The fall and spring can be miserable times for seasonal allergy sufferers. Nearly 50 million Americans have some type of seasonal nasal allergy, according to American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Due to weather pattern changes, their grief may only be growing, according to CBS News. This spring, for instance, marked some of the highest pollen counts in recent history, and in the Northeast come referred to the early summer as a "pollen tsunami." Fall is prime time for weed pollen, including ragweed, nettle, mugwort, fat hen and sorrel.
Facility managers might think of pollen as an environmental problem that stops at the building's front door, but that's simply not true. No building envelope can be completely sealed, and thanks to its powder-fine texture and ability to float on the wind pollen is a prime culprit for taking full advantage of any opening.
Here are some often overlooked ways that pollen and other environmental irritants can bypass a building's envelope and pose potential health risks for occupants.
Sneaks into the Ventilation System
Pollen is easily blown along on the wind and whisked into building areas that may look perfectly sealed. A building's HVAC system is a prime target, and the main way that troublesome pollen sneaks into a facility. While HVAC systems with strong filters can typically keep pollen at bay, those that haven't been cleaned in a while are more likely to let pollen through. That means it can enter the building's ventilation system and blow through the facility's interior. In facilities such as hospitals, laboratories and schools, those airborne nuisances can post significant health challenges. Keep in mind that maintenance software makes it easy to track work orders and cleaning schedules to make sure a facility's HVAC system is in top working order during high pollen seasons.
When pollen blows against a building's windows it can create ugly yellow streaks that block natural light and irritate occupants. But if a building's windows are properly caulked and sealed, that caked pollen actually has the potential to enter the building's envelope. Caulking is one maintenance task that's all-too-easy to overlook because it can be difficult to readily notice the usual wear-and-tear. Again, implementing a rigorous maintenance schedule with the help of facility management software can keep this task top of mind when the time is right.
Ride Along Into Loading Docks
By design, loading docks create huge entryways for trucks and other vehicles to enter a building. With all those deliveries, though, can come environmental irritants, ranging from dust and dirt to pests and pollen. Facility automation is one way to ensure that the loading dock is only open when it's in use, dramatically lowering a building's exposure to outside hazards. To combat the invasion of pollen, you'll also want to create standard procedures for cleaning the loading dock periodically and checking air filters near this area. Automatically generated work orders can go a long way to ensuring this routine but crucial maintenance gets done.