RCC: Building's ventilation bad, but odors not harmful

Interested in learning more about ventilation?  Click here.

The ventilation system is inadequate in a new Riverside City College building where some faculty had said persistent odors made them sick, but air and water tests found nothing dangerous.

The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning ducts above one room on the fourth floor of the Math & Science Building are not connected at all and the air blows into the attic, said Charlie Wyckoff, RCC's interim vice president for business services.

Wyckoff presented an update Tuesday evening, June 18, to the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees meeting at Norco College.

Issues about the 11/2 -year-old building sickening some faculty members were raised publicly in April. The board asked for regular updates until the problems are identified and resolved.

Science faculty members are waiting for resolution, said Leo Truttmann, associate professor of chemistry, but the analysis Wyckoff presented seems consistent with faculty's observations.

"There are serious problems with the HVAC," Truttman said. He said he thinks some of his colleagues got sick because of a build-up of carbon dioxide and inadequate air flow.

Wyckoff said the study by Forensic Analytical Air Quality showed elevated carbon dioxide levels in parts of the building, creating feelings of "stuffiness."

An analysis by p2s Engineering Inc. determined the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system was inadequate to heat the four-story building in winter.

Wyckoff said the college plans to address the issues over the summer and may install additional heating coils, an additional boiler or both to meet standard temperature ranges before next winter.

Odors reported by faculty may have a couple of different sources.

Some chemical odors from science labs were traveling to other rooms through floor drains below emergency eye-wash and showers. Wyckoff said steps are being taken to repair devices that are supposed to spray water in sewer drain traps so they have enough water to stop sewer gas, air and odors from traveling through the drain pipes.

Rubber stoppers or regular additions of water to those drains have been ordered to stop those smells.

Odors also seem to have come from projection screens. The one where the worst solvent smells were reported has been removed and will be analyzed with results shared with the manufacturer, Wyckoff said.

Additionally, more flexible ductwork will be installed and should also help muffle the noisiest air vents on the first and fourth floors, he said. The college is paying for the work but investigating reimbursement from contractors, builders or designers, he said.

Story provided by:  www.pe.com