New condos called ‘sickest’ buildings in NYC

By Teri Karush Rogers | September 27, 2010 - 5:29AM 

They may be sleek, glamorous and washer-dryer friendly, but are new condos harmful to your health?

According to an article in the September issue of the Cooperator, new buildings tend to be among the ‘sickest’ in New York City. Three air quality specialists  blamed the problem on inadequate ventilation caused, ironically, by green-minded engineering.

“The need to save energy has led to the construction of the air-tight building, often with windows that do not open,” a representative of New York air-duct cleaning company ENVIROspect, Inc., explained to the monthly co-op and condo newspaper. “As a result…the only ventilation that serves the building are the installed heating and cooling systems.”

If the systems are poorly maintained or suffer from condensation leaks, then mold, bacteria, spores, pollen and viruses can collect in the standing water inside. Bird feces and “indoor and outdoor effluents” can also circulate through ventilation systems, according to the article.

"We are seeing building systems fail and we can predict that on buildings not even built yet,"   indoor air quality specialist Gil Cromier of Occupational Risk Control Services told the Cooperator. He said that the glues and resins in the wood composites commonly found in new construction are also causing some problems.

Residents of sick buildings can experience excessive coughing, wheezing, throat and eye irritations, skin irritation, nausea, headaches and fatigue or upper respiratory conditions, according to the Cooperator article.

BrickU bottom line: This is yet another reason why how well a building is run matters as much as how much you like the apartment. If you're buying or renting a place in a newer building (or you already live there), you may want to make sure the sponsor, landlord or board understands the importance of preventative HVAC maintenance.

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