Adoption of A3 problem-solving technique for effective indoor air quality audit

Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, October 2018, Volume 1, #30

When building owners, maintenance and operation officers, or occupants requested for IAQ audit, it means there is IAQ problem. IAQ problem in this sense means there is a performance gap between their current IAQ condition and the supposed healthy IAQ condition or current health status and envisaged higher health status. When there is a deficiency in health status, such an IAQ problem is “caused IAQ problem”. When the intention is to raise the current healthy IAQ status of the building, such problem (gap) is “created IAQ problem”. In both instances, an investigation into the factors contributing to the IAQ condition is a must. Investigation should be clear on “pain”/ negative effect to be reduced or eradicated, current IAQ condition with clear problem definition, targets (not limited to IAQ parameters) to be achieved, root-cause analysis, remediation measures, action plan, and follow-up plan needed to verify and enhance the effectiveness of remediation measures taken.

It is quite unfortunate that IAQ audit done by most vendors have been reduced to just measuring and comparing IAQ parameters at few selected locations in the building to IAQ standard – recommended limits for the parameters. When measured IAQ parameters are within their recommended limits, does that mean everything is fine? Obviously not. The common practice among most IAQ audit vendors when measured IAQ parameters are below the recommended limit is to prescribe pre-determined/”off-the-shelf” remediation measures. This means remediation measures are not informed by root-cause analysis.

How can healthy IAQ status be achieved, maintained or raised when there is a poor diagnosis of IAQ problem or when the diagnosis does not inform remediation efforts? How can someone have a comprehensive understanding of IAQ problem without a combination of systematic and question-based walkthrough investigation, interview and survey administrations, and effective measurements of IAQ parameters of the current condition? How can someone recommend remediation measures, action plan, and follow-up plan without doing analysis and understanding root-cause of the IAQ problem? How can poorly conceived remediation measures, action, and follow-up plan lead to the reduction or eradication of the “pain” or effect of the IAQ problem – caused or created?

It is important for building owners, policy makers, maintenance and operation officers, and occupants to learn appropriate way of doing IAQ audit. Adoption of A3 problem-solving technique could help enhance industry IAQ audit practice.

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Do you want to know more about the potential of using A3 problem-solving technique for indoor air quality audit? Read Sobek and Smalley (2011) and Matthews (2016) papers.

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