The Importance of Air Quality and Ventilation in Construction
Unless you live the life of a nomad or work outdoors, you probably spend the majority of your day inside, whether at work or at home. Though it may seem like proper air flow and ventilation should occur naturally in a building, there are actually many decisions that must be made during and after the building process in order to optimize air exchange. Without special considerations, the building’s structural integrity and occupants will suffer.
The concentration of pollutants like pollen and dust is at least twice as high indoors. In addition to these pollutants, occupants may also use cleaning agents that contain chemicals and bring in furniture pieces that hold volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When you consider that there are approximately 50 million people in U.S. who suffer from hayfever, asthma, and other allergic diseases, it is imperative that buildings are built to achieve optimal indoor air quality (IAQ). Another consideration is the growing construction of multi-family homes, which has been fueled in part by increasing populations in urban areas. To increase efficiency and keep up with national sustainability efforts, multi-family dwellings are now built tighter. These high-performance homes place people in closer living proximity of each other and require special efforts to ensure proper ventilation.
Health concerns aside, proper ventilation can also prevent a lot of issues down the road with the structure itself. Some of those issues include:
- Mold growth, which can not only cause illness but also make the dwelling unlivable
- Moisture buildup
- Spikes in carbon monoxide levels
The Bottom Line
Achieving the best IAQ requires a holistic approach of not only building to code to improve ventilation but using cabinetry, carpeting, paint and other products that are low in VOCs, formaldehyde, and glue chemicals. There are also systems such energy recovery ventilators and central vacuum system that help to ensure maximum ventilation and air exchange. When proper steps and precautions are taken, the occupants can enjoy their homes for decades to come.