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IEQ Reserch Needs for Low Energy Residences

Summary of residential-oriented portions of a report prepared for the California Energy Commission, INDOOR ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY RESEARCH ROADMAP 2012–2030: ENERGY-RELATED PRIORITIES.


T.J. Phillips is a principal at Healthy Building Research, Davis, California. H. Levin is a principal at Building Ecology Research Group, Santa

Cruz, California.

IEQ Research Needs for Low Energy Homes

Thomas J. Phillips and Hal Levin  (Fellow ASHRAE)



Potential impacts of low energy new homes and home retrofits were reviewed to identify research needs for indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in California’s building energy efficiency programs. California and several nations are planning to implement low energy or low carbon requirements for new and existing homes. These homes will be well-insulated, airtight, high-performance buildings, but they will have a narrower margin of safety for control of indoor pollutant sources, moisture, and ventilation. California has reduced some major sources of indoor air pollution over the last few decades but still has substantial rates of IEQ problems in homes. It also has a growing fraction of vulnerable persons, such as persons that have asthma, that live in overcrowded housing, or that are elderly. In the future, IEQ problems will be exacerbated by the impacts of climate change: increases in extreme weather, wild fires, outdoor air pollution, and airborne allergens. Building technology trends that will affect IEQ for better or worse include reduced infiltration and increased use of insulation, thermal mass, fault detection and diagnostics systems, integrated design, and commissioning. Increased urban densification and transit-oriented development will also affect IEQ and public health. We found very little available data on the impact of low energy homes on IEQ and human health, but a few large studies are underway. Several studies have documented problems such as overheating, maintenance of air filters and ventilation systems, and noise in low energy homes. Other current problems requiring further research and demonstration include infiltration from attached garages, effective range hood operation, commissioning of ventilation systems, and builder and occupant training. Meanwhile, a growing number of studies are finding that the market value and medical benefits of healthy homes are substantial.

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