Ask the Architect: Why Does Indoor Air Quality Matter?#LEED #WELL #Health #Wellness #Safety #Architect #ilmaBlog

Simply put, indoor air quality matters because human beings are spending more and more time indoors. It is becoming more important than ever to make sure that the buildings that we design, construct and occupy are suitable and safe for the occupants. The following article will draw on both research and experience in the design and construction of high performance buildings to help elaborate on this simple response.

Interesting Facts To Consider About Indoor Air Quality:

  • Indoor air often contains 4X to 10X the amount of pollutants of outdoor air.
  • Many studies have linked exposure to small particles (PM 2.5—defined as airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns) with heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmias, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, worsened symptoms of asthma, and an increased risk of respiratory illness.
  • The World Health Organization says that particulate matter contributes to about 800,000 premature deaths each year, making it the 13th leading cause of death worldwide.

The built environment around us plays a fundamental role in our overall well-being, particularly the indoor spaces that we inhabit to live, work, learn, play and pray, since most of us spend about 90% of our time indoors.  The buildings that we as Architects design and construct have a distinctive capability to positively or negatively impact our health and wellbeing. The air that we breathe inside a building can have a greater consequence on our health.  Unfortunately, many contaminants are not visible in the air, so we might not know that they are there.  Inhaling air or poor quality can lead to a number of health conditions, including but not limited to:  allergies, respiratory disorders, headaches, sore throat, lethargy and nausea.

Sick Building Syndrome

According to the EPA, sick building syndrome (SBS) is used to describe a situation in which the occupants of a building experience acute health- or comfort-related effects that seem to be linked directly to the time spent in the building. No specific illness or cause can be identified. The complainants may be localized in a particular room or zone or may be widespread throughout the building.

LEED Requirements

As more buildings are LEED certified, here are some things to consider about your next project:

To contribute to the comfort and well-being of building occupants by establishing minimum standards for indoor air quality (IAQ) after construction and during occupancy, USGBC LEED v4 requires that the project meet one of the following:

  • Minimum indoor air quality performance: Option 1. ASHRAE Standard 62.1–2010 or Option 2. CEN Standards EN 15251–2007 and EN 13779–2007.
  • Indoor air quality assessment: Path 1 Option 1. Flush-out, or Path 2. Option 1. During occupancy, or Path 2. Option 2. Air testing – Note: these cannot be combined.

Occupants are increasingly paying more attention to the conditions of their work environment as it relates to health and wellness. This is especially the case for researchers and their lab environments. We see surging growth in universities adopting lab design programs such as Smart Labs which places an emphasis in the indoor environment quality of the lab and through certification programs as:

We need to have a real-time measurement of the all contaminants of inside air and match that with real time control of the outside air coming into the environment. Ideally, we need to design and build facilities that:

  • Bring in lots of outside air—but only exactly where and when we need it.
  • Measures and controls more than just temperature and CO2.
  • Displays the ventilation performance for the building’s occupants.

Health and Cognitive FunctionPerformance Enhancements

Cognitive functions encompass reasoning, memory, attention, and language and lead directly to the attainment of information and, thus, knowledge. United Technologies and The Harvard School of Public Health prepared a study that was designed to simulate indoor environmental quality conditions in green and conventional buildings and evaluate the impacts on an objective measure of human performance—cognitive function.  The findings of the report concluded that the impact of the indoor air quality on the productivity of the occupants which revealed the following benefits:

  • Lowering the levels of CO2 and VOCs resulted in their participants scoring 61% higher on cognitive function tests compared with those in conventional offices.
  • There was a 101% improvement on their cognitive function tests when the ventilation levels were doubled above the standard ASHRAE prescribed levels.
  • Information usage scores were 299% higher than conventional offices when the ventilation rates were doubled.

The conclusion of this study is very clear: verified ventilation performance will increase employee and student performance.

Sources & References:

Is Your Building Ventilated Like It’s 1978? By Tom Kolsun

USGBC V4 Requirements for indoor environmental quality

Further Reading:

EPA – An Office Building Occupants Guide to Indoor Air Quality

#IAQmatters

EPA – Indoor Air Quality

We would love to hear from you about what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

For More Questions and Answers please check out:
Architects @WJMArchitect And @FrankCunhaIII Respond to ILMA Fan’s Questions “ASK THE ARCHITECT”

Sincerely,

FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook


One Comment on “Ask the Architect: Why Does Indoor Air Quality Matter?#LEED #WELL #Health #Wellness #Safety #Architect #ilmaBlog”

  1. […] building is mechanically ventilated with CO2 sensors programmed to generate an alarm when the conditions vary by 10 percent or more from the design […]

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