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  • Writer's pictureMolly Jones

Guiding Principle 4: Enhance the Indoor Environment

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

This is a weekly series for the next 6 weeks reviewing the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings and Associated Instructions.

Guiding Principle four is about the interior and indoor environment. There are nine principles in this category.

4.1 Ventilation and Thermal Control

4.1 is all about ventilation and thermal control. Your project needs to meet ASHRAE 62.1 or 62.2, depending on the type of project, residential or commercial.

These are the very baseline ventilation requirements on most of our projects. I am calling attention to that to ensure we’re protecting the indoor environment and supporting the health and safety of the occupants.

4.2 Daylighting and Lighting Controls

Guiding Principle 4.2 is about data, lighting, and lighting controls. These two are together because they must be considered in concert.

It will depend on the quality of the daylighting system and the quality of the glazing in the building. Look for opportunities to maximize the appropriate amount of daylighting and the benefits it brings to the health and wellness of people in the space. There are also potential energy savings.

When daylighting is installed, it should be high up on the sides of your project. If you are coming in from the top with skylights, that will cast the daylight much more broadly on the floor than if you’re coming from the side. The rule of thumb is the higher the daylighting is, the better it is and the more light you’ll draw into that space.

There are products on the market today that can help pull daylight further into the space. They are worth looking into if your only option for pulling light into the space. Our team initially looks at the building site, how it will be laid out, and what width the building is. We want to ensure we’re designing a building that is appropriate width to allow the daylight to come in from either side and pull it into the space.

Concerning lighting control, we look at how to allow the occupants control over their space and that there is a control guiding the principle. There are several things to consider:

  • How do we not double the use of the lighting?

  • How do we control the mechanical lighting in the space and fixtures?

  • How do we control putting daylight sensors on the fixtures to ensure they have dimmed appropriately or turned off when there’s enough daylight in the space?

4.3 Low-Emitting Materials & Products

Guiding Principle 4.3 is about low-emitting materials and products. We want to ensure there are little to no toxins in the interior environment. It’s also essential to manage the material that’s coming inside the weatherproofing system for its chemical properties that are likely to off-gas into the interior and those that are off-gassing.

It’s critical to scrutinize whether the materials are low or no VOC for at least 75% of all interior products used in the building. To comply with this, you’ll demonstrate that you’ve met the 75% threshold or use the IGCC to help guide your selections. This does take an in-depth analysis of your materials. Be prepared for that if you haven’t experienced it!

4.4 Radon Mitigation

Guiding Principle 4.4 is about Radon Mitigation. This was not included in the original 2006 Guiding Principles.

For this principle, you’ll want to ensure that you have complied with the statutory and regulatory requirements. The mitigated rate on the buildings needs to be tested to determine when and where it’s appropriate.

You’ll use the Federal Management Regulation to demonstrate compliance, test it, and ensure maintenance or below the threshold (4 pCi/L). When you do the testing, ensure the results have come in at the appropriate level. It will need to be mitigated or below the threshold.

4.5 Moisture and Mold Control

4.5 is about moisture and mold control. Here you’re looking to ensure that you have a robust and comprehensive moisture control strategy defined for your project that specifically addresses these things within your building. This is in support of health risks, and it takes your indoor environment quality significantly down.

We had an incident when we moved into a house that had some mold. I had respiratory issues as a result of it. Make sure you have a robust plan and are managing the strategy to ensure the building is moisture and mold-free (or would be food for mold) and protecting the indoor environment. You’ll want to confirm with the design team that the plan includes those protocols and that they have been transferred into the operations and maintenance manuals for the project.

The moisture flows and condensation in the building also need to be addressed, especially as the building envelope is tightened so we can become more efficient. As insulation is moved to different areas in the wall cavity, this will increase energy efficiency. The dew point in those wall assemblies also needs to be moved. It’s essential that an analysis is done so you understand where the viewpoint is occurring in your wall and roof assembly and that it’s been managed appropriately.

4.6 Indoor Air Quality during Construction and Operations

4.6 is about Indoor Air Quality during construction and operation. Implementing necessary policies and protocols to protect the building from moisture damage during construction is critical. It’s not just the building but the building materials that need to ensure that the absorbent material will not take on any moisture.

These steps will protect indoor air quality during renovation, repair, or construction. It also includes making sure the construction sites are clean, not just dry. There should be seals, so the particulate matter isn’t introduced into the ductwork before it’s put in place and before it’s occupied.

Including indoor air quality specifications in the project manual is critical.

4.7 Environmental Smoking Control

Guiding Principle 4.7 is about smoking control. Smoking will be prohibited in the building and within 25 feet of any building entrance or fresh air intake, operable windows, etc.

Most Federal buildings are on a smoke-free campus. If not, I will draw a 25-foot line around the entire perimeter of the building instead of just at the entrances and ventilation intakes. Smoke does travel, so I’ve found it’s easier to do it this way.

You want to ensure that you’ve identified a designated smoking area and provided the infrastructure and equipment, such as an ashtray or furniture, to sit on. Signs need to be posted in the designated smoking areas.

There also needs to be signage on every exterior door that allows entry into your project. If you can enter the building through a door, it must have a posted, non-smoking sign.

4.8 Integrated Pest Management

Guiding Principle 4.8 is for Integrated Pest Management. The first step is to ensure an implemented and maintained plan is in place.

Most installations have this. I have yet to work on a project that didn’t have an integrated pest management plan in place. If you work in the lead environment, check the requirements for integrated pest management at the Federal level for installations because they are different. Do your homework and understand the pesticides that are allowable on the project and that you have rigorously screened them to know what does and does not meet the lead requirements if needed.

This is not a one-to-one comparison. In addition to pesticides, there are mechanical, structural, and behavioral means to discourage pests from entering your building. The openings to the building need to be adequately sealed. The break rooms need to be clean, and the people eating there should understand that leaving food open on countertops or desks attracts those pests and cause issues with pest control.

The toxic EPA labeled pesticides in the pest management plan and that there is a communication program in place to warn building occupants when pest management or pesticides will be applied. This will help those people with sensitive respiratory issues can project themselves and remain healthy.


4.9 Occupant Health and Wellness

Guiding Principle 4.9 is all about occupant health and wellness. This one is also new in the 2016 version of Guiding Principles. This one is about ensuring your building design emphasizes programs, initiatives, and design features that promote voluntary movement for physical health and wellness opportunities for those occupants. These are things such as ornamental stairs that are the highlight piece in the lobby. They should not be tucked around to the side by the elevator, instead celebrating those stairs and making them the thing that is more attractive than the elevator.

How buildings are furnished is also essential. Will you consider standing desks? Are you purchasing ergonomic office furniture so people can move and adjust their position during the day to promote health and wellness?

Is the food offered in the buildings healthy? Is there a fitness program or fitness room that could be added? Can you promote alternative transportation methods by providing secure, covered bicycle storage? Do your electric water coolers fill bottles so people can take water with them?

You’ll want to document the things you have considered and that you successfully included in your project.

For more information on this principle or the guidelines for modernization projects, refer to the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings and Associated Instructions.



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