The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4.3 million people die annually due to substandard indoor air quality. Having a flow of good indoor air quality throughout a building is critical to ensuring a constant supply of fresh air that minimizes the risk of indoor pollution. Having better indoor air circulation in your spaces starts from the home design. When designing a building, the indoor air quality solutions proposed should reflect specific contexts and uses. Read on to learn how architectural decisions affect air quality in buildings.
What Is Indoor Air Quality?
Indoor air quality or IAQ refers to several components such as temperature, humidity, and concentration of pollutants inside a building. Generally, IAQ refers to the comfort, health, and well-being of people occupying a building in relation to the air circulating inside. The primary method that humans use to perceive air quality is through odors. However, other pollutants don’t produce noticeable sensory effects but can still impact our health. Even when it is not consciously recognized, poor quality air could affect the health of occupants both in the short and long term.
Why Does Indoor Air Quality Matter?
Studies estimate that people spend 90% of their lives living indoors on average. Well-maintained air quality in our indoor spaces is beneficial for your health, while poor quality air from sources such as dirty vents can affect your health negatively both in the short term and long term. The following are some of the reasons why indoor air quality matters:
- Enable ideal working environment: Excellent indoor air quality in workplaces guarantees an ideal working environment for employees to complete their tasks with a lot of focus. This leads to a greater standard of work done and enhanced productivity.
- Avoid illnesses: The EPA reveals that indoor pollutants are two to five times higher than outdoor levels. In most cases, indoor pollutants are several times more potent than outdoor equivalents. Good air quality helps occupants avoid common illnesses such as coughs, eye irritations, headaches, and other more severe diseases.
- Increase in productivity: Exposure to indoor air pollution may prolong illnesses that force a person to take time off work. This, in turn, hampers productivity adversely. It is estimated that substandard air quality results in loss of productivity estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars across the globe.
Designing for Good Indoor Air Quality
When designing a building, several factors have to be considered, including regulations, customer requirements, knowledge, and material information. These factors have diverse goals, but one of them is to create a healthy building. The following are some of the design strategies to improve indoor air quality:
Improving IAQ with Ventilation and Air Purification Systems
Ventilating with clean outdoor air is one of the most effective ways to improve IAQ. The following are some of the common ventilation systems to enhance the quality of air:
Installation of ventilation system: If the building is located in harsh climates, the strategy is to ensure it is as impervious to the outdoors as possible with the help of insulation and airtightness solutions. However, insulation and airtightness solutions often trap pollutants inside buildings, resulting in poor IAQ. This problem can be solved with the adoption of a good ventilation system. The ideal ventilation systems should utilize mechanical ventilation, natural ventilation, or a hybrid of both.
The key features of a perfect ventilation system to guarantee good air quality include clean air supplied sufficiently to the right places and adequate high air change frequency. When using mechanical ventilation systems, automatic or manual detectors can be used to determine when ventilation is needed in a space. Automated systems with timers can be utilized to detect pollutant levels such as carbon dioxide for efficient elimination.
Use of natural ventilation: Natural ventilation can also be used to eliminate costly mechanical equipment and ductwork while providing sufficient quality air. An additional advantage of natural ventilation is that inhabitants get chance to enjoy the psychological benefits of contact with nature. Unfortunately, natural ventilation is not controlled and could be prone to bad outdoor air and noise pollution. Today, many designs incorporate both natural and mechanical ventilation aspects as a holistic approach to good indoor air quality.
Incorporating plants into a building design: Another strategy is to incorporate plants into a building design through an indoor planting area or a green wall. Plants help to filter carbon dioxide and other harmful chemicals out of space. Besides, studies reveal humans who come into contact with nature increase their mental and physical well-being.
Incorporating Daylight into Interior Environments
Low levels of UV exposure have adverse health effects such as a weakened immune system, depression, bone frailty, renal dysfunction, and more. Daylighting designs utilize natural light to support air quality the needs of occupants. While windows are often touted as the first thing when it comes to incorporating more natural light into a building, other factors should be taken into account. Elements such as window size, location, lighting design and controls, and positioning of interior and exterior shading could impact a building’s natural light.
Use of Low Emitting Building Materials and Furnishings to Reduce Toxins from Buildings
The building furnishings and materials can directly impact the well-being of the people within the space. It is crucial to select materials that don’t have toxins that are harmful to human health to ensure spaces have a constant supply of fresh air. Luckily, most manufacturers today offer low or no VOC versions of coatings, paints, wood treatment, or more. Opt for materials with green certifications and standards such as cradle to cradle, LEED, Green Seal, carpet and rug institute green label program, etc. Besides focusing a design aesthetic on low tech, durable and natural materials like stone, drywall, concrete, and tile can help improve air quality and reduce construction costs.
Designers should also evaluate a finish material’s requirements for cleaning after it has been installed because cleaning products can be a primary source of exposure to VOCs and other toxic chemicals. For example, it is essential to substitute flooring finishes that need stripping and waxing with other flooring options that can be cleaned with a microfiber mop and water. Stripping and waxing often result in high amounts of VOC emissions.
Contact Alqumia Inc for Quality Building Designs
While most people advocate for good outdoor air quality by adopting sustainable practices that reduce pollution in our environment, we often take the air quality of indoor environments for granted, especially in buildings that use air conditioning. Unfortunately, indoor air is not clean in most cases and could harm our health adversely now and in the future. The presence of chemical and biological pollutants and other odor-free elements in our indoor spaces could affect our health and comfort and cause various illnesses.
Fortunately, building designers are uniquely positioned to create designs that guarantee air quality in our indoor environments and eliminate the threats that pollutants often pose to our overall health. If you need high-performance home designs with excellent air quality guaranteed in Houston, Texas, contact Alquimia Inc. We design homes with quality Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing systems that function around comfort. Contact us today to learn more.