Indoor air quality is a primary concern for building owners, occupants, and managers alike.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates poor indoor air quality causes billions of dollars in lost productivity and contributes to health problems such as asthma and sick-building syndrome.
Fortunately, there are various green building techniques to increase indoor airflow.
Best Practices For Increasing Green Buildings’ Indoor Air Quality
Here are eight ways to improve indoor air quality in green buildings:
- Choose harder floors instead of carpeting.
- Clean out vents and replace filters regularly.
- Use VOC-free paints.
- Use natural cleaning products.
- Increase ventilation as much as possible.
- Prohibit smoking in the building.
- Prevent mold with indoor air quality control.
- Add plants to your office or home.
Now, let’s explore these methods of increasing indoor airflow to maintain fresh breathing air for your health further.
1. Choose Harder Floors Instead of Carpeting
You can improve the indoor air quality in green buildings by choosing harder floors, such as concrete, rather than carpeting. Carpeting can hold a great deal of dust and other allergens.
The carpet fibers trap these particles and prevent them from being taken care of by a good cleaning or vacuuming. Instead, they stay down within the fibers and get stirred up again whenever someone walks across the carpet.
Harder floors like tile or linoleum are easier to clean than carpeting, so they don’t accumulate as much dust. If possible, using hardwood flooring is the ideal choice for improving indoor air quality in green buildings.
2. Clean Out Vents and Replace Filters Regularly
Although green buildings are constructed with healthier materials and have better ventilation, the indoor air quality in many of these buildings is still poor. The reason is that the filters in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system are dirty or clogged.
Furthermore, dust and debris get trapped in vents and are circulated throughout the building when the system is turned on.
A green office building is more likely to have good indoor air quality (IAQ) than a standard one. For example, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified commercial office building must meet specific standards for IAQ that are not required for non-LEED buildings.
Even so, it’s vital to maintain good IAQ in any building.
The following HVAC practices can help you maintain good IAQ:
- Regularly clean out air vents using a vacuum cleaner or brush attachment.
- Regularly replace HVAC systems filters.
- Upgrade ventilation systems to include outdoor air intake and exhaust.
- Maintain HVAC equipment properly.
- It would be best if you clean air ducts regularly.
3. Use VOC-Free Paints
An increasing number of people are experiencing allergies and sensitivities to chemical fumes from paints, stains, sealants, flooring materials, carpets, and household cleaners.
Volatile Organic Compounds – VOCs
Volatile organic compounds are widely used in residential and commercial construction for their adhesive properties, but there is a growing concern about their effects on human health and the environment.
No-VOC paints contain zero volatile organic compounds. All paint manufacturers make no-VOC or low-VOC paints. They cost more than traditional paint but last longer and give off fewer fumes when applied so occupants can move back into the room sooner.
Some low-VOC or VOC-free colors contain low VOC levels but are not zero. Most of these contain non-toxic ingredients such as milk protein or glycol ethers, which aren’t nearly as harmful as traditional paint ingredients.
However, because these paints contain some VOCs, they need to be used in well-ventilated areas.
4. Use Natural Cleaning Products
Choosing cleaning products that are less toxic and more natural will help to reduce the VOC content in a building, which means better indoor air quality for those who work or live there.
Natural cleaning products are not only better for indoor air quality, but they are also better for the environment in other ways, like:
- They do not contain harsh chemicals that can affect the environment and harm aquatic life.
- Many of these products are biodegradable, meaning they break down without leaving behind harmful chemicals.
- Many natural cleaners contain plant-based ingredients, which means supporting the development of renewable resources when choosing these products.
Cleaning products can leave a lasting impact on indoor air quality if they continue to exude VOCs after application. Buying natural cleaners ensures your health and the safety of the environment.
Using these cleaners will also make a difference in how your building looks with its LEED certification because it has taken another step toward improving its environmental friendliness.
5. Increase Ventilation as Much as Possible
A well-sealed house is an energy-efficient house, and it’s a feature of most green homes. But when it comes to indoor air quality, sealing up your house too tightly can be a problem.
Open windows whenever possible, even in cold weather.
