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Sustainable Buildings: The Low Energy Path to Good Indoor Air Quality

As we attempt to improve the indoor climate (air, thermal, illumination, and acoustic quality) in buildings, we run up against the constraints of resource availability and the effects of their use. In particular, we are challenged to find ways to ventilate, heat, cool, illuminate buildings with minimal consumption of energy.

We must find the low-energy pathways. Unfortunately, it is far too tempting to simply select advanced technologies based on their efficiencies and reliability rather than to consider more fundamental building design questions in the context of overall sustainability. When we consider the entire environmental context, both within and beyond the building enclosure, then we are compelled to seek the low-energy path to good indoor air quality. Fortunately, there are abundant opportunities to design comfortable, healthy, and productive indoor environments at less economic and environmental cost with currently available and proven technology including daylight-based illumination and passive ventilation and thermal control. However, to do so, we must re-examine some of our assumptions that have led us to the present crisis where only a small fraction of the world's population can afford the costs of energy services to provide building services exclusively through mechanical and electrical means. In the end, we need a comprehensive approach to buildings and the environment such as that described as “building ecology.”


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