To provide a consistent approach when dealing with renovations in the City of Toronto and to mitigate health and safety concerns associated with this work through enhanced communication, selection of products and recommended work practices.


Renovation projects can introduce a number of contaminants into the work environment, which have the potential to impact indoor air quality (IAQ). These contaminants may be released in to the environment through activities involving demolition, construction , installation of new building materials and/or, reconfiguration of existing building materials and workstations and include but are not limited to dust, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), biological contaminants (e.g. mould, fungus) and designated substances.

The following information and recommendations are provided to assist in maintaining acceptable indoor air quality in buildings where renovation work will be conducted. Proactive measures, including the use of these guidelines, can successfully eliminate or control contaminant levels, alleviate concerns, and maintain occupant comfort both during and after renovation activities. It is the intent of this document to increase awareness about the health and safety aspects of renovations and to encourage the use of best practice guidelines as a means of addressing concerns.


Renovation Project:

Any project, work or activity that has the potential to release or introduce contaminants into the work environment, either through demolition or construction of building structures, the installation of new building materials or the reconfiguration of existing building materials and workstations.

Recommended Guidelines for Renovation Projects

Communication Strategy

This communication strategy should involve dissemination of information between the division initiating and scheduling the renovation project, building occupants, Facilities Operations, occupational health and safety consultants, joint health and safety committees and the Occupational Health, Safety and Worker’s Compensation unit, if needed.

City personnel responsible for scheduling of the work (e.g. project managers) should determine which occupants are likely to be impacted by a renovation project and notify management of the impacted area of the work prior to its commencement. Information provided to management of the impacted areas should include the following:

  • location of renovation work,
  • start and anticipated completion date,
  • the nature of the work, areas where work activities may be disrupted and
  • the name of a City contact person responsible for the work.

For longer projects, periodic updates should also be given. Management of impacted areas should share this information with their employees and joint health and safety committees that represent these employees.

In addition to the project notification, those City personnel responsible for scheduling of the work should provide information on potential contaminants that can be introduced into the environment during renovation work and the control strategies that will be used throughout the project to prevent or at a minimum mitigate release. It is also important that a strategy be in place to facilitate a timely response to indoor air quality concerns.


Unless already available, city personnel responsible for overseeing the renovation work will ensure that a Hazardous Materials Assessment for the area is completed prior to the start of the renovation project. The purpose of the assessment is to determine if a designated substance is present and likely to be disturbed as part of the work. If a designated substance is present and likely to be disturbed as part of the renovation work, there are specific requirements in accordance with the Designated Substances Regulation that must be followed, including but not limited to:

  • Ensuring that contractors performing work are made aware of the presence of any designated substances within the renovation area
  • Implementing appropriate control strategies prior to the work to prevent disturbance of designated substance.

Refer to the Designated Substances Regulation for details.

Product Selection and Use

Individuals who are involved with identifying, sourcing and purchasing materials (e.g. coatings, paints, sealants, adhesives, insulation etc), products (e.g. panels, carpets) and furnishings used in renovation work must specify that such materials, products and furnishings meet low emission criteria, and integrate this into the purchasing process and decision-making process when selecting contractors.

Individuals who are involved with the oversight of the renovation project must ensure that current emission rates are being incorporated into the purchasing process. Product emission rates are available through various agencies such as US EPA and industry specific associations (i.e. Carpet and Rug Institute). Review the general information provided by the product labels and the material safety data sheet (MSDS).

Ensure that MSDSs for all of the products and chemicals used during the renovation are at the work site.

Design of the Renovated Area/Work Space

Review plans that may involve increases in the number of occupants (i.e. occupant load), relocation of walls/partitions, installation of new equipment or changes in the use of space to ensure that from an air quality perspective:

  • Appropriate ventilation is provided for the use of the space (e.g. photocopier room, kitchenette) or changes in occupant load
  • Open office space that has been converted to closed offices have adequate air supply/exhaust and temperature control
  • The installation of walls and partitions have not blocked air supply and exhaust ducts or impaired air circulation
  • Office workstations or equipment are not placed on top of air supply or exhaust ducts

Installation of New Furnishings

Where possible and practical, reduce the emissions and/or the impact of volatile organic contaminants from new carpets and furnishings by:

  • Unwrapping and storing in well-ventilated areas, so that volatile organic compounds can be off-gassed before installation
  • Allowing adequate time for off-gassing before employees are relocated to a newly renovated building or area
  • In addition, inquiries should be made of the supplier to see if there are any other steps to reduce volatile organic compound emissions prior to installation.

Occupied Buildings

To maintain acceptable indoor air quality and to mitigate potential health related concerns during renovation work, city personnel with oversight responsibility for the renovation work need to:

  • Inform management of the affected area in advance of the project so that management can take measures, if necessary for alternate work arrangements for the individual with concerns about potential impact on his/her health,
  • Schedule activities that produce dust, odours, emission or unacceptable levels of noise during off-hours when the building is unoccupied, or isolate such activities from occupied areas
  • Isolate or temporarily re-locate building occupants from renovation work
  • Respond to occupant concerns associated with the renovation project and work

In the event that management of the affected area becomes aware of health & safety concerns associated with the renovation work, such concerns are to be communicated to city personnel overseeing the project for his/her action.

Isolation of the Work Area

  • Where the building system permits, all reasonable measures should be taken to isolate the area where renovation work is being conducted, such as:
  • Install temporary barriers such as floor to ceiling plastic sheets to enclose the work area and any contaminants generated
  • Isolate the ventilation system servicing the work area by closing return registers in occupied spaces or installing adequate filters/barriers. This will prevent air containing dust and contaminants being re-circulated from the renovation site into adjoining areas.
  • Ventilate the work area using both mechanical (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) unit, local exhausts, portable fans) and natural ventilation (open doors, windows). Ventilation rates should be increased to help dissipate off-gassed contaminants, and the ventilation should remain elevated until the off-gassing of new products is complete.
  • Place the area where renovation work is being done under negative pressure in relation to other work areas.

Housekeeping/Cleaning Practices

  • Increased housekeeping practices may be necessary to eliminate dust generated during renovation work
  • Old carpet should be vacuumed before removal with vacuuming of the floor after the old carpet and under pad/cushion have been removed.
  • General cleaning, including wet wiping of surfaces/equipment and vacuuming (preferably with a HEPA filter), should be done throughout the project and upon completion, in the work area and other areas accessed
  • Vacuum new and existing flooring to remove loose matter and particles generated by the installation and renovation work in the area
  • Clean and inspect components of the HVAC system servicing the renovation site to ensure it is free from debris/dust, and change the filters once work is complete

Ventilation System Modifications

  • If the number of occupants are increased, the ventilation system should be modified according to American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 62.1-2010 “Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality”
  • Balance the ventilation system, if it has been modified or if areas served by the ventilation system have been altered (e.g. installation of partitions)

Endorsed by

Occupational Health & Safety Co-ordinating Committee (OHSCC), December 11, 2001

Reviewed by OHSCC: November 26, 2008, June 24, 2014 & April 26, 2016

Approved by

Executive Management Team (EMT), February 18, 2002

Date Approved

February 18, 2002

Reviewed by OHSCC

April 26, 2016