How Can I Maintain Indoor Air Quality in a Mobile Office?
Even if your mobile office has a no-smoking policy, indoor air quality is still a major issue in a space with typically smaller dimensions and smaller or fewer windows than an office in a skyscraper or office park.
Insulation and paint are prime emitters of toxins in a mobile office, depending on what kinds are used. “We can build it using Styrofoam insulation to eliminate fibers from fiberglass insulation,” said John Rogers, owner of Affordable Portable Housing in Kailua, Hawaii. “I would allow fresh air to come into the office every few hours, as it’s a small air space.”
Given that, lead-free water- or soy-based paints with low volatile organic compounds (VOC) are probably best for mobile office interiors. VOCs are chief contributors to the formation of smog and ground-level ozone, major causes of respiratory maladies and memory loss, according to Consumer Reports. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current VOC limits on paints are 250 grams per liter (g/l) for flat finishes and 380 g/l for gloss and semi-gloss paints. Regulations are more severe in some states, particularly California: 150 g/l for gloss and semi-gloss, 100 g/l for flat, and 50 g/l for all paints sold in the Los Angeles region, as mandated by the state’s South Coast Air Quality Management District.
It’s important to ask mobile office dealers what kind of paint and insulation they use in their units, and whether the dealer could customize yours with low-VOC paint and nontoxic insulation. The greenest insulations on the market – cellulose, AirKrete cement foam, UltraTouch Denim and Heatlok Soy – are environmentally safe alternatives to fiberglass, which is often bound with formaldehyde and emits noxious fibers into the air, according to ChasingGreen.org.
The top 10 low-VOC paints are Benjamin Moore Pristine EcoSpec, Bioshield Clay and Casein, Yolo Colorhouse, Harmony Interior Latex, Green Planet, Homestead House, Dunn-Edwards EcoShield, Devoe Wonder Pure Interior Latex Odor-Free, Olympic Premium, and Anna Sova Latex, according to ApartmentTherapy.com. If a mobile office dealer doesn’t provide the low-VOC paint of your choice, don’t be afraid to ask them to hold the paint job, and do it yourself!
But with or without a paint job in progress, the air filters in your mobile office’s heat pump, air-conditioning unit and ventilator must be carefully monitored. Triumph Modular of Littleton, Mass., recommends replacing air filters once a year, or more frequently if more dust is generated by the office’s use, for which a 2-inch filter could replace a 1-inch one. However, 2-inch filters need replacement as often as monthly, as they tend to staunch the airflow and impede the performance of your HVAC system when they get clogged with dust. Besides, frequent filter replacement is more cost-effective in the long run than letting dirty filters stymie your system and run up your bills.
However, nothing beats a good office cleaning to ensure your mobile office’s indoor air quality. Cassone of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., recommends the following:
- Replace all air filters (it goes without saying).
- Clean and dust the whole interior and all of its furniture and equipment from the top down, beginning with ceiling-fan blades and ending with carpet vacuuming and/or shampooing. For vacuuming, Cassone recommends a HEPA filter vacuum, which filters the air while picking up grime.
- Clean your upholstery; hire a professional cleaner if your office is heavily used.
- Apply an anti-allergen spray to impede future dust collection on your equipment and furniture.
- On heavy-pollen days, keep your windows closed, and be mindful of allergies some of your employees or guests may have.
- An air-purifying plant such as a snake plant or English ivy, or an electric air-purifier, is also helpful — even desirable if you know that any of your office employees or guests are allergic to dust or asthmatic.
- Recycle or throw out aging books that are hardly used anymore, as printing acids decay paper and emit toxic fumes.
For best results, don’t limit this to just a spring cleaning – do it monthly; that way you, your office employees and your guests will be assured of a healthy office environment (and lower maintenance/utility costs) year round.
And remember: if anyone needs to smoke, politely ask them to step outside.