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Building Ecology – A Short Course
Building Ecology – A Short Course
It is common to assume that buildings are simply inanimate physical entities, relatively stable over time. This implies that there is little interaction between the triad of the building, what’s in it (occupants and contents), and what’s around it( the larger environment). We commonly see the overwhelming majority of the mass of material in a building as relatively unchanged physical material over time. In fact, the true nature of buildings can be viewed as the result of a complex set of dynamic interactions among their physical, chemical, and biological dimensions. Buildings can be described and understood as complex systems.
Indoor Environment and Indoor Microbiome Spreadsheet
Indoor Environment and Indoor Microbiome Spreadsheet
MS Excel file with curated peer-reviewed publications. The spreadsheet contains all the abstracts and bibliographic information, but does not enable multi-factorial searches (as is possible in the database file).
Re-Constructing Thermal Comfort
Re-Constructing Thermal Comfort
Paper submitted to Proceedings of the 9th Windsor Conference on thermal comfort: "Making comfort relevant"
Click here for Indoor Environment-Indoor Microbiome Database
Click here for Indoor Environment-Indoor Microbiome Database
Microsoft Access database is downloadable here
IEQ Reserch Needs for Low Energy Residences
IEQ Reserch Needs for Low Energy Residences
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.
General Population Exposure to Pentachlorophenol
General Population Exposure to Pentachlorophenol
General population exposure to pentachlorophenol (PCP) is considered universal. PCP is an ubiquitous chemical found in air, water, soil, food and house dust as well as in many consumer products. Exposure has been estimated by measurement of PCP in the various media to which people are exposed as well as by modeling based on measurement of PCP in human urine, serum and various body organs. Four recently published estimates of average population exposure are in reasonable agreement with values of 11 to 23 /μg day).
Critical Review: How Well Do House Plants Perform as Indoor Air Cleaners?
Critical Review: How Well Do House Plants Perform as Indoor Air Cleaners?
In the late 1980’s, research indicated that plants had the capability to remove volatile organic compounds (VOC) from indoor air.  The findings were based upon chamber studies involving injection of a pollutant into a small, sealed chamber and following the pollutant decay, with and without plants present.  The results were striking with removal rates up to 90% in 24 hr.  Other studies examining this effect followed.  Today, even a casual search of the internet will find many articles extolling the benefits of using plants as indoor air cleaners.  However, there has been little critical analysis of the application of plants to actual indoor environments and only a few field studies have been conducted.  A critical review of results of both laboratory chamber studies and field studies leads to the conclusion that indoor plants have little, if any, benefit for removing indoor air of VOC in residential and commercial buildings.  Finally, recommendations for improving future studies are presented.
Edifice Complex: An Anatomy of Sick Building Syndrome Control and Abatement
Edifice Complex: An Anatomy of Sick Building Syndrome Control and Abatement
The complexity of modern buildings presents significant unmet challenges to designers, operators and investigators. Problems other than air quality can cause or exacerbate the symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome. Psychological and social as well as physical and biological factors interact to create occupant physiological and health responses to building environments. Yet detailed, comprehensive investigations of building-associated outbreaks are infrequent due to the resources and personnel required to conduct them.
Control and abatement of SBS is dependent upon reliable and useful investigation and diagnosis. An understanding of the nature and causes of SBS is essential to such investigations and diagnoses. Yet no clear understanding of SBS and no widely accepted definition of SBS exists. In fact authorities in the field use differing definitions or confusing terms which do not increase understanding of the phenomenon. And the most widely-accepted definition includes the absence of identified causes, but even those who present this definition fail to use it consistently.
Sick Building Syndrome Review and Exploration of Causation Hypotheses and Control Methods
Sick Building Syndrome Review and Exploration of Causation Hypotheses and Control Methods
Control and abatement of indoor air quality (IAQ) problems are dependent upon reliable investigation and diagnosis. Sick building syndrome (SBS), building related illness (BRI), and other health and comfort problems are selectively reviewed and discussed. Psychological and social as well as physical, chemical, and biological factors that affect occupant physiological and health responses are identified.
