Ductwork is key to a healthy building
Duct work is a key to a healthy building. While there is not any one single thing that can be done in a building to achieve healthy indoor air quality, duct work is a critical element in the system. We are in the construction process now to mitigate indoor air quality and water intrusion issues at a local church. Facilities of this scale are difficult to manage without a full-time building maintenance team. In this case, further complicating things, decisions were made during construction 25+ years ago to cut construction costs that have ended up causing indoor air quality challenges. The elimination of a fresh air distribution system as a cost cutting factor increased the potential for indoor air quality challenges for instance.
At the time it was acceptable to use fiberglass insulation inside of duct work to control noise from the mechanical system in the sanctuary. This fiberglass insulation captured dust and dirt that flowed through the duct work. Dust and dirt provides food for mold growth. Multiple water leaks throughout the structure have added to the complications in this building. The lack of fresh air ventilation, technology available for HVAC at the time, lack of regular preventive maintenance, no dehumidification systems, and high humidity levels have led to this need for a major renovation.
Duct work storage and protection
During the renovation process it is critical to protect the HVAC duct work that is being installed. A construction site is messy and dusty on a good day. This one already had indoor air quality issues prior to construction. The mechanical contractor, Excel HVAC is sealing all the duct work that is being installed until it is sealed in place. They are also storing duct work that is not currently needed off site to keep it away from the dust and dirt on site. These simple steps protect the ducts to keep them clean and free of damage.
Installation of Duct Work
Once the duct work is installed all the joints need to be sealed. The vents should be covered until the system is activated, which only happens after all the dirt and dust of construction has ended. Sealing joints in duct work is done with mastic glue and mastic tape. These strategies are geared towards keeping dust and dirt out of the duct work during construction and operation of the system. This coupled with proper sizing of the mechanical systems that allows for modulation of capacity when the building is not in full use is a key component for healthy indoor air quality.
These key elements focused on duct work are only one part of the solution. We are also addressing roofing, flashing, and gutter issues. Materials that are impacted by mold are being removed and replaced. This is a complicated project with many moving parts. Working with an integrated team approach using Suter Engineering to design the appropriate HVAC system and a qualified general contractor, Herr and Company, to manage all the team members is the best strategy overall to achieve the best final solution for this project. Stay tuned for more information as the project continues.