When you consider that Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors (according to the EPA), good indoor air quality suddenly becomes more important. We put a lot of thought and effort into decreasing pollution outdoors because we know that it is harmful to our health, but in reality, indoor pollutant levels can often be 2 to 5 times (and sometimes as much as 100 times) higher than outdoor pollutant levels. The pollutants are getting to us where we think we are safest: in our homes and workplaces. These are the places where we spend the majority of our time. It is important that during that time, we are not unknowingly breathing in toxins.
The responsibility lies ultimately in the hands of the building owner. It is his responsibility to first, hire the right company to build the structure and secondly, consult with the experts who know what it takes to create good indoor air quality. This is why city inspections and building codes exist.
The most vital word you need to remember when it comes to good air quality is ventilation. In this age of energy efficiency, we all want to seal up our homes and buildings until they are airtight so we can save energy and save money. But a tightly sealed interior space is dangerous. When too little air from the outdoors is able to enter a building, pollution levels can accumulate to unsafe amounts. Air needs to move in and out regularly so the indoor sources of pollution like kerosene, gas, wood, tobacco products, cleaning products, and others, don’t build up in the space. Even furniture emits levels of chemicals that can cause harm.
Adequate ventilation includes windows that can open, screen doors, and ventilation in the roof and attic. Louvered ventilation, slats that angle down to let air flow through without letting the elements in, works well on steel buildings. These louvers can help prevent mold-causing moisture from accumulating.
A way to improve indoor air quality after the building has already been standing for years is to change the insulation. Over time, mold is sure to grow in old insulation and upgrading to new and better insulation can make a world of a difference.
When selecting paint, furniture, interior elements, and basically anything that goes inside, be sure to choose low-VOC products. VOCs are known as Volatile Organic Compounds. Wood, glue, carpeting, pesticides, machines, and more can emit chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, methane, and ammonia. These are not compounds that anyone should be inhaling.
Another way to improve air quality is to select the correct HVAC system for the size of the building or switch to the correct system if the building is already standing. Other factors that come into play when selecting an HVAC system are building materials, building orientation, amount of insulation, type of insulation, and building occupancy. Only an experienced contractor can make this decision.
If anything goes wrong with the building, identify the source and address it immediately. Things like leaky roofs, broken HVAC systems, and inadequate cleaning can cause dangerous air quality issues over time. Make maintenance a priority and your building’s occupants will stay healthy.