Jeff Rostoni is the owner and operator of Air Quality Consultants in Haslett. When he graduated from Michigan State University in 1995 with an environmental degree, he wasn’t sure what type of job he would get out of college. After working at an environmental firm for several years, Rostoni started Air Quality Consultants in 2012.
How did you decide to pursue a career in the world of air quality?
It was a good 15 to 18 years ago, when there was a big mold scare. There was a lot of news media that occurred over a short period of time. People started understanding that mold and moisture in buildings is a big problem. A lot of what I started doing began back then. That concern has never gone away. I started AQC in 2012, and our focus is mainly helping residential homeowners. We do commercial and hospitals, but we’re really geared toward doing building diagnostics for homeowners and helping them resolve their issues. We identify what is going on in the building and what is the appropriate way to fix the issue.
What inspired you to become a business owner?
The larger environmental firm I used to work for stopped providing the service of building diagnostics. I went on my own and started my own company to continue that service. It’s a type of service that is better suited for owner-operators as opposed to larger environmental companies. When you’re dealing with residential customers, and they’re having these types of issues, there’s a lot of education and personal time that goes into it. That’s not a well-suited service for some of these bigger companies. Most environmental firms operate much like an attorney with billable hours, so it can feel like the meter is running when you’re talking to a client. The residential market needs a more personal touch, and that’s what has driven me to start my own business and continue doing those types of services.
What are some of the most common reasons why homeowners and companies reach out to your business?
When there’s visible water and mold damage, homeowners don’t know what to do and how to do it. Oftentimes, a lot of the calls that I get are people having health symptoms, and they start figuring out that it’s coming from their house. Often, we don’t know why we’re going to the site initially. It could be anything from a particle source to mold to anything else that can be an indoor air quality issue. A lot of the calls we get are based on someone drawing the conclusion that their house is making them sick. Another thing we get calls about is chasing down odors. That can be just about anything. People don’t know who to call when there’s a strange odor, so we do a lot of building diagnostics to figure out where the odor is coming from. Another type of call we get, from landlords or building operators, is meth testing. Whenever there is a meth lab in a dwelling, whether that be a hotel or mobile home community or a house, the health department condemns the structure. That’s where we come in to figure what the extent of contamination is and write a remediation plan.
Have you noticed an increase in need for assessments as related to methamphetamine?
I would not say that there’s been an increase or a decrease in meth usage. It’s more that there’s been a decline in police identifying meth labs. Police are often limited to budgets as well as what the directives are. Oftentimes, they have certain things that they’re going after that is more of an issue. It’s all about enforcement and what is left in the budget. There is a lot of methamphetamine and fentanyl activity that no one knows about.
What do you see on the horizon in terms of air quality control trends or needs in the future?
Specific to my industry, what we’re going to be seeing a lot more than we already are is that houses are being constructed differently now. There’s a much bigger emphasis on energy efficiency, so whenever you have a focus on that, houses are being built tighter. That means less air coming in from outdoors. And, unfortunately, we’re using cheaper and different types of building materials. Simply put, we’re seeing a lot of different air quality issues in houses, resulting from tight buildings and those materials. I think that trend is going to increase. That’s why I pride myself on being knowledgeable about all aspects of a building – not just air testing but true building diagnostics and how everything is functioning together. We’re going to see a lot more indoor quality issues as a result of these changes.
On the other hand, would you say that the “open concept” layout trend in homes also presents potential challenges for assessing air quality?
Yes, it actually makes it harder for me. That means whatever is going on in the house, whether it’s an odor issue or a chemical exposure or particles, it goes throughout the whole house. Sampling sometimes does not point the finger at which area it’s coming from. Honestly, we have to do a lot of detective work and use sampling as a means to determine whether our work is correct or not. Open-concept houses actually make our job more challenging, but I wouldn’t say they cause any additional environmental issues.
Finally, you’re a big supporter of other local businesses. Can you explain why that is important to you?
I’ve been in several business groups. When I have done tapings for “Morning Blend,” I looked for unique treasures of the Haslett community, such as the sailing center, a new bakery that opened up and a chocolatier in town – businesses that people who live nearby wouldn’t know exist. I really believe strongly in supporting and promoting small businesses even if I personally don’t get anything out of it in return. That’s not my style. I have seen the impact on brick-and-mortar stores with online businesses. The other thing I’ve noticed in my professional career is that all of my work comes from referrals and networking, not from marketing per se. Networking is pretty simple: It’s people looking out for other people. It’s that simple. I’ve always been a proponent for promoting small business and others’ businesses. It’s something I’ve always felt strongly about. Living in a smaller community amongst a bigger community in Haslett, we have some really major anchor tenant spaces that have gone unrented for a long time. I see what that does to surrounding businesses, so any opportunity I have to help someone’s business locally or regionally, I do it.