Building Inspector Environmental Checklist
Every building inspection should include a minimum scan for these Top-10 common environmental problems. These factors are simple to evaluate, often only involving using your nose and eyes, and can literally save lives. This building inspector environmental checklist is adapted from the Building Biologist’s Healthy Home Standard. There is no reason every home inspector cannot begin incorporating these items into their standard operating procedures. It’s easy and provides value. There’s really no excuse not to!
If the home is pursuing recognition through the Healthy Home Standard, finding any of the following red-flags would postpone certification until remedial action was taken. When I’m looking at a house or office for myself, finding any of these red-flags would make me pause in my tracks and consider opting for another space. However, these items can be remedied and result in a perfectly safe and healthy building.
Building Inspector Environmental Checklist – Top 10
- Combustible Gas = Natural gas/propane gas is leaking into the building. Action Required: Evacuate, contact emergency personnel and utility provider, safely repair leak and adequately flush-out the building.
- Odors / VOCs = Bad odor is present either from mold, sewer gas, building materials, furnishings, the use of ozone-generating “air cleaners,” fragrances, or unknown sources. Action Required: Identify and mitigate source.
- Visible Mold = Mold is present and visible. Action Required: Determine and remove cause of moisture, and follow accepted guidelines for water damage restoration (usually IICRC S500) and mold remediation (usually IICRC S520).
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) = CO is detected indoors above outside ambient levels. Action Required: Evacuate and/or flush-out building. Identify source and mitigate.
- Dirty HVAC = Interior of fan box or ducts are visibly dirty or show evidence of water damage or rodent infestation. Lining of system is burnt, linings are deteriorated or excessively dirty, or filters are clogged or missing. Action Required: System should be inspected and cleaned according to accepted guidelines (usually NADCA ACR 2006), linings and filters replaced, etc.
- Hazardous Material Storage = Herbicides, pesticides or other known hazardous materials leaking or not stored properly. Action Required: Hazardous materials should be in well-labeled, air-tight containers, and kept in a locked storage area preferably not within the air barrier of the building envelope. Ideally hazardous chemicals would be properly disposed of and no longer used on the property.
- Moisture Intrusion = Water damage is evident or active moisture problem is visible. Action required: Find and eliminate source of moisture. Assess for mold contamination and have a qualified Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP) perform a mold and moisture inspection in accordance with industry standards (usually AIHA’s “Green Book).
- Dirty Coils & Drip Pans = Refrigerant coils or condensate drain pans (for AC or refrigerator) are found dirty or with evidence of standing water. Action Required: System should be inspected and cleaned according to accepted guidelines (usually NADCA ACR 2006). Drain pans should be repaired and condensate lines rerun to ensure proper drainage.
- Lead Paint = Pealing, flaking or cracking paint on pre-1978 Target Housing. If the house was built before 1978 it’s considered by the EPA to be “Target Housing.”
Action Required: Professional assessment regarding the need for a lead-based paint inspection. In California, Lead Inspectors & Assessors are certified by the Department of Public Health.
- Asbestos = If the house was built before 1979. “Professional assessment in regard for he need of an asbestos survey and management plan, particularly if there are friable materials in poor condition,” or if suspected asbestos containing materials will be disturbed.
Healthy Building Inspections incorporate these environmental inspections and more, but this Top-10 is a good place to start.
City inspectors, building performance contractors (e.g., HERS, BPI), and home inspectors should begin looking for these environmental red-flags to add value to their time in a building. It’s easy, affordable, and would show that they care about the health of occupants… not just code compliance or energy efficiency.
Sick buildings are contagious. All these contractors who are already inside buildings could be the first line of defense in ensuring a more health-supporting community.
Check out this more recent blog on another form of Healthy Building Checklist.