Good air quality in buildings is vital to health and well-being.
Itchy eyes, sneezing, fatigue, throat irritation, headaches, coughing, allergies, respiratory diseases and even heart disease. The impact of poor air quality in our homes, schools and workspaces is becoming a major concern worldwide.
“Concentrations of some pollutants indoors are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations,” says the Environmental Protection Agency in North America. The EPA says that the very young, elderly and vulnerable people with cardiovascular or respiratory diseases are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because they spend more time indoors.
Unfortunately, we have all unknowingly become part of the THE INDOOR GENERATION™ according to a survey of 16,000 people across 14 countries in Europe and North America. The research found that 62% of those surveyed thought they spent less than 18 hours inside when the reality is 90% or almost 22 hours per day. The survey is accessible here: https://www.velux.com/indoorgeneration.
In the report by data analysis agency YouGov and VELUX®, Russell Foster, head of Nuffield Laboratory at the UK’s Oxford University said: “From the year 1800 to 2000 we’ve moved from 90% of people working outside to less than 20%. We’ve gone from being an outdoor species to spending most of our time in dim, dark caves.”
The impact is considerable. A new report by the initiative Buildings 2030 says exposure to poor indoor air quality has been linked to lower levels of work productivity and absenteeism through sickness as well as lower attention spans in classrooms and, more alarmingly, the World Health Organisation has released figures revealing that 3.8 million people a year die prematurely from illnesses attributable to household air pollution such as pneumonia, stroke and heart disease.
A new World Green Building Council report Doing Right By Planet and People released in April 2018 states: “The biggest economic benefits are realised when impacts to the environment and people are addressed jointly from the start of building design and a clear direction to achieve key metrics such as improving air quality without sacrificing energy efficiency is set. Employees prefer and work best when they are in spaces with ample natural light, good air quality and access to greenery.”
So, if we know there is a problem with indoor air quality, what is being done about it?
Many countries around the world such as Germany, France, Italy, Belgium are introducing stricter VOC regulatory requirements, while Green Building Rating Systems — including BREEAM, LEED, WELL and DGNB — are placing more emphasis than ever on indoor air quality. Earlier this year, Eurofins Indoor Air Comfort Gold was recognised by DGNB — making it the only certification of its kind to be accepted by the rating system.
“As we grow increasingly aware of the impact of living indoors it is vital that we put the health and comfort of our building inhabitants and users at the heart of everything we do,” says Vincent Briard, our Sustainability & Product Regulatory Affairs Director.
• Insulation can contribute significantly to health and comfort in buildings and is a subject that we have covered extensively in our past sustainability report here. Insulation helps prevent illnesses and deaths caused by cold, reduces noise pollution, alleviates fuel poverty and can reduce indirectly concentrations of external air pollutants.
ECOSE, Eurofins and DGNB success
Knauf Insulation was the first company to have its Mineral Wool with ECOSE Technology and no added formaldehyde certified Indoor Air Comfort Gold by Eurofins.
Now the Eurofins standard has been recognised by DGNB — the German Sustainability Building Assessment System — the only certification of its kind to be accepted by the System.
In the guidance for the new 2018 version of DGNB, the System stresses that Indoor Air Quality remains “an all-or-nothing factor” and that its target requirements for formaldehyde have been further reduced “making DGNB the most stringent System worldwide”.
Indoor Air Comfort Gold is regarded as Europe’s most comprehensive label for verifying low product emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The Eurofins certification combines all mandatory European regulations, a large number of voluntary labels on VOC emissions and VOC requirements for LEED, WELL, BREEAM and now DGNB.
*THE INDOOR GENERATION™ and VELUX® are trademarks owned and used by the VELUX Group