 
Building Design for Good Indoor Air Quality
Building Design for Good Indoor Air Quality
The basic function of a building is to shelter occupants from outdoor elements and provide a healthy, comfortable environment for productive activity.  This statement is deceptive in its simplicity, because the definition of a "healthy, comfortable environment" evolves over time. For example, features such as artificial lighting and indoor plumbing were once considered luxuries. Accepted building design practices change in response to emerging expectations.
Building Design and Material Selection
Building Design and Material Selection
Studies of indoor air quality (IAQ) and occupant health and comfort only identify associations of risk factors without demonstrating causality. Logical analysis and the dominant evidence point to certain root or primary risk factors. Designers can best target their IAQ control efforts based on analysis of identified risk factors and logical plausibility.
A process is proposed to target design efforts to have maximum impact on primary or root building factors that contribute to the prevalence of sick building syndrome and building related illness. Some key factors are identified and general design considerations are discussed.  Design guidance is given for the major primary or root risk factors.
Indoor Air Quality By Design
Indoor Air Quality By Design
Good indoor air quality happens by design, not by accident. In fact it is simply one aspect of good design.  Building designers play a major role in determining indoor air quality (IAQ).  Primary roles belong to the architect, ventilation system engineer, and interior designer.  Major IAQ design concerns include project planning, pollutant sources, environmental control systems, construction, and commissioning.
IAQ: Whose Responsibility. The Problem is Not Energy Conservation
IAQ: Whose Responsibility. The Problem is Not Energy Conservation
A popular myth holds that energy conservation measures, implemented since the oil crises of the 1970s, cause indoor air pollution problems. This myth ignores the fact that most indoor air pollutant sources have little or nothing to do with energy conservation. In at least one study conducted before 1973, the air inside buildings was found to be more polluted than outdoor air even during severe air pollution events. In fact, only two types of conservation measures directly increase indoor air pollutant concentrations: inappropriately reducing ventilation and using sealants and caulks that emit pollutants.
Building Ecology: Relation of Buildings to Environmental and Societal Issues
Building Ecology: Relation of Buildings to Environmental and Societal Issues
In the 1960s, commercial buildings became more isolated from the outdoor environment and were built and filled increasingly with synthetic materials. In the 1970s, concern for energy conservation drove ventilation rates down, and indoor air quality and climate problems proliferated. In the 1980s, we learned that we had to address thermal comfort, indoor air quality, and energy management in an integrated fashion. When satellite observations helped scientists confirm the seasonal appearance of the ozone hole over the Antarctic region, it became even more evident that, as the ecologists have said for decades, 'everything is connected to everything.' The corollary is: 'you can't do just one thing.'
Estimating Building Material Contributions to Indoor Air Pollution
Estimating Building Material Contributions to Indoor Air Pollution
Many professionals and scientists are attempting to identify low-emitting building materials during building design. Others need to model indoor air quality (IAQ) for problem building investigations or for research. Manufacturers improve their products' performance using such modeling. These efforts focus on volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from building materials.  A step-wise procedure for the use of IAQ modeling may ultimately improve building performance. A procedure is described and its important steps are illustrated in this paper. Reasonably accurate estimates can be made based on careful use of available data. Barriers to reliable use of modeling include insufficient data characterizing emissions from many important indoor pollutant sources.
Renewables in Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality
Renewables in Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality
Ventilation for acceptable indoor air quality is one of the key services a building provides to its occupants. Indoor air quality depends on a complicated interaction between pollutant sources in the building and key removal mechanisms such as ventilation. Renewable energy issues enter this picture through two important mechanisms: affecting pollutant sources, and providing ventilation. This overview paper is organized to address these two parts separately.
Critical Review of Environmental Assessment of Building Materials
Critical Review of Environmental Assessment of Building Materials
Many interests and issues compete for professional building designers’ attention and priorities. Indoor air quality and “sustainable design” have been increasingly among these interests in recent years. While neither has yet gained widespread acceptance or general use in the building design professions, both are now being used more frequently in the United States and certain parts of Europe. The tools available to designers include several directly using or derived from life cycle assessment (LCA) software and concept approaches.
