FORT MYERS, Fla. - The United Way staff of Lee County is breathing easier, thanks to a recent indoor air quality (IAQ) makeover of its community center.

The building was once a juvenile correction facility in the 1950s. At the urging of a long-time, valued employee struggling with extreme allergies and sensitivity, the building was evaluated for possible allergens and additional IAQ problems.

Fred Kobie of Kobie Kooling, a certified mold inspector and IAQ specialist based in Fort Myers, diagnosed the problems and customized a solution for the United Way of Lee County.

"My first step in the IAQ investigation was conducting employee interviews at United Way to determine possible problems and setting up the AirAdvice monitors in various places without the employees knowing what they were," said Kobie. He used Lennox's IAQ JumpStart program.

"The highly accurate printed reports generated from these monitors made it easy for everyone to understand there were significant volatile organic compound [VOC] levels, which we traced back to new carpeting glued to concrete and excessive copier toner from all-day use in a poorly ventilated room," said Kobie.

"Smoke from the designated smoking area was also trickling into the rest of the building." This is a problem for which solutions also have been spelled out in the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 62.1-2004, "Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality."

Airing Out

The three solutions that were proposed included air cleaning, natural and mechanical ventilation strategies, and humidity control.

1. Three PureAirâ„¢ systems were installed in the building.

"Fresh air make-up was a problem," said Kobie. "It was not easy to get air from outside the building anywhere, but we needed to eradicate the VOCs to help correct problems." The PureAir units help clean the air of dirt, dust, pollen, chemicals, bacteria, and viruses.

2. Employees were educated on the importance of ventilating the building as much as possible.

"We taught employees a little about air saturation," said Kobie. "We showed them which doors to open in the mornings to introduce fresh air into rooms.

"We also put an air return over the copier to provide some ventilation from the harmful chemicals," he said. "Basic housekeeping habits were also addressed to help keep the indoor environment clean."

3. Humidity problems were addressed that had been aggravated by the building's existing ventilation system. A new temperature-humidity controller was installed; it created a specific relay to manipulate the air handler. As a result, temperature and humidity are controlled through the SignatureStatâ„¢, basically a residential product that can be used in light commercial applications.

"The SignatureStat home comfort control lets the staff adjust the relative humidity in the building to their specific comfort needs," said Kobie.

"It responds to changes inside and outside to maintain desired humidity levels. Proper humidity levels make the environment more comfortable, help protect wood furnishings, and help prevent condensation on windows and walls."

All's Well

John Joy, facilities and IT manager of Lee County United Way, said he enjoys increased peace of mind. "To keep humidity low [before], we overcooled the building, often making it too cold. Now I just program the SignatureStat, and it keeps the building at an even temperature and humidity level.

"With the cost of implementing the IAQ products, it would have been harder to justify if we hadn't seen the printed IAQ reports from the AirAdvice monitor," he added.

"Being able to see exactly what the air quality problems were allowed us to fix them accurately."

Publication date: 04/25/2005