Green Buildings and their Importance on Your Health

Green Water Plants. Image Source: Public domain.

We spend our lives indoors 90% of the time. While people think that staying indoors means protection from harmful environmental pollutants, that is not exactly the case. For instance, being in an office where there is poor ventilation or no operable windows means exposure to the same air pollutants outside—even worse.

Over the years, office and commercial buildings have been built “airtight” in order to improve energy efficiency and lower heating and air-conditioning costs. While this may sound “comfortable” to employees and inhabitants, it has caused a phenomenon that was coined “the sick building syndrome” in the 1970s.

The “sick building syndrome” was used to describe a disturbing occurrence among people in the same working environment, usually in the same office building. These people complained of the same symptoms, usually fatigue, headaches, sensitivity to odors, and irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat.

This problem exists until today. In fact, the World Health Organization reported that around 30% of new buildings today have such syndrome. Although there is not enough research to support the link between the symptoms and the buildings, the reasonable cause points to inadequate ventilation, especially combustion pollutants from malfunctioning central heating or cooling systems or volatile organic compounds found in indoor materials and equipment. Unfortunately, many building owners do not realize that these indoor pollutants are causing an unhealthy environment for the inhabitants.

Thanks to the green movement and the popularity of LEED certification, though, this problem is being solved. One economic way of making sure buildings are adequately insulated is by allowing natural ventilation and light to flow through the building. A reasonable basis is to increase the cubic feet per minute of outside air for every occupant.

It must also be noted that the quality of air is one of the most important environmental variables in a building from a health perspective, while temperature is the most important for comfort.

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