Physical Factors in the Indoor Environment
Physical Factors in the Indoor Environment
This chapter presents a discussion of physical factors in the nonindustrial indoor environment that affect human health, comfort, productivity, and well-being.
While indoor air quality (IAQ) can affect human health, comfort and well-being, other indoor environmental factors may cause adverse reactions. Physical factors can have a direct impact on building occupants; they may interact with indoor air contaminants, or they may alter the body's response to indoor air pollutants. The body responds to all of the factors in the environment to which it is exposed.
Screening and Selecting Building Materials and Products Based on Their Emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Screening and Selecting Building Materials and Products Based on Their Emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
The cost of emissions tests and other factors have discouraged nearly all but the largest product manufacturers from obtaining emissions data. Emissions data, where available, require toxicologic evaluation before design professionals and other potential purchasers can use them. The absence of health effects information at the low exposures likely to occur from normal indoor uses of most products and materials increases the uncertainty in any such evaluation. The complex mixture emitted by most products poses an additional interpretation problem.
Quality Indoor Environments and Sustainable Buildings — Can We Have Them Both?
Quality Indoor Environments and Sustainable Buildings — Can We Have Them Both?
The quality of the indoor environment and the impact of the built environment on sustainability have been discussed increasingly in recent years, yet little has changed in the fundamental relationships between Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE), assessment of indoor environmental quality (IEQ), and sustainability.
A Sustainable Environment Basis for Education in Indoor Air Sciences
A Sustainable Environment Basis for Education in Indoor Air Sciences
It has become increasingly clear that human population growth and development activities have combined to place a growing, perhaps excessive burden on environmental resources. Consumption of natural resources, encroachment on land, and emission of pollutants have, together produced strong indicators of environmental stress.
Examples of such stress include depletion of the ozone layer and of many natural resources, massive loss of topsoil and of biological diversity, and potential causes of global climate change including increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases [1-3]. Such environmental stressors generally correlate with economic development and growth [2]. Levin, H. 1999. “A Sustainable Environment Basis for Education in Indoor Air Sciences, in N. Boschi, Ed., Education and Planning in Indoor Air Sciences,  Kluwer Academic Press, 141-150.
Sustainable Building Practices in California State Buildings
Sustainable Building Practices in California State Buildings
The State of California, until recently, did not have a centralized, coordinated effort to define and integrate sustainable building practices in the State's capital outlay design and construction process. Efforts to define and implement these practices started in 1999, when the Legislature required the incorporation of sustainable building measures in a large state office building complex. These successful efforts led to the formation of a multi-agency task force to address sustainable issues for all state buildings.
Special Environmental Requirements for a California State Office Building
Special Environmental Requirements for a California State Office Building
A Special Environmental Requirements specification was developed for screening building materials based on modeling maximum chemical concentrations attributable to emissions from their potential sources for use in a State of California office building. In addition, minimum requirements for recycled contents of these materials were specified. Small environmental chamber emission test protocols were developed and maximum allowable concentrations for chemicals of concern were adopted.
A Priority Agenda for Energy-Related Indoor Environmental Quality Research
A Priority Agenda for Energy-Related Indoor Environmental Quality Research
Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and building energy use are both strongly influenced by a building's design, construction, operation, and maintenance, by the activities of occupants, and by outdoor environmental conditions. Consequently, energy-efficiency measures may degrade IEQ, improve IEQ, or be IEQ neutral. Similarly, IEQ improvement measures may increase or decrease energy consumption or be energy neutral.
Summary of On-Going Federal Research Into the Effects of Environmental Quality in Schools on the Health or Performance of Students and Teachers
Summary of On-Going Federal Research Into the Effects of Environmental Quality in Schools on the Health or Performance of Students and Teachers
Section 5414 of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 mandates that the U.S. Department of Education will design a national study of the health and learning impacts of environmentally unhealthy public school buildings on students and teachers. The Department of Education, in order to avoid duplication of effort and to obtain information about possible approaches for the study, wishes to investigate ongoing studies that relate to the study of unhealthy school buildings, especially those being sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Mark J. Mendell and Hal Levin, 2002
California Indoor Air Quality Specifications for Open Office Systems Furniture and Building Materials
California Indoor Air Quality Specifications for Open Office Systems Furniture and Building Materials
California has a long history of contributing to increased understanding of indoor air quality issues and the means to enhance the quality of air in buildings. This paper describes the evolution of selected IAQ activities in California.  It focuses on the indoor air quality aspects of the open office systems furniture specification, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions testing protocol for building material selection including summary results from the first completed building, and a recently-completed study of emissions of building materials by the Department of Health Services (DHS). The reader is referred elsewhere for more details on California’s other sustainable building efforts, including issues related to indoor air quality other than those discussed herein.
