the school. Contractors should be required to perform daily clean up using HEPA vacuums or damp mopping floors and wet wiping other surfaces. All debris should be disposed of off site on a daily basis, or secured away from building occupants.
To further protect school occupants from toxic exposures, no combustion equipment should be used indoors. Areas where hazardous operations are being done should be well ventilated. Chemical products should be stored safely and securely away from building occupants. Only the least toxic products should be used.
When the project is complete, the renovated area should be thoroughly cleaned twice, once with plastic sheeting in place and again after the plastic has been removed. Both cleanings should include removing any debris, HEPA vacuuming, damp mopping and wet wiping. Any air supply and return vents that were closed during renovations should be reopened. The ventilation system should be re-evaluated and reconfigured if the original lay out of the space has been changed. Areas where new flooring has been installed or where toxic products have been used (adhesives, caulking, paints, stains, etc.) should be ventilated for 24 hours a day for three days before school occupants are allowed to re-enter the area.
Summary of CT LAWS dealing with school renovations:
CT INDOOR AIR QUALITY IN SCHOOLS LAW (CT General Statutes Section Nos. 10-220 (a) and (d), 10-282 (19), 10-283 (b), 10-286 (a) (9) and ( c) (2), 10-291, 10-231 e and f )
For schools being constructed, extended or replaced:
- Requires a Phase I environmental site assessment.
- Requires the State Department of Education to deny approval of a school building project if:
- The site is in an area of moderate or high radon potential, unless construction techniques mitigate radon levels.
- New or replacement roofs do not have the required pitch and guarantees on materials and workmanship or are not built following correct construction practices.
- SMACNA or similar IAQ guidelines for construction during occupancy are not followed.
- The building maintenance staff is not trained in plant operation, including HVAC systems and IAQ issues.
- Increasesthe maximum square footage per pupil limit for grant purposes by up to 1% to accommodate the HVAC system.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Question: Has your school encountered any renovation-related problems?
Answer: Our school had problems with re-roofing projects two tears in a row. In the first instance, roofers were using forklifts to scrap off the old roofing materials while final exams were being given in the classrooms below them. The next year, roofing tar was used while school was in session and several students ended up in the hospital because of the fumes.
Our school district found some serious ventilation problems after renovation projects had occurred. One wing in an elementary school was missing all the ductwork for the exhaust ventilation system. In the high school, the science and computer wings were renovated so that air vents ended up between new dropped ceilings and the original ceilings, allowing for no ventilation in these areas. In the Metal Shop at the high school, the welding hood exhaust was vented into the hallway of the math/shop wing instead of outside. These problems were found many years after the renovations had been completed and cost thousands of dollars to fix.
CT DPH Guidance Document Guidelines for Alteration, Renovation, or Construction Activities in Occupied Buildings:
CT DPH Lead-Based Paint in Schools: Maintenance & Renovation Work Fact Sheet:
CT DPHSchool Re-roofing and Health Fact Sheet:
EPA IAQ Design Tools for Schools- Renovations and Repairs:
EPA Tools for Schools Renovation and Repairs Backgrounder:
EPA Tools for Schools Renovation and Repairs Checklist:
Healthy Schools Network, Inc. School Renovation and Construction: What You Need to Know to Protect Child and Adult Environmental Health:
NIOSH Good Practice Guidelines for Maintaining Acceptable Indoor Environmental Quality During Construction and Renovation Projects: