We can only survive a few minutes without air and clean air is a critical component to our health. At Liquid Interiors we integrate wellness design principals in all of our projects to ensure healthy and non-toxic environments. It is important to understand the effects of poor indoor air pollution, what are the contributors and also how to take action whether you are planning to renovate or would like to improve your existing space.
We spend 90% of our time indoors. The indoor air quality (IAQ) of our homes, offices, schools, public and private buildings is an essential determinant of healthy life and people’s well-being. People that are most vulnerable to the health effects are children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with heart and lung conditions.
You may have walked into a building or an interior space and experienced sore throat, headache, , eye & nose irritation, dry and itchy skin, dizziness and fatigue and then these symptoms disappeared soon after leaving the space. This discomfort is described as the sick building syndrome (SBS). At work this can often negatively affect employee performance and at home most complaints are poor sleep quality and allergies. Poor indoor air quality may lead to diseases including asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and humidifier fever. Chronic effects after long exposure can lead to respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer.
10 Tips of how to improve your IAQ
Exhaust hood – NUAGE by Elica
1. Sufficient ventilation operations & maintenance of systems – Often open the windows when cleaning and doing building operations. Properly ventilate storage areas which contain gas water heaters. Use sufficient size exhaust fans in cooking, toxic storage and in car parking areas. Have a regular schedule for cleaning and replacing of vents and filters. Mechanical ventilation systems must be properly designed and calculated to be sufficient for each room size.
Concealed Louver for Ventilation – Fernando Alda
2. Fresh Air Supply – When using air-conditioning systems, maintain a sufficient amount of fresh air. Duct systems have integrated fresh air supply however, when using split type air conditioners then install separate fresh air intake ventilation.
3. No smoking – Have a policy to stop smoking indoors as well as near building openings and entrances.
Built in Dehumidifier – Drymaster
4. Mold control – Use an automatic dehumidifier at indoor clothes drying areas, damp basements or other high humidity areas. Set the air conditioner to keep humidity between 30%-60% humidity. Install Ultraviolet lamps at cooling coils and drain pans of kill bacteria and prevent mold creation in mechanical systems. Also conduct frequent inspections and take immediate action at signs of discoloration to walls, around windows, floor or ceiling due to water damage.
5. Use Low Emitting Materials & Material Safety specification – Specify LOW VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) interior paints, coatings, adhesives, sealants and flooring. New Furniture must be aired out before using and avoid using PVC that emits VOCs. Specify formaldehyde free pressed wood for all wood to be used in furniture, walls, ceiling and flooring. Safely remove old toxic existing materials that may contain lead or asbestos. Cover raw concrete with sealant or wall covering. All materials should also be specified to be easily cleanable.
6. Pollution Isolation andHealthy Entrance – Designate an area for toxic chemical storage such as cleaners, paints, printers and laundry supplies in an area that has a self closing door and is well ventilated with outside air. Add a permanent entry mat or system at regularly used entrances to capture particulates from occupants shoes.
7. Cleaning Protocol & Pesticide Management Control – Regularly remove any waste that may affect indoor air quality. Use Cleaning products that are made from natural ingredients or synthetic ones that have certifications such as Design for the Environment U.S. EPA, USDA Organic, Green Seal Certified, SCS certified or ECOLOGO. Remove any pest attracting substances and seal cracks that may allow them to enter. When using pesticides indoors first try to use natural alternatives. If these measures do not work then follow the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program guide.
8. Indoor Air Quality Construction Management and Air Flush – Ask your contractor and Interior Designer for their Indoor Air Quality Management plan to ensure that all materials are implemented as designed. Contractors must provide all receipts to document that they have purchased all specified non-toxic materials. Before occupying the space allow time for a full air flush out to air out the premises before moving in.
Indoor Air Quality Monitor – Netamo
9. Air Quality Monitoring – Install a real time indoor air quality monitoring system that is accessible by all users of the space so that corrective measures can take place instantly. Track air quality statistics and analyze regularly. Ask users for their feeback on their comfort levels.
Air Purifier – IQ AIR
10. Air Purification – In areas that are affected to high levels of outdoor air pollution from roadside vehicles, manufacturing, ozone (smog), pollen…etc, indoor increasing VOC, high humidity, pet dander affected and mold susceptible environments it is recommended to use an activated carbon air purifier. Stand alone air purifiers can help to clean the internal air, however for best results also have a separate system that will purify the outdoor fresh air before it enters the mechanical systems or separate fresh air ducts.
Indoor Air Pollutant Source Cheat Sheet
To understand more about the major contributors to air pollutants and indoor air quality please refer to the table below.
Indoor Air Quality is highly sensitive and can fluctuate with the slightest imbalance from human activity, a blocked duct or an unexpected water leak. Everyone knows how uncomfortable it is after 5 min of the air conditioner breaking down on a hot and humid day. Whether it comes to the productivity of your staff, health and of your family, sleep quality, asthma, allergies or more serious affects it is important to raise awareness so that preventative and corrective measures can take place. At Liquid Interiors we start as early as the design phase, we specify adequate materials and manage the construction and cleaning process. Upon delivering the site we will also work with air quality specialists to test and ensure safe levels for moving in and provide guidelines on how to maintain systems. We believe that interior design is not only about delivering a tastefully stylish and functional space, its effect on health and well-being and planet are equally important.
For more information feel free to email us to chat with an eco conscious interior design consultant today.
Principal & Founder, Interior Designer, LEED AP ID+C