VOC Source Strengths in Pre- and Post-Occupancy Periods of a New California State Office Building
VOC Source Strengths in Pre- and Post-Occupancy Periods of a New California State Office Building
Volatile organic compound (VOC) source strength data are valuable for identifying and addressing important sources of potential VOC exposure in buildings. Concentration measurement data alone are insufficient for reliable assessment of occupant exposures outside of the sample collection period itself. Few published data exist with calculation of VOC source strengths in new buildings during construction and after completion.
Such calculations require indoor and outdoor VOC concentrations and air change rates to be measured contemporaneously. VOC source strengths based on VOC and ventilation rate measurements made as part of the “IAQ commissioning” process in a new “green” State of California office building are reported.
Indoor Environmental Quality
Indoor Environmental Quality
Buildings are increasingly designed or required to be ‘sustainable’ or ‘green’ in recent years, giving the quality of the indoor environment new importance.  The indoor environment is central to public health because the public spends so much time there. Concentrations of most pollutants are higher indoors, often as much as ten or more times higher than in outdoor air. A person is generally 1000 times more likely to inhale a chemical molecule if it is emitted indoors rather than outdoors. The potential importance of the indoor environment is further enhanced by the fact that pollutants emitted indoors have greater source strengths than outdoors on the basis of area. But efforts to address indoor pollutants and provide healthful and productive indoor environments often conflict with efforts to protect the larger environment from the adverse effects of building technologies (Levin, 2006). A ‘healthy building’ adversely affects neither the occupants  nor the larger environment (Levin, 1981, 1995).
Building Materials and Indoor Air Quality
Building Materials and Indoor Air Quality
In, Hodgson, M. and Cone, J., eds., Problem Buildings, Building Associated Illness and Sick Building Syndrome, State of the Art Reviews in Occupational Medicine, Fall 1989. New building materials, products, and furnishings are known to emit a large number of organic chemicals into indoor air. Building occupants’ sickness, irritation, and discomforts are often blamed on the presence of such chemicals in indoor air.  Most of the chemicals of concern are either volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or semi-orgnaic compounds (SVOCs). VOCs have vapor pressures down to 10-5 or 10-6 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg); SVOCs have lower vapor pressures.  Building designers, owners, operators, occupants, and product manufacturers are increasingly concered about the problems related to indoor air contaminants emitted from building products and furnishings.
Design for Indoor Air Quality: Addressing the Global Environmental Context
Design for Indoor Air Quality: Addressing the Global Environmental Context
Historically, indoor air quality (IAQ) deteriorated because it was largely ignored as other issues were addressed. In spite of the currently increasing recognition of worldwide environmental deterioration, there is inadequate understanding and consideration of the impacts of building design, construction, operation, and demolition on the environment. This paper identifies and quantifies the magnitude of buildings' contributions to environmental problems based on life cycle inventory (LCI) data categories. It describes criteria used for and results of a process to identify and weight important environmental problems. The weightings it provides can inform choices among building alternatives with varying environmental impacts and may be useful in reconciling IAQ design goals with broader environmental concerns.
Best Sustainable Indoor Air Quality Practices in Commercial Buildings
Best Sustainable Indoor Air Quality Practices in Commercial Buildings
This paper describes commercial building indoor air quality practices and then discusses them in the context of total building environmental performance. “Green buildings” generally have included some effort to address indoor air quality issues along with an unspecified number of other environmental concerns. Rarely, if ever, is analysis conducted to evaluate trade-offs made among environmental features considered important in “green” buildings even though conflicts occur among design features intended to improve a building’s environmental performance.
