BuildingEcology.com - Hal Levin, Editor
Indoor Air Quality for Sustainable Buildings -- BuildingEcology.com for useful and reliable feature articles, for the latest news and events listings. Check out our links to the best information on Indoor Air Quality and Sustainable Buildings on the web. Our "events" page links you to IAQ and to Sustainability meetings and conferences all over the world.We invite your suggestions and comments on our resources related to indoor environmental quality, architecture, healthy buildings, and the built environment's impacts on the sustainability of human settlements.
Indoor Environment and indoor microbiome database -- available for free download.
More than 360 articles that contain information on the indoor microbiome and the indoor environmental conditions reported by the authors. Full abstracts are included. The database is in MS Access format and simple or complex queries can be made using the database in Access. We are looking for ways to make it more widely available. It was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's grant to UC Davis' microBEnet project, Jonathan Eisen PI. We also have prepared a How-to file for those not familiar with constructing searches in databases. It is also downloadable. You can downloaded it from the article entitled "How to use the Indoor Environment-Indoor microbiome database."
Click here to download the database
Click here to download the how-to file
Click here to download the database curation process
Do mold or dampness or the presence of both "cause" asthma or allergic responses?
A recent paper by Choi et al (as a belated tail to the tale of the Swedish Dampness and building health (DBH) study, claims to provide further evidence of a lack of connection between mold exposure and asthma outcomes. (Choi, H., Byrne, S., Larsen, L. S., Sigsgaard, T., Thorne, P. S., Larsson, L., Sebastian, A. and Bornehag, C.-G. (2014), Residential culturable fungi, (1-3, 1-6)-β-d-glucan, and ergosterol concentrations in dust are not associated with asthma, rhinitis, or eczema diagnoses in children. Indoor Air, 24: 158–170. doi: 10.1111/ina.12068).
If you read the paper, also read the two letters to the editor.
Rylander, R. (2014) Fungi in homes - how do we measure? Indoor Air 24, 221-222
Choi, H., Thorne, P.S., Sigsgaard, T., Bornehag, C.G. (2014) Response to Rylander. Indoor Air 24, 223-224
Also read the earlier publicaiton on the DBH study:
Bornehag, C. G., Sundell, J., Bonini, S., Custovic, A., Malmberg, P., Skerfving, S., Sigsgaard, T. and Verhoeff, A. (2004), Dampness in buildings as a risk factor for health effects, EUROEXPO: a multidisciplinary review of the literature (1998–2000) on dampness and mite exposure in buildings and health effects. Indoor Air, 14: 243–257. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0668.2004.00240.x
There is another view held by the majority of researchers that dampness and mold are associated with asthma and allergy and that efforts to control moisture are essential and of great health importance..
We are hoping to start a dialogue on this subject here and solicit your comments, relevant references, and suggestions for improving the dialogue.
Please send your comments and we will post them in a thread on-line so that the discussion can be an open one.
Quick tip: Why do people living in damp buildings get sick? Is it the mold, the bacteria, or the combination?
The scientific evidence for a connection to moisture is the strongest. There is some evidence for certain species of mold and bacteria but it is generally far weaker for mold and bacteria. An exception, of course, is Legionella p, the cause of Legionnaire's Disease, but exposure to Legionella p. may not be dominated by bacteria found in the air. There is increasing evidence that molds and bacteria are involved together, not as separate "causal factors." Scientific studies that look for associations between only mold or only bacteria may not find strong associations. Moisture is clearly relevant to the microbial exposures causing the reported health effects.
Quick tip: What is the biggest mistake have we made over the past 30-40 years that we should not repeat if possible?
I think it may be the separation of ASHRAE Standard 62 (Ventilation and IAQ) and Standard 55 (thermal comfort). Both IAQ and thermal comfort are affected by and ought to be addressed by the same building design and operational solutions. ASHRAE Guideline 10-2011 tries to get at these connections and interactions for the first time anywhere, well, except for papers I wrote a long time ago. ASHRAE Guideline 10, now available for purchase on the Publications page of the ASHRAE web site, brings together a lot of what we know about the interactions and also discusses interactions with light and noise. There is far less known than we would like, but far more known than we tend to reflect in our standards, codes, and practices. If you know of some other connections, please send us an email. We will be grateful for your help.
NPR Animation of the Human Microbiome
A video from NPR about the human microbiome that is worth taking a look at.
US EPA/NCER Grant Announcement: Indoor Air and Climate Change
EPA announces an extramural funding competition designed to support research that improves understanding of how climate change affects human health through indoor air quality as adapted by building designs and uses.
Proposals should explore the relationship linking health effects to combinations of building and climate characteristics. A priority is the evaluation of existing guidelines for building system design or for weatherization to adapt buildings to a changing climate, against empirical evidence of health effects related to ventilation, or at least against ventilation models and findings. Click here for more information.
ASHRAE Indoor Air Quality IAQ Design Guide Now Available for Free
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is now making the IAQ design guide and all of its reference materials available to the public at no cost through its web site.
The Indoor Air Quality Guide: Best Practices for Design, Construction and Commissioning is designed for architects, design engineers, contractors, commissioning agents, and all other professionals concerned with indoor air quality.
Click here for more information.
