Ask the Architect: Why Does Indoor Air Quality Matter?#LEED #WELL #Health #Wellness #Safety #Architect #ilmaBlogPosted: May 7, 2019
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.
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:
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For More Questions and Answers please check out:
Architects @WJMArchitect And @FrankCunhaIII Respond to ILMA Fan’s Questions “ASK THE ARCHITECT”
The “High Performance by Integrative Design” film by RMI includes examples of how design teams collaborate in new ways to integrate high-performance design elements, such as daylighting, energy efficiency and renewable energy, for optimal performance. Viewers experience charrette discussions and see the design process unfold on projects such as the Empire State Building retrofit, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Phipps Conservancy in Pittsburgh, the Desert Living Center in Las Vegas, Willow School in New Jersey and Chicago Botanic Gardens.
Typical Design & Construction Process
Conventional planning, design, building, and operations processes often fail to recognize that buildings are part of larger, complex systems. As a result, solving for one problem may create other problems elsewhere in the system.1
Integrative Design & Construction Process
Collaboration leads to innovation
An integrated design process (IDP) involves a holistic approach to high performance building design and construction. It relies upon every member of the project team sharing a vision of sustainability, and working collaboratively to implement sustainability goals. This process enables the team to optimize systems, reduce operating and maintenance costs and minimize the need for incremental capital. IDP has been shown to produce more significant results than investing in capital equipment upgrades at later stages.2
As discussed in a previous post, the integrated process requires more time and collaboration during the early conceptual and design phases than conventional practices. Time must be spent building the team, setting goals, and doing analysis before any decisions are made or implemented. This upfront investment of time, however, reduces the time it takes to produce construction documents. Because the goals have been thoroughly explored and woven throughout the process, projects can be executed more thoughtfully, take advantage of building system synergies, and better meet the needs of their occupants or communities, and ultimately save money, too.3
Considerations and Advantages of an Integrative Design Process:
- ID&CP processes and strategies can be implemented to varying degrees depending upon the complexity of a project and an owner’s project goals.
- A project team must be carefully assembled very early on in the process to ensure success.
- All key participants must subscribe to the collaborative effort of establishment clear goals.
- All project stakeholders must be involved and remain involved in the project, and must communicate openly and frequently.
- Key participants must employ appropriate technology to foster collaborative design and construction.
Similar to the Construction Management at Risk approach to project delivery, the owner can benefit from the following IPD advantages:
- Owner receives early cost estimating input, sometimes as early as conceptual design.
- The owner can take advantage of special services such as:
- Feasibility studies
- Value engineering
- Life cycle costs
- Identification of long-lead items and their pre-purchase
- Significant time can be saved because the design effort is emphasized and completed earlier in the process, and because construction can begin before the design is fully complete.
- Architectural and engineering fees can be reduced by the early involvement of the specialty contractors.
- Construction costs are minimized by incorporating constructability reviews into the process, and by the designers incorporating materials, methods, and systems that the team knows are more cost effective.
- Operating costs can be reduced by providing opportunities to greatly affect long-term energy and resource use through design.
- Capital costs can be reduced, thanks to clearer and better coordinated construction documents, which should minimize the incidence of change orders that impact both cost and time.
- Misunderstanding between the parties is minimized when the IPD Team works together during the planning stages of the project.
- The owner’s risk is minimized as the IPD Team approach tends to focus on early identification of potential conflicts and issues through the utilization of modeling tools. This early identification results in timely problem solving and resolution of issues through the use of models, as opposed to problem solving in the field and constructed environments.
We would love to hear from you on 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!