Americans spend around 90 percent of their time inside a structure whether it be at work or at school, at home, at church, shopping, or being entertained. The most susceptible people to the effects of poor indoor air quality stay inside the most: seniors and small children. Research tells us that it’s the actual indoors that suffer the most from poor indoor air quality.
Wait, what? The structure itself is being affected by indoor air quality? Yes, and it’s making people inside the structure ill in a variety of ways. Here is how poor air quality impacts a house.
1. Energy-Efficient Building Construction
Out of the need for energy-efficiency as well as sustainable building materials arose the energy-efficient construction boom. The idea was to build a structure completely devoid of outside impact on the heating and air, temperature and humidity levels, and the use of electricity. Replacing this outside influence would be strict monitoring of these elements within an enclosed unit with no intrusion from fresh air.
While on the whole, this sounds like a good idea, the reality is that indoor air quality is also influenced by what air pollution the inhabitants bring in. It’s on their clothing and shoes, hair, and skin, it’s on the dog’s paws and fur, along with grocery bags, dry cleaning plastic covers, and boxes from Amazon. They keep circulating throughout that enclosed unit, thus infiltrating walls, flooring, appliances, and pretty much all aspects of a structure.
2. Indoor-Outdoor Exchange Rate Of Air
This means the rate at which outdoor air enters the structure through foundation cracks, joints, and openings at flashing or pipes. Natural air coming through doors and windows, as well as mechanical means of circulating air through the HVAC system, also contribute to this air exchange rate. This is how indoor air quality pulls from the outside to affect a structure.
3. “Sick Building” Syndrome
This odd appellation arose from the phenomena of people entering a structure (a school or a place of work, for example) and leaving it feeling better than when they entered. The symptoms they suffered while in the structure are identified as symptoms of poor indoor air quality. The symptoms disappeared or decreased after leaving the structure.
4. Impacts Cognitive Health And Welfare
Not previously thought of significant impact, the cognitive health of students and workers are now coming under the microscope. The idea is that poor indoor air quality impacting the structure in the classroom and office has an effect on the people in the structure.
Research shows that proper maintenance of the ventilation systems in schools improves test scores and “student performance in completing mental tasks,” according to the EPA. Another study shows that schools with a higher outdoor air ventilation rate scored higher on tests than classes with lower outdoor ventilation rates, says the EPA.
5. Impact of Indoor Air Quality In Green Building
IAQ is measured by levels of formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, and relative humidity in a structure. A PubMed study states that a five-year study of a green high-rise building in which green indoor air quality measures were implemented resulted in better indoor air quality than in conventional homes. Relative humidity, formaldehyde, and carbon dioxide fell well below levels of concern in the structure.