Stanford University

Maintaining Optimal Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in Campus Buildings

Maintaining IAQ

Stanford ensures the indoor air quality (IAQ) of campus buildings is optimized by performing regularly scheduled inspections and routine maintenance of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and promoting good housekeeping practices.  Building occupants also play a key role in maintaining a healthy indoor environment by:

  1. Ensuring air vents and doorways are not blocked
    Building HVAC systems are designed to support continuous occupancy by supplying and exhausting a designated amount of conditioned air. Covering or blocking air vents effectively prevents the system from providing adequate air flows throughout the building. This could cause air to stagnate in closed offices and other smaller spaces, leading to potential IAQ issues.
  2. Keeping windows closed
    HVAC systems filter and condition the outside air as it is brought indoors removing dust, pollen, allergens, and excess moisture. Keeping windows closed will ensure indoor air stays properly conditioned and prevents occupied areas from being impacted by those outdoor contaminants/pollutants, including wildfire smoke.
  3. Eating and storing food in designated areas
    Storing food and discarding food waste outside of kitchen/dining areas can cause unwanted odors. Food that falls behind desks or file cabinets may rot, resulting in nuisance odors or introduction of pests. Limit food consumption and storage to kitchen/dining areas and promptly clean up and dispose food waste in containers designated for compost.
  4. Promptly cleaning and reporting water spills
    Porous building materials such as sheetrock and carpet can trap moisture, which fosters microbial growth if not thoroughly dried within 24-48 hours. Quickly cleaning up water spills and reporting leaks will effectively prevent mold growth. If you encounter building materials that have been water-damaged, or you observe potential mold growth, contact your Building Manager or Facilities Maintenance immediately.

Managing Odor Concerns

Odor issues are some of the most commonly reported complaints submitted to EH&S.  Fortunately, building occupants are often able to identify and resolve these odors on their own.

NOTE: If you are experiencing any health symptoms related to odors, consult with the Occupational Health Center (OHC) at (650) 725-5308.  If you are experiencing any immediately health-threatening symptoms, go to the Hospital Emergency Room.

Prior to contacting EH&S, consider the following local solutions:

  1. If odors are strongest at sink/floor drains, pour ½ gallon of water down the drain, and repeat monthly to ensure that drain p-traps do not dry out.
  2. Look for rotting food behind or under furniture, or in unemptied waste receptacles.
  3. Check with your Building Manager for updates on nearby construction or renovation projects that can generate odors and pay attention to notifications related to active or future projects.
  4. Avoid the use of deodorizers or air fresheners as the fragrances may negatively affect other individuals in the area.

For the following odor scenarios, immediately contact your building manager or LBRE Buildings and Grounds Maintenance at (650) 723-2281 for assistance:

  1. Natural gas odors – Facilities will determine source and corrective action.
  2. Vehicle exhaust odors – possibly caused by idling engines of vehicles near the building.
  3. Tobacco smoke odors – smoking is restricted to approved outside areas so as not to draw the smoke into buildings.
  4. Mold (musty) odors- Biological growth from water intrusions or standing water can cause odors.

For recurring odors, it is helpful to keep an “odor log” capturing the date(s), time(s) and duration(s) of the occurrence(s), which can aid EH&S in identification of the source.  Contact EH&S – Healthy Buildings Program at (650) 723-0448 for further assistance.

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