Increased ventilation brings fresh outdoor air into the home and helps dilute contaminants inside. Also, use kitchen and bathroom fans frequently to remove odors and moisture from these areas.
Install a Whole-House Ventilation System
A whole-house ventilation system makes sense when you can’t open windows because of bad weather or allergies. It is controlled by sensors that turn on the fan to bring fresh outdoor air into the home through a central ducting system.
These systems add to your monthly utility bill slightly, but they are worth it if you need to ensure good indoor air quality in your green home or building.
Look for an Energy Star-certified model if you want the most efficient, green whole-house ventilation systems.
6. Prohibit Smoking in the Building
The main components of cigarette smoke that affect indoor air quality are nicotine, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide. Cigarette butts can also release toxic chemicals through the burning process.
Effects of Cigarette Smoke on Health
Toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke can lead to various health problems for anyone who inhales it, from asthma to heart disease to cancer. People exposed to secondhand smoke face an increased risk of developing lung cancer.
Cigarette Litter in Green Buildings
Green buildings are designed to reduce waste and conserve natural resources. Smoking cigarettes produces toxic waste products such as ash and cigarette butts that must be disposed of properly.
Cigarette litter can also affect indoor air quality by emitting poisonous chemicals into the indoor environment from the burning process or cigarette butts left out in the open.
Develop a No-Smoking Policy for the Workplace
Decide where the policy will apply and what it will cover. Will it apply just to the building, or will it extend to all company vehicles, property, and work sites?
Decide whether there will be any exceptions. Some employers allow employees who smoke to take extra breaks during working hours. Others provide designated areas where employees may smoke, but this can be problematic because odors and smoke can still linger in nearby areas.
Communicate your smoking policy clearly with all employees and have them sign a copy of it that indicates they understand and agree to comply with it. Establish procedures for enforcing your policy, including progressive discipline for violations if appropriate.
7. Prevent Mold With Indoor Air Quality Control
Mold thrives when moisture is present in an area, so maintaining a dry environment is essential to preventing it. A building or home damaged by weather or flooding is at risk for mold as any humid or damp area may support the fungus’ growth.
Poor indoor air affects the health of a building’s occupants and can also damage materials contained within the building. Poorly ventilated or sealed buildings trap pollutants and create an environment that allows harmful bacteria and mold to grow.
The problem is compounded by most people associating the term “green” with energy efficiency, so they install insulation and seal openings to prevent energy loss.
Unfortunately, these same seals and insulating materials reduce airflow and generate poor air quality within the structure.
8. Add Plants to Your Space
Plants are great for purifying the air in your home, but did you know that you can also use them to clean up indoor air in green buildings?
Plants not only improve the air quality of your office, but they can also boost productivity and reduce stress levels. Indoor plants are becoming increasingly popular in offices because they clean the air, improve health, and be used as interior decorating elements.
Indoor air quality is a significant concern for green buildings and healthy homes.
There are many ways of improving the indoor air quality in your home. An excellent way to start is by following a few simple rules:
- Keep your windows closed – Although it is important to get fresh air into the building and polluted air out, it is best to keep windows shut, especially during pollen season or high smog levels.
- Clean regularly and thoroughly – Dust, vacuum, and mop all surfaces at least weekly. Also, wash carpets and upholstery regularly.
- Keep your home or building dry – Fix leaks, unblock drains, and use dehumidifiers where necessary. Clean up spills as soon as they happen.
- Get rid of mold immediately – Mold can cause serious health problems when inhaled over long periods. If you see any signs of mold in your home, get rid of it with natural detergents right away.
- Wood Floors: Health Benefits
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Indoor Air Facts No. 4: Sick Building Syndrome
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: HVAC
- U.S. Green Building Council: LEED Certificate
- EcoPaints: VOC Free Paint
- My Chemical-Free House: Non-Toxic Paint
- Medical News Today: Green Cleaning Products
- Centre for Disease and Control Prevention: Improve Ventilation
- Energy Star: Energy Efficient Products
- Americas NonSmokers’ Rights Foundation: Smoke-Free Building
- Indoor Air Quality Association: Mold
- We Work: Benefits of Indoor Plants