IAQ Investigation New Office Smell

Commercial Office – San Francisco, CA


IAQ Investigation new office smell

IAQ Investigation new office smell SF

IAQ Investigation New Office Smell Summary

Occupants in a newly renovated office registered complaints of respiratory symptoms and watery eyes while in the new office.

Indoor Air Quality Investigation IAQ Process

HBS conducted a complete and comprehensive interior air quality inspection to determine possible contaminants and pathways. An inspection of the mechanical systems including plumbing and HVAC was performed. Samples for airborne mold and other biological contaminants were collected and sent to outside laboratory for analysis. Samples for airborne chemicals (TVOC and Formaldehyde) were collected and sent to an outside laboratory for analysis. On-site measurements for other air quality analytes including fine and ultra-fine respirable particulates, combustible gasses, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide were conducted. Observations and data were analyzed to develop hypotheses for the causes of the occupant complaints and address possible air quality deficiencies.

IAQ Investigation New Office Smell Highlights:

No indication of interior mold sources were detected. No carbon monoxide or combustible gasses were detected. CO2 and respirable particulates were lower than average (for a typical office environment) indicating that the HVAC filters were operating properly and adequate fresh air was being provided. Lab analysis indicated higher than average TVOC and Formaldehyde levels. Acetone and Ethanol as well as Formaldehyde were detected at higher than average levels. These chemicals can be respiratory irritants.

This office renovation was not built to USGBC-LEED or any other green building standard, thus low emitting materials may not have been used. It is likely that no pre-occupancy flush-out was conducted. HBS recommended aggressive active flush-out be conducted using several high CFM fans. Flush out was performed over 10 weeks at times when building was unoccupied (nights and weekends). The goal was to allow building materials to off-gas and reduce airborne TVOC and Formaldehyde levels. After flush out was completed building was allowed to stabilize for 7 days in a normal occupied condition prior to resampling. Resampling was performed at the same location and at approximately the same time as the prior sampling.

A table showing the 3 sampling locations before and after flush out with percentage reduction in TVOC and Formaldehyde levels:

ng/l = nanograms per liter

ppb = parts per billion


IAQ Investigation New Office Smell Conclusion:

IAQ Investigation San Francisco

IAQ Investigation San Francisco

Aggressive flush-out can significantly reduce airborne VOC’s due to off gassing of new building materials. While flush out is typically recommended post-construction/pre-occupancy, even a flush-out done post occupancy can be beneficial and show measurable results.

Air sampling laboratory results provide valuable proof of reduction in both airborne TVOC and Formaldehyde levels.


IAQ Investigation New Office Smell – Team:

David Sasse, Senior Environmental Inspector, CMI, CIE

Council-Certified Microbial Investigator

Council-Certified Indoor Environmentalist

Board-awarded by the American Council for Accredited Certification