Photo credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
For a building to be high-performing, it must have a satisfactory indoor air quality.
If a building is well-sealed, energy costs will decrease because there will not be unnecessary ventilation or heating. A well-sealed building will have no cracks or gaps around windows, doors or floorboards. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in a well-sealed building will have no leaks.
With a well-sealed building, the quality of the air sealed inside is important because it affects the building's inhabitants. Building owners will save money if IAQ is high. It is important to ensure high air quality at the start of new construction or renovation. Fixing worsening problems later in the building's life span will be more costly.
A building owner will also save money because IAQ directly affects worker productivity. Pollutants and contaminants have been shown to cause sick days, exhaustion and poor emotional and mental health. (More about IAQ and productivity.)
There are many factors which can contribute to IAQ. (More about problem sources and contaminants.) Many potential hazards have simple solutions if rapid action is taken. For existing buildings, IAQ can be addressed at any time, but should particularly be considered at the start of renovations.
When ventilating buildings, fresh, clean outdoor air is ideal. However, in many cities, clean source air is not obtainable. Therefore, air filters are necessary. In general, there are two types of air pollutants: particles and combustion byproducts.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a guide to indoor air quality and remedies for issues.
Mold is primarily found in high-moisture areas and can have serious health effects. It is likely to surface in renovations, especially if walls or ceiling panels are removed and replaced. When encountering mold in renovation, the contaminated area should be sealed off, and an exhaust system should be installed. In addition to using a temporary exhaust system during renovation, building owners may consider adding or improving a permanent ventilation system to the renovated space. If mold is found in a certain space, the space likely has inadequate moisture or particle control. (More about mold.)
In commercial spaces, bathrooms are the most likely source of moisture. If a building contains kitchen or shower facilities, those areas should also be assessed for proper ventilation. In many situations, bathroom ventilation can be as simple as installing a window fan.
Pollutants stored in indoor spaces should be tightly covered. If possible, containers should be kept in sealed and vented spaces.
Cheaper materials are often more likely to contain harmful particles. Materials introduced into a building environment during renovation should be inspected for quality and content. When possible, used material should be avoided.
A larger version of the above image can be found at Allergy Free Air.