Environmental Controls

August 1996


Environmental Controls

Poor air quality is responsible for lower productivity.

In April, inspectors at the Transportation Department revealed that the headquarters facility had become yet another victim of "sick building syndrome." Odors had forced several evacuations and workers constantly complained of ailments ranging from dizziness and headaches to throat irritation, itchy eyes, rashes and nausea. Medical surveys were conducted and investigators finally discovered problems in the building's air-handling system.

Certified industrial hygenists, who interpret air-quality test results, determined that the problem was caused by poor maintenance. A filthy air-handling system had been spewing high levels of contaminants into the indoor environment. The agency is spending more than $5 million to vacuum air ducts and clean the building.

The Transportation Department, like many federal agencies recently, found out that dirty air and poor circulation can have serious detrimental effects on productivity. Sickness resulting from exposure to benzene, radon, mercury, formaldehyde and lead can cause disruptive worker slowdowns. Even regular exposure to less serious allergens such as bacteria, mold spores, fungi and dust mites can cause frequent employee absences.

Indoor air pollutants can be derived from a number of sources, including cleaning solvents, pesticides, tobacco smoke, copy machines, new carpeting and foam insulation. As the Transportation Department discovered, regular maintenance plays a big role in combating air-quality problems. Filters on heating and air-conditioning units should be frequently cleaned and repaired immediately after damage is discovered. Facilities-management companies such as Honeywell, Johnson Controls and Landis and Gyr offer a wide variety of products designed to improve ventilation and give employees greater control over air flow and temperatures. Computer technology helps monitor air quality by generating temperature reports, office occupancy charts and energy-consumption summaries for single- and multiple-site facilities.

The Personal Environmental Module from Johnson Controls includes a desktop control panel that enables workers to select temperature, lighting and air flow for individual cubicles. The units produce "white noise" that creates a sense of privacy.

-Lisa Corbin

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.