Radon is a radioactive gas which occurs naturally in soils. It has been found in high concentrations in some areas of many states including Florida. Radon can enter buildings through floor cracks and openings driven by pressure differences which result from space conditioning and ventilation systems, temperatures and wind. Its radioactive decay products can cause lung cancer when breathed.
The following building standards have been developed in accordance with Section 553.98, Florida Statutes to protect the public by setting standards for mitigation of radon concentrations in existing buildings.
PRINCIPAL Approaches for Radon Mitigation in Existing Buildings
This building standard addresses five principal approaches to mitigating radon accumulation in buildings:
The standard does not mandate the implementation of any of the principal approaches listed above. It establishes minimum standard practices for each of the principal approaches. Implementation of these minimum standard practices does not guarantee successful mitigation. A post-mitigation indoor radon concentration test must be conducted to demonstrate successful mitigation in compliance with the rules of the Department of Health and Chapter 3 of this standard.
The practices incorporated in the standard are based on experience, testing and in certain cases expectations founded on interpretation of fundamental physical principles. The demonstration at successful mitigation utilizing the different approaches incorporated in this standard varies.
Subslab depressurization, crawlspace ventilation, and submembrane depressurization have the highest demonstrated success rates. Success with these approaches has in many cases required modification and enhancement of systems based on post mitigation indoor radon tests.
Effective sealing of accessible entry points has been demonstrated to make a significant impact on indoor radon concentrations. However, mitigation by sealing entry points alone has not had a demonstrated level of success equivalent to the aforementioned active mitigation systems. This is understood to be principally because of the difficulty in locating and treating enough entry points to resist the driving forces which cause radon laden soil gas and crawlspace air entry. The significance of entry points and their treatment can be ranked based on their size, location and the degree of depressurization of the building space surrounding them. Design and construction of successful sub-slab depressurization systems also depends on entry point size, location and the magnitude of coincident building depressurization. Attention to limiting entry at points of high depressurization such as space conditioning system return plenums, mechanical closets, etc., is critical to the success of both passive mitigation and minimally designed active mitigation systems.
Building pressurization is expected, based on fundamental principles, to provide a potentially effective mitigation strategy. The effectiveness for individual cases may rely on occupant behavior as well as building leakage characteristics. Pressurization systems also have potentially major impacts on occupant comfort, humidity control and energy use.
Building ventilation has potential application where low indoor radon concentrations exist initially. This approach can have significant impacts on the ability of a building's climate control systems to perform adequately in the hot and humid climate and on energy consumption for comfort conditioning.
None of the techniques in this standard are guaranteed to provide adequate mitigation. The complexities of existing buildings and the inherent limitations in the ability to determine the building's construction characteristics result in conditions too diverse for a standard to anticipate. Successful mitigation depends on the experience of the mitigator to make an effective selection of mitigation options. A post mitigation indoor radon test is essential for determining if initial mitigation has been successful. Proper maintenance and operation of mechanical systems implemented as part of active mitigation approaches are critical to the long-term effectiveness of mitigation where such systems are used. Periodic retests of indoor radon concentrations at least every two years, and when the building undergoes significant structural alterations, are advised for all mitigation approaches to provide continued assurance of safe indoor radon levels.
All mitigation shall be deemed to be in compliance with this standard when: (a) the techniques utilized in mitigation meet the minimum standard practices established herein; and (b) the building is determined to meet the "not to exceed" exposure standard established by the Department of Health (DOH) or the level specified in any warranty or guarantee provided to the client. The Department of Health (DOH) has set an exposure standard for radon decay products in buildings at an annual average of 0.02 working levels. Under conditions often encountered in homes, this is equivalent to an annual average radon level of 4.0 picocuries per liter. Radon levels in most buildings can be reduced to 4.0 picocuries per liter or below.
Testing must be conducted in accordance with all applicable sections of the DOH Florida Administrative Code Chapter 64E-5 and in accordance with Chapter C3 of this standard.
AUTOMATIC. Self-acting, operating by its own mechanism when activated by some personal influence, as for example, a change in current, pressure, temperature or mechanical configuration.
CAULKS AND SEALANTS. Those materials which will significantly reduce the flow of gases through small openings in the building shell. Among those used are:
Urethane. A crystalline ester-amide used as a gelatinizing agent for cellulose acetate or cellulose nitrate. A component of polyurethane used in making flexible and rigid foams, elastomers, and resins for coatings and adhesives.
CONDITIONED SPACE. All spaces which are provided with heated and/or cooled air or which are maintained at temperatures over 50°F (10°C) during the heating season, including adjacent connected spaces separated by an uninsulated component (e.g. basements, utility rooms, garages, corridors).
CRAWLSPACE. An area beneath the living space in some houses, where the floor of the lowest living area is elevated above grade level. This space (which generally provides only enough head room for a person to crawl in), is not living space, but often contains utilities.
DEPRESSURIZATION. A condition that exists when the measured air pressure is lower than the reference air pressure.
MIL. 1 mil = 1/1000 of an inch.
MITIGATION. The act of making less severe, reducing or relieving. For the purposes of this standard, a building shall not be considered as mitigated until it has been demonstrated to meet the standards of compliance specified in Section 103.
OUTSIDE AIR. Air taken from the outdoors and, therefore, not previously circulated through the system.
PICOCURIE (pCi). A unit of measurement of radioactivity. A curie is the amount of any radionuclide that undergoes exactly 3.7 × 1010 radioactive disintegrations per second. A picocurie is one trillionth (10-12) of a curie, or 0.037 disintegrations per second.
PICOCURIES PER LITER (pCi/l). A common unit of measurement of the concentration of radioactivity in a gas. A picocurie per liter corresponds to 0.037 radioactive disintegrations per second in every liter of air.
SOIL DEPRESSURIZATION SYSTEM. A system designed to withdraw air below the slab through means of a vent pipe and fan arrangement (active).
SOIL GAS. Gas which is always present underground, in the small spaces between particles of the soil or in crevices in rock. Major constituents of soil gas include nitrogen, water vapor, carbon dioxide, and (near the surface) oxygen. Since radium-226 is essentially always present in the soil or rock, varying levels of radon-222 will exist in the soil gas.
SOIL GAS RETARDER. A concrete slab; polyvinylchloride (PVC) ethylenepropylene dieneterpolymer (EPDM), neoprene or other flexible sheet material; or other system of materials placed between the soil and the building for the purpose of reducing the flow of soil gas into the building.
URETHANE. A crystalline ester-amide used as a gelatinizing agent for cellulose acetate or cellulose nitrate. A component of polyurethane used in making flexible and rigid foams, elastomers, and resins for coatings and adhesives.
VENTILATION. The process of supplying or removing air, by natural or mechanical means, to or from any space. Such air may or may not have been conditioned.
Within the practical limits posed by the building, suction points shall be distributed as nearly equally as possible, and as follows:
C603.2.4 Depressurization Systems in Sands or Granular Soils With Continuous Ventilation Mat(s) Design
Suction points shall be equally distributed as follows: