Sick building syndrome fixes

The Fairmont Dubai public relations manager - and eco-champion - Alka Patel tells Hotelier Middle East about steps a hotel can take to improve its indoor-air quality and remove pollutants.
Sick building syndrome fixes
By Administrator
Tue 11 Sep 2007 04:00 AM

Because this region has sweltering summer months and no clear demarcation between one season and the next, many of us spend the majority of our time indoors. And we're not alone; studies conducted in the United States and Europe have shown that people from industrialised countries spend more than 90% of their time indoors, which raises questions about air quality within our homes and workplaces, and the effect it has on our health.

In recent years, many physicians have begun to associate the increase in respiratory problems with exposure to poor quality indoor-air. According to Dubai Healthcare City, an estimated 15% of people in the United Arab Emirates have asthma - a chronic respiratory disease caused largely by air pollutants. According to a recent study of frequent travelers, 60% had experienced problems while staying in hotel rooms with poor indoor-air quality. Complaints included poor sleep, runny or stuffy noses, a dry nose, sneezing, headaches, a cough and sore throats. More than 40% found the air quality so bad that they complained to hotel management about it.

It makes good sense — fiscally and from a health perspective — to make sure indoor-air

The air we breathe can affect our health through a number of invisible pollutants, including the following:

Biological pollutants such as dust mites, mildew, moulds, bacteria, and viruses.

Volatile organic compounds that are mainly found in many cleaning products, personal care products, pesticides, paints, dry cleaning fluids, aerosol sprays, adhesives and solvents.

Cigarette smoke, which contains carbon dioxide, formaldehyde and other gases and particles.

Formaldehyde, which is found in particleboard, fibreboard, panelling resin, glues, dyes, carpet backing, upholstery and drapery fabric and can be released by burning cigarettes, wood, kerosene or natural gas.

Carbon monoxide from gas appliances, and wood or coal stoves that are not properly maintained or ventilated.
In a city experiencing unprecedented construction and growth, it makes good sense - fiscally and from a health perspective - to ensure indoor-air quality is taken seriously, as it lends itself to guest loyalty and ensures that your staff remains healthy.

An improvement in air quality focuses on three areas: controlling the sources that cause indoor-air pollution, ventilating with fresh air from outdoors and filtering the air.

The most immediate and economical way to improve indoor-air quality is to reduce the number and quantity of chemicals brought into your hotel. Working with your purchasing manager, you can reduce or eliminate products containing hazardous chemicals and synthetic perfumes. Other areas for reducing air pollution include adjusting gas stoves and heaters to decrease emissions, removing any sources of mould, using outdoor exhaust fans in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry areas, and avoiding aerosols. In addition, if dry cleaning is conducted on-site, take care that fluids are handled safely and that carpets are cleaned and maintained regularly.

At The Fairmont Dubai, routine maintenance ensures that all air conditioning units and exhausts are cleaned on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis by a certified cleaning agency. All cleaning supplies should be sourced and provided by certified eco-labelled manufacturers.

Ventilating with fresh air is another measure towards improved air quality. Many hotels and resorts use heating and air systems that re-circulate indoor-air. Some ventilation tips include opening the windows whenever possible, and using vent fans in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Every guestroom, office space, apartment, restaurant and meeting space at The Fairmont Dubai has its own air conditioning system, with separate controls and fresh airflow system. When the hotel opened, more than five years ago, Honeywell Building Solutions installed the hotel's building management system (BMS) by integrating different building management functions, including all hotel heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

The hotel's engineering department regularly monitors the quality of air, CO2 levels, humidity levels and airflow. As well, currently underway is the installation of digital ‘touch screen' control panel for ease of use when adjusting temperature setting.

Lastly, filtering the air can reduce most indoor-air allergens, such as pollen, dust and mould spores. Deploying a good preventative maintenance program that includes the regular cleaning of air filters assists with this proces.

The BMS at The Fairmont Dubai ensures all areas are provided with a fresh flow of air in addition to a primary and secondary filter for re-circulated air.

In sum, incorporating measures to maintain a good indoor-air quality, in addition to energy and waste conservation measures, supports the adage that environmental stewardship is a journey, not a destination.

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