IAQ of green buildings

Does any one know of any articles related to how green building has affected the indoor air quality of residential homes

Do you mean the use of green products or more the “tightness” of homes?

Well I think both relate to the IAQ

There are too many to suggest just one. :slight_smile:


Thanks Cam. I was looking for more scholarly peer reviewed articles such as this one.


It took me like an hour to find it though.

Green building is an eco-friendly and good way to improvise air quality of residential homes. You can find informative articles about the same on most eco-friendly sites or blogs related to home improvements.

Absolutely worthless post.

Not if you were wondering how to “improvise” the air in your home. :slight_smile:

For anyone else interested…

I am doing extensive research on the oversights of green building in regards to IAQ and the health of inhabitants. Here is a bibliography of some scholarly articles written by real authorities in the field. None of these will show up on the first page of regular google.

Morley, Rebecca L. and Ellen Tohn. “How Healthy are National Green Building Programs.” 2008. Web.2.Oct.2012

U.S. Department of Energy. Measure Guideline: Wall Air Sealing and Insulation Methods in Existing homes. Technical. Maryland, 2012. Web.

Environmental and Human Health, Inc. Leed Certification Where Energy Efficiency and Human Health Collide. May 2010.Web.25.Sept.2012

Golzar Nirvan, Fariborz Haghighat,Liangzhu (Leon) Wang,Hashem Akbari. “Contaminant Transport Through the Garage - House Interface leakage.” Building and Environment (2012): 176-183. Web.13 Oct.2012

Jie, Yu, et al. “Do indoor environments influence asthma and asthma-related symptoms among adults in homes?” Journal of the Formossan Medical Association (2011): 555-563. Web.2.Oct.2012

Kawamura, Michelle. An Evaluation of Green Home Weatherization and Remodeling Programs: What is Being Done to Promote Occupant Health and Recommendations for Best Practices? 2010.Web.2.Oct.2012

Lee, Young S. “Comparisons of Indoor Air Quality and Thermal Comfort Quality between Certification Levels of LEED-Certified Buildings in USA.” Indoor and Built Environment (2011): 564-576. Web.2.Oct.2012

Lent, Tom. “Formaldehyde emissions from fiberglass insulation with phenol formaldehyde binder.” Technical Report. 2009.Web.1.Oct.2012

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Thanks Juan…

Yw. Some of the articles require payment. I can get them all for free if you really want to read them.

Hey guys

I finally got something together. It is extremely rough and its half way done so don’t be too harsh. I have to go do some inspecting and I’d like some feed back on suggestions for improvement.

According to the U.S Energy Information Administration, in 2011, the residential sector of America was delivered 11.6 quadrillion BTU’s and paid over 258 billion dollars on energy. (U.S. Energy Information Administration). The average household pays $2,100 on energy alone. The need to reduce energy consumption and save money has lead to the creation of numerous government and private organizations dedicated to this cause. The federal government offers numerous tax credits for energy efficient upgrades. It is clear that the market trend in America is to use more renewable energy sources such as solar power and less non- renewable energy such as fossil fuels. These efforts are crucial to creating a sustainable energy delivery system for America. However, the progress is lacking focus in one particular area: the indoor air quality (IAQ) of existing residential structures. The energy saving efforts by consumers and organizations can compromise the IAQ of existing residential structures making them more energy efficient but less healthy homes.
The efforts to create a more energy sustainable America have been collectively dubbed as the “Green Building Movement”. The U.S Green Building Council is the most prominent organization for creating standards for green buildings. The Environmental Protection Agency has its own program for this cause: The Energy Star program. Many local governments are adopting the standards written by these organizations for developing new energy efficient building codes. These organizations however, have overlooked the potential health problems created from energy efficient renovations.
The USBGC has created the LEED rating system for buildings who voluntary choose to be audited. After a LEED certified inspector inspects a home, it is awarded a platinum, gold, silver or a basic certified rating. The problem is that it is possible to achieve the Platinum level by only meeting the minimum indoor environmental quality points. There are 136 points possible. 21 points can be achieved in the in the indoor environmental quality category; only six are required. The platinum level rating requires only 90 points. It is possible to achieve this level with by scoring only the minimum amount of points in the category that is supposed to protect the health of the inhabitants. (United States Green Building Council)
Rebecca Morley, the director of the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) collaborated with Ellen Tohn, the founder of Tohn Environmental studies to determine how healthy green buildings really are. Morley and Tohn claim that although organizations have made efforts to include healthy building practices, they are still missing the mark. Morley and Tohn compared the green building standards of: The Enterprise Community Partners, The National Association of Home Builders, The U.S. EPA, and the U.S. Green building council, to their healthy building standards of the NCHH. They developed a rating system to compare these organizations standards with their own healthy building standards. The standards are split into seven categories: dry, clean, ventilated, safe, contaminate-free, pest-free, and maintained. The grades ranged from B+ to D with all organizations having no standards in some crucial areas. The USBGC received a D in the “clean”, “safe”, and “contaminate free” areas of the evaluation. Their overall grade was a “C”.

Many articles regarding the indoor quality of homes begin with the same point:  we spend the majority of our time indoors.  In less moderate climates, this time is increased.  It is imperative then that the air that we spend so much time breathing be as clean, and free from harmful chemicals as possible.  However, there are many pollutants that compromise the quality of our indoor air.  Four common pollutants are formaldehyde, carbon monoxide,  volatile organic compounds and radon.

There is a good chance that a home being renovated will contain some levels of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is used in a large array of products such as the adhesive in wood building materials, wood furniture, window treatments, paints and insulation. As it off gasses into the house, it may be trapped in the drywall to be released later. It is also a byproduct of combustion. The EPA describes formaldehyde as “a colorless, pungent-smelling gas, [that] can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.1 parts per million).” Interestingly enough they also note that homes that are being updated may contain levels up to 0.3 ppm. (EPA) Tom Lent, who has received awards from the EPA for his environmental efforts, wrote a technical report about the formaldehyde emission levels from insulation. Lents claim is that governments should ban formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, from use in residential building materials such as batt insulation. He notes that many green building standards have adopted standards for formaldehyde in lumber but that its use in insulation is still prevalent. Formaldehyde is already a known carcinogen. His report has statistics for formaldehyde tests performed in offices that are in excess of California standards. He argues that since offices are always under mechanical ventilation and the concentrations would be even higher in residential homes. Formaldehyde is still prevalent in existing homes despite the progress to reduce and ban its use. The USBGC LEEd for homes project checklist does not require any testing for formaldehyde.
Another chemical commonly found in homes is Carbon Monoxide; a colorless and odorless gas. The CPSC reports that carbon monoxide kills over 170 people a year and poisons countless more. (CPSC) Carbon monoxide can come from a variety of sources such as poorly or improperly vented furnaces and water heaters, unvented kerosene heaters, poorly located back up generators and automobiles in attached garages. Long-term exposure can go undetected because the symptoms are headaches and dizziness, which are common to many other diagnoses. The only requirement to be LEED certified is to have one CO detector on each floor.
The largest group of pollutants that affects the indoor air quality of homes is volatiles organic compounds (VOC’s). VOC’s is a group of compounds that are emitted as gas from solids or liquids. Symptoms from exposure range from acute irritation of eyes or throat to chronic diseases such as cancer. They can be found in many household products such as paints, cleaners, perfumes and dry cleaned clothes. The EPA reports that VOC levels indoor are 2 to 5 times higher than outdoors. (EPA) Some scientist believe that exposure to VOC’s increases your chance to have asthma. Yu Jie and his colleagues reviewed over a hundred and fifty relevant articles pertaining to indoor air pollution and asthma in adults. Their claim is that “Indoor aero contaminants are potent triggers of asthma and asthma-related symptoms in homes.” (560) They offer many examples and definitions of indoor air pollution such as, but not limited to: carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and formaldehyde. Jie confesses that there have not been many studies on many of these pollutants in relation to asthma morbidity in adults. He does however, list many of the asthma related symptoms associated with these pollutants. The USBGC LEED for homes project check list offers one point (not required) for installing a central vacuum that would help reduce the levels of VOC’s.
Radon is defined by the EPA as a “ gaseous radioactive element… it is an extremely toxic, colorless gas” (EPA) At over 20,000 lunch cancer deaths a year related to radon, it is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths. (EPA) The EPA recommends that anyone buying a home have it tested for radon. Although the remediation level is listed at 4.0 pci/l, there is no known safe level of radon. One point (not required) is awarded to a LEED certified home if it utilizes radon-resistant construction. No tests for radon are required.
It is evident that an abundance of chemicals can be present in our homes. These chemicals can compromise the indoor air quality in our homes and affect our health. To make matters worse the green building movement suggests making and renovating houses to be tighter. A very tight house will awarded 3 points by the LEED certification program (more points than adding CO detectors, central vacuum systems, or radon-resistant construction). The ultimate goal is to keep the exterior unconditioned air outside, and keep the interior, conditioned air, inside. However, with decreasing rates of air transfer, we are also increasing the concentrations of harmful chemicals in our homes. The EPA suggests that “homes that are designed and constructed to minimize the amount of outdoor air that can “leak” into and out of the home may have higher pollutant levels than other homes” and that “Consequently, after weatherization, concentrations of indoor air pollutants from sources inside the home can increase.”