Microbiology of the built environment
Everywhere we turn there are microbes (living organisms so small we cannot see them without magnification): in our cars, houses, offices, water pipes, and in every nook and cranny of our bodies. Most are harmless, but some can make us sick or cause other damage. Some even play a role in protecting us and our creations from the depredations of others. Most of these microbes are still unknown and uncharacterized.
Over the last 20-30 years scientists have made revolutionary progress in understanding microbes in so-called “natural” systems. We have studied microbes in oceans, soil, and hotsprings, as well as those that live on and inside plants and animals. Little attention however has been paid to the microbes that live in the “unnatural” indoor world around us: in our buildings, planes, trains, and cars, where most of us spend more than 90 percent of our lives. These are the microbes of the “built environment”.
Thanks to continuing advances in DNA sequencing technology, and a recent initiative by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, this gap in knowledge is beginning to be addressed. The effort to better understand the built environment has implications for engineering and architecture, biodefense and forensics, and has even produced the concept of probiotics for buildings.
Building Ecology - A short course
It is common to assume that buildings are simply inanimate physical entities, relatively stable over time. This implies that there is little interaction between the triad of the building, what’s in it (occupants and contents), and what’s around it( the larger environment). We commonly see the overwhelming majority of the mass of material in a building as relatively unchanged physical material over time. In fact, the true nature of buildings can be viewed as the result of a complex set of dynamic interactions among their physical, chemical, and biological dimensions. Buildings can be described and understood as complex systems. Research applying the approaches ecologists use to the understanding of ecosystems can help increase our understanding. “Building ecology “ is proposed here as the application of those approaches to the built environment considering the dynamic system of buildings, their occupants, and the larger environment. Read more...
Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC) has a long history as a metric for determining the acceptability of the emissions of VOCs from building products and furnishings. The first significant program to rely on a TVOC criterion was the Carpet & Rug Institute’s (CRI) Green Label Program that evolved out of the Carpet Policy Dialog between the carpet industry and the US EPA. The TVOC criterion was later incorporated into the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating systems and was adopted by the commercial furniture industry. More recent VOC emission test method and acceptance standards have focused instead on individual VOCs that may pose health hazards to individuals at low concentrations. Examples of such programs in North America are the California Department of Health Services' Standard Practice (a.k.a. Section 01350), which recently was revised to Standard Method Version 1.1, and CRI’s Green Label Plus program. TVOC values are still reported, but pass/fail determinations are based on the emission levels of individual compounds of concern. There is an urgent need to expand such determinations of acceptability beyond a select number of individual VOCs to encompass the broader range of chemical emissions that may impact health. TVOC is again being proposed to fill this gap and may be appealing to many because of its presumed simplicity. In my opinion, we should avoid this temptation and move on the more difficult, but certainly achievable, task of focusing on the toxicity of individual compounds. The following are my primary arguments against the use of TVOC as a Pass/Fail metric. Read more...
|Energy Principles in Architectural Design
By Ed Dean was published in 1981 by the California Energy Commission to provide a basis for California’s licensed architects to learn about energy. The California State Board of Architectural Examiners was considering a continuing education requirement for license renewal, and it was thought that the guide could be the basis for the exam. Read more...
If outdoor ozone levels are related to SBS symptom prevalence in a building, would it be wise to install filters to remove the ozone entering the building? If using synthetic fiber filters further increased SBS symptom prevalence as outdoor ozone levels increased, would you want to use some different material for your building's particle filters?
Recently published research on the results suggest that it may reduce SBS symptom rates if you reduce ozone remove ozone from outdoor air.
Sustainable buildings are more than an assortment of "green building" features. Building design and actual performance must be compared to benchmarks or targets for a truly sustainable environment in terms of resource consumption and pollution emission.
Feature Article - California Greenhouse Gas Tool for Buildings
California's Greenhouse Gas (GHG) tool for California is now available on the web -GHG Tool for Buildings in California. The tool is publicly available and free for download.
This is a major step forward, the first tool that provides time- and weather-resolved GHG emissions calculations. Read more...
Feature Article - IAQ and Plants
| The idea that plants clean indoor air is a sad, continuing saga fed by
bad science, commercial interests, and wishful thinking. I published an
article in the Indoor Air Bulletin
on the subject in 1992 (available on this web site) that provides some details.
Take home message:
1. Don't use plants to improve IAQ. They don't. If anything, they pose risks to good IAQ.
2. There is no credible scientific evidence that plants improve IAQ. The planting media has been hypothesized to be responsible for pollutant removal in some studies. The planting media alone can be expected to contribute to a limited reduction in some airborne chemical concentrations.
3. Most advocates of indoor plant use have been funded by or are themselves providers of plants or supporting systems.
4. If plants are used indoors for aesthetic reasons, there should be extra care to avoid moisture problems or problems with fertilizers and pesticides, all known sources of indoor air quality and health problems.Read more...
Building Ecology Research Group
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Download Hal Levin's papers and presentations. For more than 40 years we have helped hundreds of organizations on 5 continents create environmentally-responsible, healthy buildings. We focus on "Building Ecology" -- the relationships and connections between buildings, occupants, and the larger environment -- emphasizing indoor environmental quality and sustainability.