U.S Government Commits to Sustainable Buildings
U.S Government Commits to Sustainable Buildings
At the White House Summit on Federal Sustainable Buildings on January 24, 2006, Luis A. Luna, EPA's Assistant Administrator for the Office of Administration and Resources Management, along with representatives from 16 federal agencies, signed an MOU entitled "Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings."
The Right to Healthy Indoor Air
The Right to Healthy Indoor Air
A WHO Working Group was convened to agree on a set of statements on “The right to healthy indoor air”, derived from fundamental principles in the fields of human rights, biomedical ethics and ecological sustainability. This document presents the conclusions of the Working Group, informs individuals and groups responsible for healthy indoor air about their rights and obligations, and individuals by bringing those rights to their attention.
Development of Guidelines for Healthy Home Construction in the United States and Challenges Faced in the Process
Development of Guidelines for Healthy Home Construction in the United States and Challenges Faced in the Process
In the past decade the general population in the USA has developed a heightened awareness on indoor air quality (IAQ) issues. As a result there is a significant demand by the public for housing provisions that offer not only a comfortable living environment, but also one that is more conducive to improved health afforded by the quality of the indoor air environment. The American Lung Association (ALA) in the United States is responding to the needs of homeowners by undertaking the development of guidelines for builders, designers, and other members of the construction community, with the end-goal to provide guidance on construction practices for improved IAQ in residences.
Can House Plants Solve IAQ Problems?
Can House Plants Solve IAQ Problems?
The idea of common plants solving IAQ problems is attractive. Most people like having plants in their homes and offices and in the hotels, stores, and public buildings they visit. However, important questions exist as to whether plants can actually affect indoor air sufficiently to warrant their use as air cleaners.
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
The EPA Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) has set National Ambient Air Quality Standards for six principal pollutants, which are called "criteria" pollutants.
IAQ: Practical ways building designers address indoor air quality issues?
IAQ: Practical ways building designers address indoor air quality issues?
There are many simple, practical ways for building designers to address IAQ issues. These include application of relevant ASTM and ASHRAE standards with a focus on material selection guidelines and adequate ventilation. When good materials are selected and properly specified, ventilation requirements are reduced and the capital and operating costs of the building are reduced.
Integrating Indoor Air Quality Considerations Into Materials Life Cycle Assessment
Integrating Indoor Air Quality Considerations Into Materials Life Cycle Assessment
Buildings design professionals and their clients are increasingly interested in the environmental performance of their designs. So-called "life cycle assessments" (LCAs) have been done on some building materials. Most LCA practitioners have either ignored indoor air quality (IAQ) or stated that integration of IAQ into LCA practice is either impractical or infeasible. A "building ecology" approach to design, construction, and operation of buildings demands inclusion of IAQ in LCAs of building materials and products.
ASHRAE Announces Initiative to Tighten Standard 90.1 by 2010, Energy Standards for Buildings
ASHRAE Announces Initiative to Tighten Standard 90.1 by 2010, Energy Standards for Buildings
ASHRAE announced that it is striving to increase building energy efficiency in Standard 90.1. It is looking to achieve a 30 percent saving in the 2010 standard compared to ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2004, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings.  The savings are part of ASHRAE's goal to achieve "market-viable net-zero energy buildings by 2030."
Designing Healthy Houses and Cities: The Roles of Architects and Science
Designing Healthy Houses and Cities: The Roles of Architects and Science
A “healthy building” was defined as one that is harmful neither to its occupants nor to the larger environment (Levin, 1995a). This, in fact, is an inadequate definition, focusing only on one requirement, that there be an absence of unhealthy conditions or influences.  But beyond this absence there must also be a favorable environment, one that is functionally and aesthetically supportive of healthy lives. Functionally it must satisfy the basic needs of the occupants in a healthy and supportive way. Aesthetically it must be harmonious, peaceful, and pleasing.
Indoor Source Emissions Testing: State of the Science and the Art
Indoor Source Emissions Testing: State of the Science and the Art
The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief overview of building materials emissions testing and its place in indoor air and to identify the major issues that remain to be resolved. The focus will be on major accomplishments, critical issues, and current challenges.
