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


Architect’s Follow Up on the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris and Creating Safer Work Environments #UnderConstruction #Safety #Design #Architecture #LessonsLearned #SafetyFirst #Design #Build #Architect #ilmaBlog

Follow Up on the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris and Creating Safer Work Environments

A few weeks ago on April 15th, 2019, a fire destroyed the roof and wooden spire of the Notre-Dame de Paris.

One of the most famous timber frame fires started just after midnight on the 2nd September 1666 in Pudding Lane. After burning for three days it destroyed nearly 90 percent of the inhabitants of London’s homes.

Getty Images

Possible Causes For Blaze

Although officials say that the investigation could last several weeks and nothing can be ruled out at this time, there is much suspicion that the blaze may have been started by a short-circuit near the spire.

The short circuit may have been possibly caused by electrified bells, or negligence by construction workers carrying out the ongoing renovations, a theory fueled by the discovery of cigarette butts.

Typical Sources of Ignition

Not related to the fire, but for a matter of reference, sources of ignition during construction may generally include: (1) Hot works – cutting, grinding, soldering, hot pitching; (2) Faulty electrical equipment – damaged sockets and equipment, service strikes, temporary supplies and halogen lighting; (3) Arson – works in high crime rate areas, protests and objections to the scheme, disgruntled employees or contractors; (4) Reactive chemicals; (5) Fire Loading; (6) Fire Spread – The Offsite Risks; (7) and Constrained sites.   It will be interesting to see what the investigators are able to uncover in the following weeks.

André Finot, the cathedral’s spokesman, pointed out traces of damage. “Everywhere the stone is eroded, and the more the wind blows, the more all of these little pieces keep falling,” he said. (Photo Credit: Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times)

Ongoing Renovations

Fallen stones on the cathedral’s roof. Experts say that the building has reached a tipping point and that routine maintenance is no longer enough to prevent rain, wind and pollution from causing lasting damage. (Photo Credit: Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times)
Masonry that has broken away or that was taken down as a precautionary measure has been piled up on a small lawn at the back of the cathedral. (Photo Credit: Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times)

According to the New York Times, the biggest renovation at the cathedral took place between 1844 and 1864 when the spire and the flying buttresses were rebuilt.  The most recent overhaul, however, was meant to be understated. “The idea isn’t to replace every single stone. I don’t want to give this cathedral a face-lift,” said Philippe Villeneuve, the chief architect behind the project.  The renovations, which are estimated to cost $150 million euro ($169 million) were still ongoing when the cathedral caught fire.  Most likely something to do with the renovations of the cathedral led to its temporary demise.

Design Input

The event, which occurred during holy week sparked an intense national debate on how the 856-year-old cathedral should be rebuilt.  The French public will get a say on how the fire-ravaged Notre Dame cathedral will be rebuilt, officials say. 

FYI: In a separate blog post, ILMA plans to do a write up on the current designs that are being suggested by Architects and designers around the world.

Construction Workers – Risk Management

As a matter of course, this heartbreaking occurrence give us pause to consider the threats that can occur during construction.  Some risks to workers that need to be managed during construction and renovations include the following: (1) Working at Height; (2) Slips, Trips and Falls; (3) Moving Objects; (4) Noise; (5) Manual Handling; (6) Vibrations; (7) Collapses; (8) Asbestos; (9) Electricity; (9) Respiratory diseases. (Sources: Top 10 construction health and safety risks) and OSHA’s Top Four Construction Hazards); From the perspective of keeping the building safe during renovations and/or construction and saving lives, the following should be considered:

Building Safety – Risk Management

  1. Installation of sprinkler systems and fire detection systems early on in construction
  2. Availability of standpipes
  3. Commissioning the sprinkler system
  4. Access to fire extinguishers
  5. Make sure your fire detection and warning systems work
  6. Maintaining means of egress; Building compartmentation and protected fire routes in as the building is constructed
  7. Protect emergency escape routes
  8. Secure the site against arson
  9. Protect temporary buildings and accommodation
  10. Store equipment safely
  11. Design out hot works
  12. Keep the site tidy
  13. Keep project site and equipment safe
  14. No smoking
  15. Increase security for the site – CCTV, Full height hoarding, signage
  16. Engagement of local fire departments – to assess water pressure and accessibility
  17. Proper fire risk assessment that considers fire loading and fire separation distances

Learning From the Tragedy of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris

As timber is becoming increasingly more popular in high rises it is important to consider the past when managing the risks of projects utilizing wood framing.  Although there are many studies and test on modern day timber/wood designs, it is still important to consider the risks that are present on any jobsite.  Spending the money to do construction the right way will help reduce the inherent risks with construction – both to safeguard people as well as the buildings that we cherish.

For more information on my take on what happened at Notre Dame, please consider checking out the original articles: Personal Reflection on the Tragedy of April 15, 2019 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and What Makes Notre Dame Cathedral So Important as a Work of Architecture?.

Additional Reading:

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!

Sincerely,

FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook