Healthy Indoor Air Quality
- It Matters -
We tend to start our days inside. We tend to end our days inside. We even, and often, spend much of our days inside.
While inside, we breathe.
Because we spend so much time inside, the quality of the indoor air we breathe is extremely important.
Think about the decisions you make and the planning you embark upon while inside. Winter holidays - family and friends together - inside. Your home is warm and sealed up from the cold and wind and rain.
So the air that’s in our homes and at our work, is often held inside. Imagine if every breath you took you held for as long as possible - that’s kind’ve the typical indoor air we’re breathing. It’s held in; it sits inside.
When the air we breathe is clean, we can feel the difference.
We can even see the difference in healthy indoor air.
The dust, pollen, humidity, CO2, burnt bacon smoke - all of it makes it into our air in measurable amounts. And because we can measure it, we can build responsiveness into our buildings. Put another way, building science allows us to see where buildings fail and lets us know when we succeed with high performing buildings that actually promote health.
We can design and build a drastically better performing home - we can design and build it to suit your lifestyle. So we do.
We design and build healthy homes, homes that provide you with clean and fresh indoor air.
As industry leading experts in the Passive House building science, we craft healthy homes - homes with fresh, filtered, health promoting indoor air - it’s what we do.
Yes, your beautiful home should be lovely to picture. Our team of award winning architecture, interior design, and construction management experts work together to make sure your home will look amazing under sun and moon.
Your home should also perform for your health and well being.
That’s why we provide our clients with the best available building science - it’s about creating a home that responds to you, a home that benefits you and your lifestyle.
3 Ways to Ensure Healthy Indoor Air Quality In New Construction
1. Integral Whole House Ventilation & Air Filtration
Yes, the efficient Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) systems we integrate into our clients’ homes recycle over 85% of home generated heat (e.g. appliances, light bulbs, bodyheat).
In addition, the systems we integrate also remove excess mold causing humidity, remove stale air by exhausting it outside, and cycle in an entire home of fresh filtered air every three hours.
We recognize that we won’t have the opportunity to work with everyone who reads our blog, so…
If you’re in the Pacific Northwest like we are, and you want to ensure that your new home or building has healthy indoor air, tell your architect or designer that you want an integrated HRV system. If you live in a warm humid climate, ask about Energy Return Ventilation (ERV).
Your climate changes what works best for you, and you have options.
We recommend you ask questions, and definitely ask to see the test results of the systems you’re looking at.
As we mentioned above, indoor air quality can be measured, and a good HRV or ERV system will have verifiable data supporting its claims.
2. Materials And Finishes
New materials and newly finished surfaces typically off-gas (release chemicals into the air). In this day and age we have a lot of information about which chemicals are harmful as well as ways we can build to avoid both the chemicals and their increased accumulation in our bodies.
Whether it’s the materials you choose or preventative installation and sealing procedures your carpenters use, exposure to harmful off-gassing is avoidable with the right knowledge and technique.
We work with all of our clients to make sure they know about their material and finish options. And we’ve been working with low and no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) finishes since the days you had to special order them. Providing knowledge and experience to our clients means that they can make the best choices for themselves - it's part of our full service less stress experience.
Ensuring you have a healthy home with no harmful off-gassing affecting you and your family is worth the time and effort it takes to get your team of professionals on the same page.
We recommend you make a point of talking with your design team as well as your contractor about what is and is not available for your project.
3. Thoughtful Design, Construction and Project Management
You can’t escape it.
At the heart of the thousands of building materials, the many methods, certifications, mechanical systems, processes, and experts - is the team behind your project.
If you want to ensure that you have a health promoting high performance home with excellent indoor air quality, then you need to be discerning in your team selection process.
We recommend you study up. Interview your prospective designer and construction team; bring them together. Make sure they work well as a team and are able to communicate and navigate effectively through the journey of building your health promoting dream home.
When your project runs into a difficulty, and it will (all big projects have their share of potential problems), then clear communication of theory and practice is necessary to make it through.
We operate as a Design+Build firm because increased communication between a project’s design team and construction team is a major benefit to our clients. By having everyone on the same team, the journey and end result are shared; one team to design and build a high performing home that compliments and benefits your lifestyle.