VOC Concentrations of Interest in North American Offices and Homes
VOC Concentrations of Interest in North American Offices and Homes
Indoor air quality investigators often sample many volatile organic chemicals but with insufficient knowledge of their potential impacts on occupants. Studies performed in North American offices and residences since 1990 were reviewed and central tendency and maximum VOC concentrations were summarized by building type.
These concentrations were assessed relative to various guideline values for odor, sensory irritancy and noncancer chronic toxicity to identify compounds that may reach levels of concern. These comparisons revealed that less than one-fifth of the 106 VOCs studied reached levels that were ≥10% of guideline values. Guidelines are needed for other VOCs and other health endpoints.
Commercial Building Indoor Air Quality: Introduction to the Problem
Commercial Building Indoor Air Quality: Introduction to the Problem
This paper provides a background on the issue of indoor air quality.
It includes a discussion of the financial, technical, legal, insurance and health-related aspects of unacceptable indoor air quality (IAQ). It discusses the roles of ventilation system performance, pollutant sources and human responses in determining acceptable indoor air quality as they relate to comfort, health and chronic illness. Finally, it discusses some issues confronting those who seek to formulate and implement policies to improve IAQ.
IEQ: Designing for People: What Do Building Occupants Really Want?
IEQ: Designing for People: What Do Building Occupants Really Want?
Modern buildings’ environmental impacts threaten global environmental health. Population growth and increased access to and use of current building technology are not sustainable. People are often not in control of their building environments and, as a result, are less satisfied with them.
When people control their indoor environments, they are more likely to be satisfied with them. This paper questions many of the prevailing assumptions and practices that are resulting in energy intensive, unsatisfying, and in many cases uncomfortable, unhealthy, and unproductive building environments. Then it describes a direction for more satisfying, less resource intensive solutions to providing building occupants what they want while lessening buildings’ impacts on the environment.
Sustainable Buildings: Environmental Impacts of Technologies for Sustainable Buildings
Sustainable Buildings: Environmental Impacts of Technologies for Sustainable Buildings
There are many consequences of measures taken to move toward sustainability in the creation of healthy buildings. Technologies aimed at improving indoor environmental quality must be evaluated in terms of their total environmental impacts: indoor, local, regional, and global.
Increasing ventilation to improve workplace productivity may yield net economic benefits. However, increased energy use adversely affects local and regional air pollution and increases emissions of greenhouse gases.
Integrating Indoor Air and Design for Sustainability
Integrating Indoor Air and Design for Sustainability
Integration of IAQ concerns in so-called sustainable designs has suffered from a lack of a comprehensive, science-based assessment methodology for building environmental performance. Guidance and rating systems for “green” buildings fail to address systematically the trade-offs necessary for assessment of the overall performance of a building or its design.
This paper presents a framework constructed on the basis of Building Ecology for such an assessment.
Sustainable Buildings
Sustainable Buildings
“Sustainability” has been defined variously, as was clearly illustrated at the recent United Nations Earth Summit in Johannesburg. When discussed in the context of the impacts of buildings on the environment, its meaning is ambiguous and often distorted.
Buildings are not either “sustainable” or not. No buildings being built today are sustainable in the true sense of the word. While many guidelines exist for guiding design to improve building environmental performance, most of the available guidelines do not assess the total impact of a building on the environment. Instead, they tend to rate buildings on the basis of individual features considered “green” or “sustainable” by the designers.
IAQ: Indoor Environmental Quality – Current Concerns
IAQ: Indoor Environmental Quality – Current Concerns
Buildings are increasingly designed or required to be “sustainable” or “green” in recent years giving the quality of the indoor environment new importance. The indoor environment is central to public health because we spend so much time there. Concentrations of most pollutants are higher indoors, often as much as ten or more times higher than in outdoor air.