You state all the sources of pollutants that a home has in it. That has nothing to do with energy retrofits. In fact properly trained Energy Auditors actually check for CO and conditions that can cause CO to be pulled into the home. Proper assessment also checks the connection from the garage to the home and makes the introduction of pollutants less. The connection from the interior to that attic and crawl space is another area that is scrutinized and addressed in a proper retrofit. These areas are known to bring in pollutants. The fact of sealing the house to tight is also addressed and with proper testing if a house is found to be below the minimum airflow standards then they house is required to have make up air brought in. Often an HRV is used. The LEED ratings do address several of the issues. There is a level that has to be economically meet. There are different levels of building and LEED is pretty good but most people don’t want to pay for it. They also could ask for better than LEED but they would have to pay for it. But then again the people who like to complain about stuff like this are also sleeping on organic cotton mattresses buying hemp clothes and not buying any thing particle board or plastic. Yea right. A better think to research is how untrained and corner cutting people try to accomplish weatherization at the expense of the home owner and why it pays off in savings and comfort when you hire the right people


If the green elements are not properly installed or half-assed installed, YES there will be issues. Like, spray foaming and sealing everything, but leaving the 20 ye old oil furnace in.

Too many homeowners do 20% green, which causes major issues. Do it or don’t. The half-assed installs will kill.

To raise the Eco-friendly ratings for houses, one should implement the standard techniques that diminishes the emission of CO and increase the use of conventional sources of energy.

Eco friendly furniture shipping

The “green building” concept has been around for about 30 years now. A lot of early problems have been overcome by tweaking the house systems and adding better interior ventilation and airsealing/insulation techniques.

Any building designed & built by trained and experienced persons should not have an air quality problem; it’s when the untrained think they can do it. And by unexperienced, I mean those without at least 5-6 years building and onsite experience in all aspects of green healthy buildings.

10 years back I helped compile some of the best articles on Indoor Air Quality and still to this day I learn something new every day. If you are just starting it will take about 5 years just to understand how they all relate to Green Building and Sustainability, when you get that sorted out then you can start learning how to protect people with MCS.

Wow Juan. Obviously you’ve been doing a lot of digging!

I’ve been interested in green building practices for a long time. Kevin, you are totally right when you talk about learning something every day. (What’s MCS?!) It’s a very complex topic. (Look at how many long threads there are on how to “properly” deal with a crawl space!)

How do you plan on using this info Juan? Is this something for your website? It would be easier to make suggestions if I knew what the end product was going to be. (apart from typos and suggestions re awkward sentence structure… but you said this was a rough draft.)

Mitch. I’m a full time student. That was for school.

Hi Juan,

I spent a lot of time digging into this at one point and found that, like in a lot of subjects this broad, the more you learn, the less you know and the more complicated the whole issue gets. Air quality issues vary with climate zone, season, homesite environment (including humidity levels, airborne pollen and fungal spoors, dust, etc), building design, changes to design and local conditions over the years, systems and components installed how how they are combined… the list is almost endless.

I found that the best approach was to decide what information I wanted to provide and to whom, being as specific as possible. The broader the areas you cover, the less specific you can be because the information, both that you find, and that you give, becomes more fragmented and general (and doesn’t always agree across the spectrum of sources), and ponderous to read.

There are so many approaches, you really need to nail one down.

I believe the target of LEED for Homes is reduction of the carbon footprint, so it involves weighing trash and a number of things that are not directly related indoor air quality.

MCS is multiple chemical sensitivity, and I’ve spoken with several people whose stories were terrible. These were extremely unhappy people who had to live outside, were tortured by illness or problems related to reactions that they described as being directly related to reactions to chemicals or chemical smells. They seemed normal otherwise, but I’ve spoken with industrial hygienists for whom I have a great deal of respect who say that no such thing exists. I tried hard to figure out what was true, spent some real time and energy on it and I still don’t know.

So as has already been asked, exactly do you want to do with this information? I understand it’s for school, but what are you writing?

If I were writing on this subject for a class, I’d pick something specific and talk directly with some experts in addition to doing online or library research. It’s a lot more interesting talking to real people (phone is better than email) and some of them enjoy helping. You’ll find that shen people write papers, they often leave out some things that are very interesting and might be relevant to what you’re writing, but would have been irrelevant or detrimental to their paper at the time they produced it.