Innovative technology is creating green, smart and responsive buildings, and now it’s time to use it to help make buildings healthy too. When indoor air quality is poor, this can lead to Sick building syndrome (SBS), a range of symptoms including headaches and respiratory problems that affect occupants of certain buildings, which then improve when they leave the vicinity. According to the EPA, Americans spend around 90% of their time indoors. If this time is spent in a poorly ventilated building containing electrical products, furnishings and microbes emitting harmful fumes, this can have a profound effect on health. With a deeper understanding of SBS, and the use of innovative technology, steps can be taken to create more energy efficient, clean buildings in the future.
Shining A Light On Microbes
Mold plays a significant role in SBS, as it produces toxic metabolites that are hazardous to health. It can thrive in the structure of poorly ventilated buildings, and especially in office kitchens, where water heaters and cooking facilities cause high humidity. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 5% of cases of poor air quality can be traced directly to microbial contamination. Molds cause a range of respiratory conditions from sneezing and coughing to asthma and allergic reactions. Unfortunately, the chemical cleaning products used to disinfect mold also contribute to SBS by giving off harmful vapors. In response to this problem, a hotel in Denmark has treated its rooms with a transparent and odorless cleaning technology. When activated by sunlight, the innovative antibacterial spray breaks down microbes, including mold spores, and purifies the air for up to twelve months.
Improving Ventilation And Air Quality
The natural power of the sun can also be used to trigger a responsive window system that naturally controls heat and light entering a building. This experimental technology could reduce reliance on HVAC systems and decrease energy use by up to 42%. Old and faulty HVAC systems are often cited as a cause of SBS, as poor ventilation can lead to indoor concentrations of some pollutants of up to 5 times higher than outside. Until new technology is readily available, thorough cleaning, regular maintenance and, if necessary, periodic upgrades of these systems is essential to improve indoor air quality.
Innovative technology is increasingly being applied to create sustainable and energy efficient buildings that cause less damage to the outside environment. Now, it can be applied to ensure better indoor air quality, and more comfortable and healthier indoor settings.
This article was authored and contributed by Jackie Edwards. Now working as a writer, Jackie Edwards started her career in Environmental Health in the Public Sector, but after becoming a mom refocused and decided to spend more time with her family. When she’s not writing, she volunteers for a number of local mental health charities and also has a strong interest in ecology, wildlife and conservation.