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Bills target sick building cures.

Efforts to combat sick building syndrome are winding their way through the New York State Assembly. Two different measures are under consideration by Assembly committees and would set model standards for clean air.

An Assembly Environmental Committee bill, introduced by chair Assm. Harvey Weisenberg of Long Beach, would apply to all public buildings within the state and was reported out of committee to Ways and Means last week. A Health Committee bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard N. Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat, would extend to all buildings 25,000 square feet and larger or having more than six dwelling units.

Additionally, a new measure may be formulated by Sen. Michael Tully, a Port Washington Republican who chairs the Senate's Health Committee. Sen. Tully was responsible for New York State's Clean Indoor Air Quality Act which was the first of its kind in the world.

Taking a stand which he admits is not popular among other owners, BOMA Long Island president Gary Rodolitz, a licensed professional engineer and building owner, has been pressuring elected officials to act in order to ensure building HVAC systems are maintained to proper specifications.

Assm. Weisenberg said he wants to make sure people are aware that there are sick buildings. 'We made them air tight, no one is cleaning the systems and no agency is taking responsibility or setting standards," he said.

Weisenberg's bill would put the onus on the Department of Environmental Conservation to develop clean air standards based on the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standard that is already in place and which Rodolitz said is not enforced.

Referring to the Gottfried bill, Weisenberg said he doesn't care if the Health Department or Department of Environmental Conservation has the ultimate responsibility. "Someone should take responsibility," he said. "We are interested in the protection of people."

Weisenberg points to Rodolitz's Garden City Center, a 240,000-square-foot Long Island property with high air quality standards monitored by computer that has had great success renting to concerned companies. "If I owned a building I would want it clean and healthy," Weisenberg added. He also introduced a bill that would not permit smoking in schools.

Real Estate Board of New York Vice President Mark Moss believes in this time of oversupply the market will take care of itself. "If the air quality is bad, the tenants will not renew the leases," he said.

REBNY is concerned with Federal legislation that might dictate ventilation standards and how they would be applied to renovations. They are co-sponsoring a seminar on indoor air-quality with BOMA/NY today, Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 270 Park Avenue in the 3rd floor auditorium from 1 to 5 p.m.

Moss and Rodolitz agree the major problems lie in government- owned buildings that are not properly maintained and the 1970's office towers that were constructed too tightly to save on fuel costs.

The latter can be salvaged by removing the source of the odors, Rodolitz said. For instance, smoking can be eliminated, solvents can be stored in different places, cleaning supplies can be ordered with fewer odors, furniture and carpeting can be replaced with material that does not use formaldehydes.

Rodolitz said the Weisenberg bill is a very important first step. "It puts on the table a problem that needs to be addressed," he said. "It places further reliance on ASHRAE as a standard and it shows the clear intent to have good quality air in buildings."

The New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials is opposed to the Weisenberg bill as it requires expenses but does not offer monetary assistance.

The Gottfried measure requires the building owners to have in place an indoor air plan describing the ventilation system and its operation and maintenance. Renovations would have to be documented and owners would need to set up a system for responding to complaints.

While there is nothing punitive in the bill, an unsatisfied complainant would have the ability to petition the Health Dept. to conduct an investigation. "It's intended to be non-confrontational," Gottfried's spokesperson added.

The Gottfried measure also directs the Health Department to establish standards and set up model maintenance courses that might lead to certification as is something Rodolitz thinks is necessary. While building owners have an obligation to provide clean air, Rodolitz noted, there is no regulation requiring operations and maintenance. "There is no teeth in the enforcement of existing regulations," he said.

"If the owners and managers don't take a responsible position for legitimate regulation," Rodolitz added, "we are going to find regulations that we can't live with placed on us."

Attorney C. Jaye Berger recently updated her book on hazardous substances in buildings and found that most jurisdictions around the U.S. have educational and research components within their clean air acts and also refer to the ASHRAE standard. "That is fine but the bills don't have much in way of penalties or enforcing compliance," Berger agreed.
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Title Annotation:two measures introduced to New York State Assembly set standards for clean air
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Feb 17, 1993
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