What is indoor environmental quality?
Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) refers to quality conditions inside the building in relation to the health and well-b
eing of occupants.
Most of the time, occupants are subject to multiple contaminants without even realizing it (in the form of particles and gases), just as contaminants from office machinery, household items, cleaners, furnishings, co
smetics, cigarette smoke, building materials, constructions activities, microbial growth, insects, plus outdoor pollutants.
There is often no single factor that determines the quality of IEQ. Due to its multifactorial nature, IEQ is highly complex and challenging to impact health, well-being, mood and stress, safety, operational efficiency, and economics. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the nine core elements whose are all play a part in determining IEQ:
These nine elements interact to build a unique occupant experience. When we say good, in other words, healthy IEQ can improve the life quality of occupants, raise the building’s market value, and minimize liability for building owners. Also,
it is strongly linked with the economy of energy use and global warming as a critical world problem.
When we look at how long people spend indoors, it is essential to understand and control these indoor quality elements as complex and interdependent systems in all spaces. The complexity is emphasized by the different characteristics of the indoor spaces, which include a changing outdoor environment, different building characteristics and functions, the number of occupant populations, and patterns of their activities. This is why a holistic, system-based approach will help people to work and live in different places comfortably and safely.
Moreover, since spaces and their use change over time, it is critical that these spaces are continuously and dynamically monitored and managed for both occupancy health and energy efficiency. For example, museums, churches, and school buildings should be considered different cases because of their different IEQ requirements in the office; the cooling needs during working hours and in the evenings are not the same. While specific conditions may lead building/facility managers to focus more on one element than the others, such as COVID-19, indoor air quality is the hot topic in building healthy spaces in offices, hospitals, and schools.
It is possible to conduct a walkthrough and identify and control all those elements and features that help define the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of the building. Although standards, guidelines, and certification schemes provide many techniques to evaluate IEQ, just one thing, there is no universally accepted way to rate IEQ in buildings.
As one of the crucial elements of IEQ, indoor air quality (IAQ) is defined by the air in and around buildings. Air quality is often defined as the types & concentrations of contaminants found in the indoor environment.
Why should you worry about IAQ?
First, IAQ directly affects occupant health, comfort, and productivity. When IAQ is poor, that means it contains high levels of pollutants. Well-established, common health impacts are building-related illnesses such as asthma, weariness, irritability, and headache can affect occupants. Modern lifestyles and the COVID-19 lead us to constant contact with the inside ambient conditions, most of our time in offices, schools, and houses. It is easy to say that inhalation exposure is ongoing, and our most extensive exposure to pollutants occurs indoors.
Air quality is typically considered a health indicator, but another primary concern is the strong relationship between building energy efficiency and IAQ, especially in commercial and institutional buildings. Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems are among the largest energy consumers in buildings. The term “HVAC” refers to equipment that can heat, cool, filter outdoor air, and manage humidity in the building to maintain comfortable conditions.
The IAQ heavily depends on HVAC performance, and proper air exchange is essential for energy efficiency and IAQ in buildings. It’s a well-documented fact that IAQ is like a provision for occupants and energy efficiency.
Factors Affecting Indoor Air Quality
It is essential to understand the role of each of these factors in preventing, investigating, and resolving indoor air quality problems.
Many pollutants are found indoors that can harm our health. Understanding and controlling some of the common pollutants present in workplaces, hospitals, schools, and homes help improve indoor air quality and lower occupants’ risk of health problems associated with IAQ.
A Wide Range of Different Pollution Sources
Various sources cause air pollution. These include vehicle traffic, shipping emissions, building heating, industrial production, agricultural emissions, fossil fuel, biomass energy generation, etc. Although outdoor air pollution is often on the headline, indoor air pollution doesn’t seem like breaking news. Even more, the harsh reality is that indoor air is more contaminated than outdoor air.
In addition to pollution in the outdoor air, indoor pollutants source from human breath, cleaning and cooking products, toxins emitted by paints, walls, floor coverings, and more. There is no end to the list of common indoor pollutants known as particulate matter, benzene, organic volatility, formaldehyde, ozone, allergies, etc.
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