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Green building is resource efficient, contributes to a healthy environment, and provides a healthy home for occupants. According to the EPA, most Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors. Home design includes many amenities people feel they need to make them happy and comfortable in their home. A home should also ensure that sources of indoor pollutants are limited, and those that exist will be diluted or removed from the space.
Because of the amount of time people spend inside, indoor air quality is important. Indoor air problems are usually caused by gases or particles. Many building materials and building designs contribute to indoor air problems. Outside sources can also become indoor pollutants if carried in on shoes or located next to fresh air returns for the house. Ventilation provides fresh air to dilute concentrations of pollutants and to carry them outside. Inadequate ventilation can add problems by allowing moisture and temperature levels to rise.
Reasons to Change
Some people, especially children, elderly, and those with allergies are particularly sensitive to indoor pollutants. Adverse health effects may include respiratory, neurological, and skin conditions, impairment of brain function (mental retardation in children), lung disease and cancer. To reduce these effects, apply a "systems approach" where the interaction of all elements of the building site, building envelope, mechanical systems, and occupants are considered.
Builders can reduce the risks of poor indoor air quality. Reduced liability and increased community relations will result from homes built with indoor air quality considerations. Homeowners and the community at large will benefit from reduced health impacts caused by poor indoor air quality in homes. Money spent on insurance, medication, remediation activities, and lost productivity is money often taken from expenditures that keep local economies strong.
P2 in Action: Eliminate Sources
It is cheaper and easier to avoid pollutants than to cover or clean them up. For unavoidable pollutants, and those created by the homeowner, plan for fresh air exchange through mechanical ventilation and air cleaning devices.
Eliminate toxic materials and pollutant breeding grounds as often as possible.
Separate potential pollutants from the living space.
P2 in Action: Ventilate
Provide adequate mechanical ventilation within the home to ensure enough fresh air intake for dilution of pollutants, removal of pollutants and efficient operation of appliances. Organizations working in the fields of building energy, green buildings, heating, refrigeration, and ventilation provide criteria for mechanical ventilation system rates and parameters, i.e. American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) www-epb.lbl.gov/EPB/Publications/lbnl-42975.pdf. Guidelines often include requirements for testing of the system.
If installing or using products that may contribute to unhealthy indoor air, take extra precautions to reduce exposure to the interior of the home, e.g. lay carpets and draperies out to vent or offgas in a clean, dry area outside of the home for at least 24 hours before installation.
P2 in Action: Be Proactive
Consider installing monitoring and remediation systems during new construction, when they can save lives, prevent illness, and add very little additional cost. For example: