Case Studies

New School Building

J.S. Held’s Inaugural Global Risk Report Examines Potential Business Risks & Opportunities in 2024

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The Situation

With the inception of LEEDs and fast track construction of new buildings and building additions, it is important to be aware of potential issues related to project management timing and schedules and new LEEDs materials that can have potentially negative impacts on indoor air quality and flooring integrity. An example of such an issue was a new three-story school building in Washington. Odor complaints were reported when the ventilation system was not running on 100% fresh air or when the system was shut down for maintenance. Complaints became more frequent over time until the building was evacuated and closed. There was no consistent pattern to the complaints, i.e., details such as the location, timing, or symptoms reported (headache, sore throat, fatigue, reproductive problems). A noticeable, irritating odor was observed to be stronger near some carpeting.

How We Advised

A cross disciplinary team including industrial hygienists (IH), materials scientists, chemists, toxicologists, architects, contractors, and suppliers was assembled to investigate and formulate a resolution. Air sampling was conducted by IH consultants, and toxicologists assessed the possible effects of the air quality findings. No obvious cause could be determined. Our Material Science group took a wholistic approach with an understanding of the construction materials, construction methods and conditions, and chemical constituents of relevant materials including the concrete substrate, additives, sealers, flooring materials, and mastics. The materials science laboratory investigation and analysis included off gassing experiments confirming the cause was degradation of the flooring materials from interactions between the concrete substrate and mobile plasticizers in the flooring materials. The degradation products were volatile alcohols that were determined to be offensive but not toxic. Remediation required removal of the resilient flooring and sealing of the concrete with a low vapor permeability epoxy coating to trap the malodorous gasses. We participated in the legal proceedings as experts and we were able to help the school district recover their costs to repair the school and relocate the student body.

LEEDs building materials combined with fast-track construction practices resulted in indoor air quality issues and flooring failures. Our investigation and resolution of air quality complaints associated with secondary emissions from flooring materials helped the school district recover their costs.

Key Contact

John Carroll, BS
Failure Analysis & Prevention
+1 425 207 4346
[email protected]

Related Practice Areas

> Industrial Hygiene Services
Our team of Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs), Certified Safety Professionals (CSPs), and environmental scientists provide expert counsel on matters involving asbestos, lead, mold, legionella, smoke, noise, occupational risks, and other hazards. Our experts are retained to perform exposure assessments, environmental sampling, air quality testing, noise and moisture mapping, and cause and origin investigations. We are also called upon to develop risk mitigation programs for environmental and occupational hazards.

> Toxicology Consulting Services
J.S. Held’s toxicologists provide support on health-based and environmental matters involving public health, exposure, risk assessment, and characterization. We are retained by clients to evaluate exposure, contamination, and toxicity to determine any adverse effects on human health or the environment. Our toxicology consulting services include risk mitigation strategies, forensic investigations, regulatory consulting, and expert witness and litigation support.

> Materials Analysis & Lab Testing
Our metallurgists, materials engineers, and chemists provide root cause failure analysis and materials evaluations in matters involving incident investigations, insurance claims, and dispute resolution.

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