IAQ Investigations of Residential Properties – Revelations From the Field

Presented by Jeff May, May Indoor Air Investigations, Tyngsborough, MA

This presentation will review some of the sources of IAQ problems, primarily in residential buildings (including buildings that were once residential but are now commercial or business space). Many examples from case studies will be included, as well as a discussion of many of the scientific principles which:

  • affect the control of air within a building envelope, as well as from the exterior to the interior of the building, and vice versa, such as pressure differentials; and
  • determine the state of moisture (whether liquid or vapor), such as dew point

The different kinds of fungi will be defined (macro fungi versus micro fungi), and a Comparison Study of 600 “sick residential buildings” to 300 control buildings will be reviewed to identify the major culprits that make a home “sick.” Much of the presentation relies on visual evidence: visible examples of conditions of concern noted in IAQ investigations undertaken by the speaker, Jeff May; and “non-visible evidence” such as photomicrographs from many of the samples Jeff May gathered from the field. Some sampling techniques (both good and bad) as well as some of the pros and cons of testing reports will be reviewed. Time will be set aside at the end for questions and answers.

Learning Objectives:

Attendees will:

  • Gain an insight of the most common sources of IAQ problems in residential buildings
  • Understand the importance of surface sampling to identify IAQ-problem sources that are not visible to the naked eye
  • Recognize that an understanding of basic building science and mechanical systems is of vital importance in IAQ investigatory work
  • Learn that test results need further refinement to be useful tools in prioritizing mediation strategies
  • Recognize that IAQ investigations in residential properties are in many ways different than IAQ investigations in commercial and industrial buildings, and thus require a different focus.

Three key concepts participants will learn by attending the session:

  • An understanding of science is of paramount importance in building investigations and inspections.
  • The sources of IAQ problems are not always obvious and sometimes are multiple, so any IAQ and/or building professional should approach an inspection or investigation with an open mind.
  • Any professional who does AQ sampling (including gathering samples for mold) should follow some basic guidelines to avoid cross-contamination.

Intended audiences: IAQ professionals (investigators and remediators), home/building inspectors, architects, and HVAC professionals. Session is designed primarily for intermediate-level audiences, but could also be helpful to advanced-level audiences, such as IAQ professionals and home/building inspectors who could benefit from some review of the scientific principles that are so important in IAQ- and building-inspection work.

About Jeff May:

Jeff May is Principal Scientist of May Indoor Air Investigations LLC in Tyngsborough, MA. He has been investigating residential indoor air quality problems for over twenty years and has collected and examined by microscopy over 35,000 air and dust samples. He is author or co-author of four books on IAQ, all published by The Johns Hopkins University Press: My House is Killing Me! The Home Guide for Families with Allergies and Asthma, My Office is Killing Me! The Sick Building Survival Guide, The Mold Survival Guide: For Your Home and for Your Health, and Jeff May’s Healthy Home Tips. He has also authored 3 articles or chapters on building science, and was featured in The Experts’ Guide to Life at Home (S. Ettus, Clark Potter Publishers); and is co-author of a chemistry textbook.

Jeff is a former adjunct professor at the Department of Work Environment at U MA Lowell, and combines his education as an organic chemist (B.A. Columbia, M.A. Harvard) with his experience as a teacher (chemistry and physics), general contractor and home inspector to specialize in IAQ investigations. He is a Certified Microbial Consultant (CMC, #1603014) through the American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC), a Certified Indoor Air Quality Professional (CIAQP, #340) through the Association of Energy Engineers, and is licensed as a mold assessor/inspector in NH and in FL (MRSA348). His memberships include ASHI (Retired Member), IAQA, ASHRAE, American Chemical Society, and NE-IAHA. Jeff sits on the Board of the Massachusetts Association of the Chemically Injured, the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation, and is a former national Board Member of the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America.

A nationally recognized speaker, Jeff has given presentations on IAQ issues to the Boston Society of Architects, Harvard School of Public Health, the EPA, Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Association of the Chemically Injured, Journal of Light Construction’s annual conference, and American Lung Association, among others. Since 2008, he has given ten presentations at ME IAQC’s annual conference.