When you decide that you’re ready for a home that performs for you, make sure you get a team that works in concert to help you through what can feel like an overwhelming process.
It’s too big of a decision to leave to chance.
3 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality In Your Existing Spaces
What if you’re not looking to design and build a new home, though? Is there anything you can do to improve the indoor air quality in your home or office now?
The biggest enemy of high quality indoor air is stagnation. It allows CO2 levels to rise, as well as, a buildup in dust, pollens and other airborne particulates.
Open your windows and open your doors. Set up fans to bring in and expel air. Encourage the flow of air throughout your home. Let the fresh air in and the stale air out.
Unfortunately, this assumes that you live in a part of the world with low levels of outdoor air pollution. Which is why the next recommendation becomes so important.
2. Air Filtration
In order to improve the quality of your indoor air you need to remove existing toxins and allergens. Filtering the air in your home allows you to remove existing particulates in your air.
There are many air filtration devices available for purchase and Consumer Reports has an excellent analysis of 38 indoor air filters.
However, if you want to have fresh clean air throughout your whole home, our experience is that home air purifiers and filters that are made to occupy a single room simply do not move enough air to reliably filter an entire house.
Retrofitting your home with an HRV or ERV whole home ventilation system is the best and most reliable way to ensure meaningful air filtration happens throughout your whole home.
Make no mistake, installation of an HRV or ERV system is a fairly extensive project, and we recommend you consult with a trusted professional about your options.
If you’re already considering a large scale home renovation then we strongly recommend you look into an HRV or ERV system as part of your goal for a healthy home. In addition to providing you with fresh filtered air both systems increase your home’s energy efficiency and take up considerably less space and make less noise than traditional furnace or boiler systems.
3. Directly Address the Sources
Tried and true advice for improving indoor air quality:
- If you smoke, smoke outside. If others in your household smoke, ask them to smoke outside. For homes with a smoker or two, it’s the quickest fix in the world for improving Indoor Air Quality.
- Remove shoes at the door. Oh the places you go, the people you see...and the things you step in. Many particulates end up in the air because they are brought in to the house and stirred up by motion, commotion, or that wonderful warm sunbeam. Removing shoes at the door allows you to keep more of the pollutants out.
- Solid surfaces like wood, linoleum, and tile are easier to minimize dust and pollen buildup than carpets.
- Know your cleaning products. Many cleaning products contain known harmful chemicals. Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing how to use something safely (open the windows and turn on a fan), and sometimes it’s best to just stop using something altogether. Knowledge is empowering, vinegar is great for disinfecting, and you can make great natural cleaning solutions that work.
- Stop using aerosol sprays inside, especially when your home is all closed up. These chemicals sprayed into the air can, do, and will make it into your lungs.
- If you live in an older home, lead can be present in old paint, and asbestos in popcorn ceiling and vinyl floor coverings or tiles. Painting over walls and ceilings is an effective seal. If you have asbestos in your ceiling or floor, keep it damage free and in good condition to avoid releasing the asbestos into the air. However, if you decide to do any home renovation work, we strongly advise you bring in an accredited professional to test for the presence of lead and asbestos. If your home tests positive, we strongly encourage you to hire a professional remediation specialist.
A Healthy Home - A Healthier You
Much like you can’t expect an hour at the gym to work wonders if you always eat a pint of ice cream the same day, you can’t expect a healthy lifestyle to keep you protected from a sick home.
We craft high performing homes because a healthy home is where high performing days begin.
If you’re in the Pacific Northwest and you’re ready to talk about creating the healthy new home of your dreams, or a home remodel that drastically improves your indoor air quality, contact us today and let’s get the conversation started.
For more information about healthy indoor air quality:
The U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has an excellent website devoted to Indoor Air Quality.
Zehnder, a manufacturer of some of our favorite HRV and ERV systems, consistently updates their website as more information becomes available about Indoor Air Quality.
Our home State of Washington also provides a comprehensive page of information about Indoor Air Quality.
Posted on January 16, 2018