In 2020, I measured the indoor air quality in Calgary parkades. In the 100 parkades I examined in Southern Alberta, I found worryingly frequent spikes in carbon monoxide pollution. These increases put occupants in danger and open up building operators to liability.
In doing these assessments, I quickly realized that using the Occupational Health and Safety Act as the standard to protect people does not actually protect everyone in the parkade. That’s because the government developed OSHA for workers’ safety only. The majority of people are building occupants and visitors, not workers. This means vulnerable people with health conditions, pregnant people, and young children may have risk factors the OSHA guidelines do not take into consideration.
The most dangerous gas from the tailpipe is carbon monoxide. Its danger lies in part because it has to smell or taste to alert us of the threat. However, it’s important to note that other invisible tailpipe gases can also harm our health, like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulates. In particular, Health Canada has warned people about the danger of benzene in vehicle exhaust, and the extent to which attached garages increase our exposure.
We can start to mitigate these invisible threats by making them visible. In other words, by monitoring them and collecting air quality data to determine the extent of indoor air pollution in Calgary.
Building operators can then eliminate these spikes by analyzing the air quality data and building a ventilation control strategy to remove as much pollution as possible. A specialized indoor air quality expert can help you assess and adjust your ventilation.
If adapting the ventilation doesn’t remove all the pollution, there are also innovative new solutions to solve this problem. One example is a catalyst applied to the garage walls in the form of a paint, which reduces the pollution even further.
To eliminate liability for incidents, operators must ensure there is a working, well-maintained, audible, and visible alarm that prompts everyone in the area to evacuate.
I recently spoke with CityNews Calgary about our worrying findings in Calgary parkades.
Telling your occupants to stop idling in the parkade is one of the best things you can do to maintain air quality indoors. We’ve created some “No Idling” signs to post in your parkade. Send me an email if you’d like a FREE “No Idling” sign to install in your parkade.
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