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The proving of injury or negligence during litigation reminds me of the Total Quality Management (TQM) slogan: If there is time to do it over, there is time to do it right the first time. The problem is that a building is a large puzzle whose pieces are put together by a team of people who often do not communicate well or who have traditionally shared veiled as well as open mutual distrust (e.g., architects and engineers). The construction process becomes fragmented even in spite of the best efforts of a respectable general contractor. Therefore, IEQ litigation is forcing the real estate industry and construction industry to do it right the first time.
The good news is that the majority of construction IEQ problems can be successfully prevented by "de-coupling" the construction process from health effects in the completed structure. One of the main requirements for a successful project is adequate IEQ planning prior to the construction phase and continuous communication between the architect, engineer, contractor, and owner. Much litigation could be circumvented if all parties understood the consequences of various activities associated with the different building disciplines.
The following case exemplifies lack of communication. A very architecturally-attractive school building was designed and constructed during the Spring 1989 introduction of the ASHRAE 62-89 Ventilation Standard. The building was built in accordance with the previous ventilation standard which recommended lower outside air quantities. Neither the architect nor the design engineer notified the owner regarding the new ventilation standard. Litigation ensued, in part, because of ventilation deficiencies. Much expense could have been avoided if the architect and engineer had communicated with the school district at the time the new standard was distributed for public comment.
The following are a series of steps that general and sub-contractors, developers and owners can implement — and insist on — to reduce health problems and legal liability.
1. Planning and CommunicationSet a protocol at the beginning of the project to identify the representatives from the architect, general contractor, and building owner to address the issue of construction-related contaminant control and the potential effects on construction workers and building occupants. Others, such as engineers and subcontractors, should be involved as needed. A construction impact statement should be developed that outlines the expected activities and sources and the susceptible workers and occupants. A risk assessment should be made, and a budget set for the control methods.
ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers) Research Project #804-RP related to construction and renovation activities.
"Construction/Renovation Influence On Indoor Air Quality", Kuehn,
Ph.D., P.E., October, 1996, pp 22-29.
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