Comparison of predicted and derived measures of volatile organic compounds inside four relocatable classrooms due to identified interior finish sources

Publication Type

Journal Article



Indoor exposures to toxic and odorous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are of general concern. Recently, VOCs in portable or relocatable classrooms (RCs) have received particular attention. However, very little was known about indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and the sources, composition, and indoor concentrations of VOCs in RCs. This project task focused on developing and demonstrating a process for selecting interior finish materials for RCs that have relatively low impacts with respect to their emissions of toxic and odorous VOCs. This task was part of a larger project to demonstrate the potential for simultaneous improvements in IEQ and energy efficiency in four new RCs equipped both with a continuously ventilating advanced heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system (HVAC) and a standard HVAC system. These HVACs were operated on alternate weeks. One RC per pair was constructed with standard interior finish materials, and the other included alternate interior materials identified in our prior laboratory study to have low VOC emissions. The RCs were sited in side-by-side pairs at two elementary schools in distinct northern California climate zones. Classroom VOC emission rates (mg hr-1) and concentrations were predicted based on VOC emission factors (µg m-2 hr-1) measured for individual materials in the laboratory, the quantities of installed materials and design ventilation rates. Predicted emission rates were compared to values derived from classroom measurements of VOC concentrations and ventilation rates made at pre-occupancy, eight weeks, and 27 weeks. Predicted concentrations were compared to measured integrated VOC indoor minus outdoor concentrations during school hours in the fall cooling season with the advanced HVAC operated. These measured concentrations also were compared between standard and material-modified RCs. Our combined laboratory and field process proved effective by correctly predicting that IEQ impacts of material VOC emissions would be minor when RCs were ventilated at or above code-minimum requirements. Assuming code-minimum ventilation rates are maintained, the benefits attributable to the use of alternate interior finish materials in RC's constructed by the manufacturer associated with this study are small, implying that it is not imperative to use such alternative finishing materials. However, it is essential to avoid materials that can degrade IEQ, and the results of this study demonstrate that laboratory-based material testing combined with modeling and field validation can help to achieve that aim.


Indoor Air (Supplement 8)



Year of Publication



Research Areas