LIVONIA, Mich. — Guardian Environmental Services (GES) gets in on the ground floor by establishing early relationships with its commercial building customers, even to the point of organizing and managing the construction project from start to finish.

The company then takes over maintenance of the hvac system.

According to Tom Barker, vice president, this allows GES and its technicians to be familiar with the building and its history — making servicing and troubleshooting easier — as well as forming a lasting relationship with building owners.

Another way the company solidifies relationships with customers is by forming its technicians into geographical groups. Each group has a lead technician who coordinates service in their particular area.

This leads to the same tech servicing a site again and again, something that building owners can appreciate. It also helps to make certain that a strict filter-changing and maintenance schedule is followed.

GES is a full-service mechanical contracting company founded in 1984 by John C. Philbin and Tony D’Ascenzo, to service commercial hvac equipment. It is a sister company to Guardian Plumbing and Heating, which began in the early 1960s.

GES was formed to specialize in commercial hvac, offering maintenance contracts and project management for construction of new facilities.

Promoting Good IAQ

Many commercial customers are asking themselves: What are the legal ramifications if an employee has been complaining of feeling sick after being in their office all day, and nothing has been done to address the complaint?

GES hosted a half-day IAQ seminar in April, featuring speakers Jon Dattilo, Clean Air Management, Plymouth, Mich.; Tom Barker from GES; Tim Hebert, ASCS, Sani-Vac Service, Inc., Warren, Mich.; and attorneys Dan King and Mike Wachsberg of Pedersen, Keenan, King, Wachsberg & Andrzejak, who spoke about regulation and compliance.

Covered were basic IAQ issues and answers, managing and monitoring indoor air, and issues surrounding the ductwork needed to deliver clean air.

Why sponsor a free seminar?

“We see IAQ as being very important and regulations will be an issue,” said Barker. “People need to be educated and the way to do that is to have a seminar.”

If one employee in a building complains, others will follow, resulting in lost time, lower production, and perhaps even a lawsuit, he said.

Hvac, IAQ Attitudes

The first place that people look when something is wrong in a building is the hvac system.

Even if the problem is not caused by the system, it is quite likely that it is distributed by the system as it circulates air throughout the building.

A big problem identified by Barker is the attitude of building owners toward IAQ and hvac. A company will make a huge investment in new hvac equipment, but will not want to pay to maintain it.

Barker suggests treating a new hvac system the same way as a new car, caring for and maintaining it.

He cautions building owners that when the hvac system breaks down, they can’t simply call a cab to get going again. They will lose money as employees slow down — or even leave, if building conditions are extreme.

Filtering Solutions

GES loves to look for and find problems in a building’s hvac system. The company is often called into buildings to find a problem that others have not been able to nail down, said Barker.

The technicians will go in, give an honest evaluation of the problem, and offer innovative solutions. Often, Barker says, GES does not perform the repair work, but merely acts as the problem locator and identifier.

Recently, at a corporate headquarters office building in Flat Rock, Mich. — located adjacent to several industrial process buildings and a railroad yard — the customer complained that the inside of the building was very dusty and that dirt was accumulating around supply air diffusers and ceiling tiles.

GES assessed the situation and found that the common fiberglass filters the facility was using were unable to trap the airborne dust, so it was continuously recycled throughout the building. After having the ductwork cleaned, the contractor changed the building over to high-E pleated filters, then fabricated and installed some bypass guards to prevent unfiltered air from bypassing the filters.

Not only was the customer pleased with the hygiene of the building, said Barker, but they quickly noticed that fewer people were complaining of allergies and cold-type symptoms.

In another case where poor filtration was the culprit, unfiltered air was passing through the cooling coils and into the ductwork supply system. The customer’s rooftop air-handling units incorporated individual 24- by 24- by 2-in. pleated filters in a filter rack system.

GES found that the filters were allowing blow-by between the filters.

The solution was changing the filters to a prefilter that was a 1-in., three-ply link (one-piece) filter system with 24- by 24- by 1-in. DL secondary cube main filters.

This new filtration design completely stops the blow-by between the filters because there is one continuous prefilter, leading to a cleaner coil and air distribution system.

Also, the prefilter can be changed independently of the secondary filter, saving money on filters and reducing the contaminants entering the system.

Final Thoughts

Quality air filtration is the first defense in maintaining good IAQ. GES feels that close attention must be paid to not only using the proper filters, but also ensuring that a schedule is maintained for changing or inspecting the filters.

The pressure drop through the air handler can also be monitored to assist the building engineer in maintaining the proper frequency of filter changes. The money spent on these preventive measures more than pays for itself in reducing IAQ problems throughout the facility, and avoiding costly coil and duct cleaning.

Due diligence in reducing airborne microbial contaminants is a necessity for facility managers and owners. Removing microbial contamination is a critical component in a total systems approach to improving IAQ.