An official website of the United States government.

This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2021. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. More information »

Renovation and Repair, Part of Indoor Air Quality Design Tools for Schools


Renovation is one of the major causes of poor indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools, and is often conducted while the building is occupied. When planning and conducting renovations in schools, it is important to remember four potential causes of indoor air problems during renovation and repairs:

  1. Demolition that releases toxic materials, e.g.:
  2. Construction dust and fumes.
  3. Designs that interfere with ventilation.
  4. Off-gassing from new building materials and products.

Top of page

Techniques for Protecting Occupants from Renovation Pollutants

  • Testing: Before performing any demolition, check for lead-based paints and asbestos.
  • Timing: When possible, perform work at times when the occupants are not in the building, such as vacation breaks, weekends, or evenings.
  • Distance: Keep building occupants as far from renovation activities as possible. The greater the distance between pollutants and occupants, the less concentrated the pollutants will be upon reaching the occupants.
  • Barriers: Install temporary barriers (e.g., plastic sheeting) to seal the work areas from the occupied areas. Cover all supply and return air grilles if the HVAC system in the renovation area also serves occupied areas so that the air ducts will not spread pollutants to occupied area. Exhaust air from the construction area so that pollutants cannot flow from the construction area to the occupied areas.
  • Containment: When possible, keep pollutants confined to as small an area as reasonably possible, rather than allow them to spread to larger areas. Examples include wet sanding or vacuum sanding drywall to prevent the spread of dust, misting asbestos with water to prevent it from easily becoming airborne during demolition, and keeping containers of chemicals such as solvents, adhesives, paints, and other coatings closed as much as possible. Do not operate the heating/cooling equipment when work is causing dust to be visible in the air.
  • Cleanup: At least daily, construction debris, dust, and scraps should be adequately cleaned up so that there is less chance that these pollutants will enter occupied areas.

Top of page

References and Resources

  • EPA Construction and Demolition Debris page
  • School Construction News Exit. Website containing news, information, products, and resources about the design, construction, maintenance, management and operations of schools. A free on-line e-news letter subscription is available.
  • The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractor's National Association (SMACNA) IAQ Guidelines for Occupied Buildings Under Construction
  • Maintaining Acceptable Indoor Air Quality During the Renovation of a School, Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Business Education, School Facilities Branch, 200 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore Maryland 21201.
  • Follow applicable guidance in the Construction section of the Indoor Air Quality site.
  • The Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit contains a detailed Renovation and Repairs Checklist which can be used to establish a detailed renovation plan for the school.

Top of Page