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The Importance of Residential Indoor Air Quality Standards

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Understanding the Importance of Residential Indoor Air Quality Standards

By Ruth MacEachern

Product Manager

Jul 11, 2023

As a housebuilder, you are no doubt more than familiar with the recent amendments made to Approved Document F; the area  building regulations addressing ventilation and air quality in buildings. In this article we will discuss the importance of indoor air quality in residential buildings and the role of ventilation in ensuring that your projects are compliant with applicable regulations. We will also provide tips on how to enhance indoor air quality, which can either be implemented yourself or passed on to the end customers who purchase your homes. 

A strengthened focus on indoor air quality

In the introduction to a report drawn up in 2022, the Air Quality Expert Group highlights the fact that “people spend a substantial fraction of their lives indoors (often 80-90%) and so these locations can represent a significant fraction of exposure to air pollution. Indoor air quality is a complex phenomenon but has been studied far less than air quality outdoors.” Efforts to improve the sustainability of buildings, protecting both the environment and the health of occupants have since initiated a process of change in this regard. Indoor air quality is now a core concern for house builders and developers, with a view to ensuring the compliance of their development projects and offering an end product that appeals to an increasingly demanding customer base.

Health implications of poor indoor air quality

There are a variety of solutions you can install and measures you can take to improve the quality of the air inside your residential projects. However, if you are to recoup any of the expenses involved, it is essential that you can explain the benefits to prospective buyers. To this end, we will now look briefly at the negative health implications that poor indoor air quality can have on the occupants of a dwelling.

The World Health Organization estimates that household air pollution was responsible for “3.2 million deaths per year in 2020, including over 237,000 deaths of children under the age of 5”. More serious conditions and diseases linked with exposure to indoor air pollution include:

  • Stroke
  • Ischaemic heart disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Lung cancer

Meanwhile, consistent exposure to poor indoor air quality on account of poorly ventilated indoor spaces can cause or aggravate various conditions and complaints. Symptoms can include:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.
  • Headaches, dizziness, and fatigue
  • Aggravation of chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma.
  • Aggravation of allergies, such as hay fever or dust mite allergies.

According to Margaret Kelman, the acting head of clinical services at Allergy UK, “The number of people affected by hay fever has trebled in the last 30 years”.

The role of ventilation in improving air quality in a building

If there is one thing the Covid-19 pandemic taught us, it is the importance of adequate ventilation in preventing the spread of pathogens and allergens. With this in mind, Approved Document F stipulates specific ventilation and air flow ratings that must be adhered to in order to comply with air quality standards. Insufficient ventilation can result in low air exchange rates. A research report aiming to provide ventilation guidance drawn up for the Scottish government lists the effects of low air change rates as follows:

a) Still and stale internal air 

b) Increased concentrations of toxins, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and off gassing from materials and furnishings 

c) Increased humidity resulting in mould growth and ideal conditions for dust mites and their proliferation

d) Increased susceptibility to pre-disposed health issues of residents such as asthma and viral infections transmitted by aerosol concentrations (Covid-19)

Proper ventilation helps remove or dilute indoor airborne pollutants coming from indoor sources. This reduces the level of contaminants and improves indoor air quality. The removal of stale air also reduces carbon dioxide levels. Furthermore, regulating the temperature of a dwelling through appropriate ventilation can reduce bad odours, prevent the formation of mould, and create a more comfortable living environment.

Tips to enhance indoor air quality

As a house builder, there are various means by which you can improve the air quality in your residential projects:

Install a tailored, full-property MVHR ventilation system. The experts at Envirovent can guide you on the correct system to suit your specific project, while also providing advice on the dimensioning and routing of the corresponding ducting and vents.

Install adequate extractor fans and window trickle vents, especially in rooms with high levels of moisture such as bathrooms and kitchens. 

Avoid blocking existing ventilation when carrying out refurbishment work.

It is also worth recommending that home buyers follow simple steps to improve air quality in the property. These include vacuuming frequently, airing out the dwelling by opening windows or doors, keeping a lookout for mould and damp, avoiding drying clothing on radiators and in poorly ventilated areas, and refraining from using  unvented heaters. If you want to learn more, read our article about indoor air quality and document F.

Should you require further information or advice on methods by which to improve the air quality in your projects, or if you require consultation regarding the selection of suitable ventilation products, feel free to contact our team of experts.