The building industry is the product of a long history and has its roots in indigenous methods. Many of the theories and practices used today to design, construct, and operate buildings have evolved from these historic processes. As a result, most of the 107 million residential and 4.7 million commercial buildings in the existing stock [, ] serve as their own prototypes and have their own individualized sets of goals and expectations that have been defined and modified by the stakeholders associated with them. Whether or not these goals and expectations are documented (e.g., available as plans, specifications, and operating manuals), each building’s performance is dependent on the knowledge, skills, and influences of the stakeholders. Thus, the large number and types of buildings, the diversity of their stakeholders, and their conflicting drivers present significant barriers to forming a consensus approach toward the development of health-protective features and practices for the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings in the United States.
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Extraordinary loads are determined from risk assessments of naturally occurring, accidental, or intentional incidents that may occur at some time during the lifetime of the building [, ]. The primary use of the extraordinary load information is to assure that the selected system capacities are sufficient and to modify the control strategies as necessary to protect occupant health and safety during extraordinary incidents (e.g., safe egress, isolation of affected area).
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Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent anthrax attacks that occurred in October and November of that year, three basic guidance documents have specifically addressed methods for protecting occupant health and safety from future attacks [, , ]. Each of these documents addresses the issue of assuring the preparedness of a building’s health and safety, during normal conditions, and for responsiveness during extraordinary incidents. The ASHRAE guidance extends extraordinary incidents to mean naturally occurring, accidental, or intentional.
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Additional credibility challenges have been experienced since the terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and the subsequent anthrax incidents in October and November 2001. As a result of these attacks, information was immediately promulgated in the news media that outdoor air intakes should be closed, air-conditioning systems should be shut off, and high-efficiency filters should be installed. And during an elevation in the alert status promulgated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in February 2003, the general population was advised that health protection should include the use of duct tape and plastic over doors and windows.
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This comparison also reveals that accountability for health protection in nonindustrial buildings is not well defined. One reason may be that designers, consultants, contractors, and suppliers do not have the education or training to assume this accountability. Less than 2 percent of architectural and engineering curricula in the early 1990s required any formal health science courses . Informal surveys conducted at seminars by the author support this finding throughout the 1990s. Moreover, similar findings are reported in curricula at schools of medicine and public health . Yet licensed architects and engineers are expected, within their fields of practice, to protect the general health and safety of the general public, and licensed health care professionals are expected to diagnose and treat patients who have been affected by exposures in buildings.