Poor indoor air quality

According to the World Health Organisation, indoor air quality can often be 2 to 5 times worse than outdoors – with household pollutants, poor ventilation and microscopic particles all contributing to an increasingly unhealthy indoor environment. Today, most people spend an average of 90% of their time indoors – the equivalent of 21.6 hours a day. So, we could all benefit from cleaner air.

Biological, chemical and combustion

Many common household appliances, habits, materials and products can contribute to indoor air pollution. They can be odourless, colourless and incredibly hard to detect, especially with much of the damage only becoming evident over the long term.

  • Biological particles from mould, dust mites, pollen, smoke, and pet dander can cause allergic responses and aggravate asthma symptoms in many people.
  • Natural and synthetic chemicals found in cleaning products, air fresheners, paints, glues and adhesives, synthetic fragrances and cosmetics have been shown to irritate the lungs, particularly in children.
  • Gases and particles produced from heat sources, such as fireplaces, space heaters, gas stoves, water heaters and tumble dryers, will commonly produce carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. The amount and type of these emissions will generally depend on its fuel and how well the source is maintained and ventilated.
Moulds and Spores
Source: damp and humidity
Organic Pesticides
Source: fruit and vegetables
Perfluorinated Carbons
Source: non-stick cookware
Propane and Butane
Source: gas cookers and heaters
Phthalates, Ammonia, Chlorine, Sodium Hydroxide and other chemicals
Source: cleaning products
Formaldehyde
Source: synthetic fabrics, furniture, carpets, foam insulation and pressed wood
Moulds and Spores
Source: damp and humidity
Organic Pesticides
Source: fruit and vegetables
Perfluorinated Carbons
Source: non-stick cookware
Propane and Butane
Source: gas cookers and heaters
Phthalates, Ammonia, Chlorine, Sodium Hydroxide and other chemicals
Source: cleaning products
Formaldehyde
Source: synthetic fabrics, furniture, carpets, foam insulation and pressed wood

We are locking in humidity

Studies have shown almost 50% of people do not prioritise low air humidity and almost 60% do not air out their homes sufficiently. Experts recommend maintaining indoor relative humidity between 30-50% when possible. Higher levels of humidity in the home can provoke respiratory problems and allergic reactions.

Allergy-causing dust mites thrive in humid indoor environments of 60% and above, as do several species of mould including Alternaria, Cladosporium, Aspergillus and Penicillium. In contrast, very dry air increases the prospect of catching airborne viruses, due in part to the viruses’ ability to survive longer and the nasal and skin irritations symptomatic in drier conditions.

The rising cost of mould

It can be difficult to assess the full scale of a mould issue on the surface, as much of the damage can be hidden deep within walls cavities, cracks and crawlspaces. While there are several products designed to kill and remove mould, the real problem arises when mould goes airborne or gets into structural elements of a home.

For the same reason, it often can be difficult to know just how far mould has travelled. Spores can get into heating and cooling systems and get recirculated through a home, continuing to make occupants ill even after the original source of mould has been removed.

Even if the level of mould appears insignificant, it is important to contact a specialist to assess the damage as soon as possible. In most cases, mould can be removed for less than £50, however much deeper infestations can cost upwards of several thousand pounds.

Physical side effects

Indoor pollutants may cause physical effects after just a single exposure or repeated exposures, including irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. These short-term effects are often short-lived and treatable, with symptoms often similar to those of a cold or flu.

However, a person’s reaction to a pollutant can vary tremendously depending on factors including age, a heightened sensitivity due to a pre-existing condition or even a reduced sensitivity due to repeated or high levels of exposure.

Fresh air fix

Good ventilation plays a massive part in cleaning and replacing indoor air. Opening windows whenever you can to allow fresh air to circulate throughout your home, even for just a few minutes a day, will make a big difference.

One of the cheapest and most effective ways to ventilate a home is through natural ventilation – utilising natural forces, like temperature differences, to replace air and prevent pollutants from accumulating in the home. Fresh air is supplied via open windows, doors, fresh air grilles or ventilation flaps, while polluted and stale air is removed when warm air rises through high-placed openings or when wind currents are created between several openings.

Ventilation strategies

There are two main strategies when talking about the power of natural ventilation:

Stack effect

This involves opening a window at a high point in the home – for example, a roof window – along with a ground-level window, to effectively “pull” fresh air into the home. Because warm air is lighter than cold air, it will rise through the home and leave through the roof window. This air is then replaced by cold air entering the home at ground level. This is particularly effective if you have roof windows in a kitchen extension for instance, allowing you to quickly clear cooking smells and damp air.

 

Cross-ventilation

This involves opening a window or door on the windward side of the home and leaving through openings on the leeward side. The home then acts as a funnel, accelerating the air as it passes from one opening to the other, allowing air to circulate freely and preventing pollutants from accumulating. This type of natural ventilation is best used in homes where windows are easily accessible or can be automated using a system like VELUX Active to maintain optimum airflow.

Planting a few ideas

Indoor plants can also act as superb pollution-busters. According to the NASA Clean Air Study, as well as bringing life and colour to your home, many plants are also natural air filters, removing harmful particles like benzene, formaldehyde and ammonia among others. For example:

  • Cornstalk Dracaena – removes benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene
  • Peace Lily – removes ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene
  • Variegated Snake Plant – removes benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene
  • Golden Pothos – removes benzene, formaldehyde and xylene
  • Queen Fern – removes formaldehyde and xylene
  • Gerbera – removes benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene
  • English Ivy – removes benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene
  • Chinese Evergreen – removes benzene and formaldehyde
  • Flamingo Lily – removes ammonia, formaldehyde and xylene

Active House Centennial Park

Case Study

Characterised by a modernist architectural design that reduces maintenance and operating costs, the Active House Centennial Park was conceived for human comfort and well-being from the inside out. The design process was guided by the principle of how natural ventilation and daylight can improve our daily lives.

Built around a light-filled, double-height, C-shaped courtyard, when windows are opened, the home’s overall design facilities cross-breezes and natural ventilation. The ground-floor living room, dining area, and kitchen are laid out in an open plan with no barriers for greater cross-ventilation, and double-height spaces allow for the vertical movement of air to facilitate the stack effect.

An evolution in automation

Centennial Park Residence is also an evolution in home automation with an emphasis on easy-to-use, hassle-free and reliable systems that can monitor aspects of the home. To reduce the energy required for air conditioning, large operable windows and skylights facilitate a natural air flow to help keep the house cool during warmer months while ensuring effective ventilation throughout the year.

The fully programmable VELUX roof windows are equipped with an intuitively designed intelligent touchscreen remote control that can open and close the skylights as needed. In addition, the skylights also have controls for an insect screen, and integrated rain sensors that automatically close during inclement weather.

 

Read Case Study

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