Sustainable Buildings and Indoor Air Quality Abstract

June 2011
Caitriona O’Donovan RGN H.Dip Occ.Health&Hygiene, Tim Yeomans PhD and Bruce Mitchell MD
airmid healthgroup ltd, Trinity Technology and Enterprise Centre, Dublin, Ireland

The link between adequate ventilation and building occupant health has long been recognized, our forebearers ‘aired’ their buildings. A generation or more ago, central heating and double glazing altered the natural habitat in our homes and played a part in today’s asthma pandemic. In this energy conscious world, ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’ concepts are leading us to tightly seal our homes and workplaces, we are creating even more inhospitable indoor environments.

US EPA studies of human exposure to pollutants in the air indicate that indoor levels are far greater than those outdoors. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports that 50 percent of all respiratory illnesses are either caused or aggravated by poor indoor air quality. Those with allergies and asthma are particularly susceptible to indoor air pollution. Asthma educators emphasise the need for environmental control measures as part of an overall management plan, but often fail to highlight the importance of non-specific irritant chemical accumulation. While source control represents one mainstay in reducing exposures, ventilation is key in the removal of particulate and gaseous airborne pollutants.

The creation of healthy indoor homes and offices requires that at design, construction, furnishing and maintenance stages, approaches to ensure low level exposure be integrated. Good Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) is a fundamental principle of sustainable “green” buildings, and requires a balance between maximising energy conservation and protecting health.

The health friendly air program, a European initiative, addresses the relevance of the 20 most prevalent indoor air factors (allergens, volatile chemicals, infections organisms and ventilation as well as thermal comfort). Understanding a program of this type is likely to be of interest to Asthma Educators.

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