Michael Glassco of Theodor Sterling Associates prepares for his seminar on selling IAQ.
TORONTO - Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is a problem that needs to be met head-on by HVAC contractors, according to Michael Glassco, operations manager for Theodor Sterling Associates. Glassco made his comments during his seminar at the recent CMX CIPHEX Show in Toronto.

He noted that most IAQ problems cause Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), which is more of a general problem causing people to be sick only when they are in the building; or Building Related Illness (BRI), a specific IAQ problem that can be traced to a specific cause.

"According to industry sources, poor IAQ affects 20 percent to 30 percent of office buildings worldwide," said Glassco. "This has a big impact on absenteeism."

He also noted that North Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors.

Glassco had data, which he called "older," which showed that 36 percent of IAQ problems could be traced to ventilation systems. "Today, IAQ problems have changed dramatically," he said. "Mold and moisture are affecting the building envelope."

He also said that sometimes there is, in fact, nothing wrong with the indoor air. People are conditioned to believe there are problems because they have psychological or physiological bad attitudes when working and automatically blame the IAQ for the problem.


Glassco said that where his business is located, British Columbia, building owners must investigate any IAQ complaints. He noted that one complaint can often be as costly as testing an entire building prior to any complaints. Being proactive can often cost less money to business owners, too.

"Proactive investigation is regular testing of the indoor air before anyone complains," Glassco noted. "It can be done on a seasonal or annual basis."

He said that regular testing also has a positive effect on building occupants and boosting employee morale. "They feel better about their company if they know the air is being tested on a regular basis," he said.

For seminar attendees who wanted to know more about the traditional reactive IAQ testing methods, Glassco said the process is simple:

  • Tenant/occupant complains.

  • Building owner calls consultant to deal with one specific issue in one specific tenant space.

  • Scope of work is developed and proposal is written.

  • Investigation completed and report prepared.

    Glassco used a countdown list to explain the top five IAQ issues.

    5. Perception of occupants that the air is bad. Media stories lead to more stress.

    4. Poorly distributed air to a space, i.e., caused by building renovation and no change to the HVAC system.

    3. Odors or contaminants from adjacent or outdoor activity, e.g., shared return system with construction work.

    2. Poorly maintained rooftop units, including those with burned out motors, broken belts, dirty filters, water leaks, etc.

    1. Mold. Buildings are "leaking like crazy and built without regulation" Glassco said. "Building owners need to manage their water problems right away."

    Publication date: 04/24/2006