VOC’s In Construction

Hey guys,

These days everyone understands what VOC’s are, but what most people do not realize is what products VOC’s are in. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) are literally in almost EVERY Product that has some odor.  For this blog we are going to focus on specific products found in commercial renovation. And what the effects are for the Technicians working and the bystanders or pedestrians near the area.  The VOC’s found in typical construction can reduce the indoor air quality found, and it is important to understand how these products will impact the air quality.

How to know if I am working with a VOC product?

One of the easiest ways to tell is if it has an odor.  Most paints, adhesives, caulks, glue, mastics, and other coatings have distinct odors which are off gassing VOC’s.  When working in construction environments (like office remodeling or commercial build-outs), typically the work is very disruptive to those in the vicinity. It is very hard to find Zero-VOC’s or Low-VOC’s with the exception of paint.  However the better approach is to focus on removing or improving the air quality while working.

Improving the air quality while working in construction

Before installing the products it is important to evaluate the area of work being performed, the products being used and the surrounding areas that could be affected.  If duct work return is near the area of work, it should be considered to mask off the return to prevent odors spreading to other parts of the building—something property management will appreciate. Secondly consider using an enclosure system such as a zip wall to create a barrier.  Third and what we find to be the most effective are Air scrubbers such as the Dri-Eaz Hepa 500 with an activated carbon filter will help remove the off gassing VOC’s.  Note the carbon filter will not remove particulate matter such as dust, dirt, or debris in the air as a regular air filter will help.  When exposing the technicians to higher amounts of VOC products it is important to use a Chemical Cartridge Respirator as this will help filter the VOCs inhaled.  If all of these items have been observed before during and after working, feel confident that the impact surrounding the work area will be miniscule.

EPA Link how VOC impact indoor air quality


EPA Link about VOC


AIHA White paper on VOC’s in Construction


JP Carlton

J.P. Carlton

J.P. Carlton is the founder of Carlton Building Services, a Hampton Roads-based construction company.