A person is generally 1000 times more likely to inhale a chemical molecule if it is emitted indoors rather than outdoors. The potential importance of the indoor environment is further enhanced by the fact that pollutants emitted indoors have greater source strengths than outdoors on the basis of area. But efforts to address indoor pollutants and provide healthful and productive indoor environments often conflict with efforts to protect the larger environment from the adverse effects of our building technologies (Levin, 2006). A “healthy building” adversely affects neither the occupants nor the larger environment (Levin, 1981;1995)
 
Building Ecology: An Architect’s Perspective on Healthy Buildings
Building Ecology: An Architect’s Perspective on Healthy Buildings
A healthy building is one that adversely affects neither the health of its occupants nor the larger environment. Indoor air quality (IAQ) concerns are among many indoor environmental issues that must be addressed to avoid adverse impacts on occupants’ health and well being. Among the other indoor environmental factors that must be considered are the quality of thermal, light, acoustic, privacy, security, and functional suitability. In addition to concerns about indoor environmental quality and its affect on occupants, buildings must not adversely affect the larger environment. The construction, operation, use, and ultimate disposition of a building must have minimal adverse effects on the natural environment or ultimately it will adversely affect people whether indoors or out. Buildings are healthy only if their effects on their occupants and the larger environment are benign.
National Expenditures for IAQ Problem Prevention or Mitigation
National Expenditures for IAQ Problem Prevention or Mitigation
A preliminary estimate of expenditures for indoor air quality problem prevention and mitigation activities in U.S. buildings was developed to provide useful information on how concern for indoor air quality is affecting economic decision-making. Expenditure data were converted to 2003 dollars using the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index. The total annual expenditures for IAQ problem prevention and mitigation activities in the United States is estimated at approximately $16 billion with a range of $12 billion to $20 billion. Major expenditures were for asbestos and lead abatement (~ $4 billion/y), duct cleaning (~ $4 billion/y), commercial building remediation (includes mold) ~ $3.4 billion/y, IAQ consultants services (~ $2.1 billion/y), and air cleaning and improved filtration (~ $1.5 billion/y). The total estimate does not include activities that were considered typical or routine in the early 1970s before public awareness of indoor air quality became more common. The diverse sources used for this report included direct interviews with key personnel at IAQ consulting companies and laboratories, associated industries, as well as information obtained from company literature, the World Wide Web, and published reports. While not precise, this estimate indicates that the level of expenditure is substantial. Finally, many products routinely used to control indoor air quality such as mold removal and air freshener products were not included in the estimates but could increase the total amount spent substantially.
Design and Construction of Healthy and Sustainable Buildings
Design and Construction of Healthy and Sustainable Buildings
Considerable progress has been made during the past thirty years toward a more complete understanding of design and construction requirements for “healthy” buildings. Buildings are now being built with available technology that consume only 10% to 25% of the energy consumed in today’s average buildings while being more comfortable, healthier for their occupants, and less harmful to the environment.
Design for Multiple Environmental Factors
Design for Multiple Environmental Factors
Design of indoor environments should minimize occupant discomfort, irritation, and illness. Sick building syndrome symptoms, discomfort, and irritation can result from non-indoor air quality environmental factors such as noise, poor quality or inadequate lighting, lack of individual privacy or control, and other environmental factors. Interactions among the environmental factors and human responses to them are important considerations although they are complex and inadequately understood. A few examples clearly demonstrate their importance. Selection of design criteria should reflect consideration of these complex interactions. More research is necessary to inform design for indoor environmental quality.
Climate-Change Mitigation: Challenges and Opportunities in California’s Residential Building Sector
Climate-Change Mitigation: Challenges and Opportunities in California’s Residential Building Sector
How buildings are built and operated strongly affects atmospheric CO₂ levels and the associated threat of climate change. Today; global average fossil CO₂ emissions are approximately 3 kgC per person per day.
Nazaroff, W.W, and H. Levin, 2006.  Climate-Change Mitigation: Challenges and Opportunities in California's Residential Building Sector.  Healthy Buildings 2006, Lisbon, Portugal, June 4-8, 2006. Stabilizing atmospheric CO2 levels in the range 450-550 ppm would require that global emissions decline to 1-2 kgC per person per day by 2100. Californians currently emit about 10 kgC per person per day, with about 12% attributable to energy use in residential buildings. To achieve climate stabilization at 450-550 ppm CO2 with full international equity, California's per capita fossil C emissions would need to be reduced by 80-90% during this century. Achieving such large proportional reductions in residential buildings will likely require strong measures in conservation, improved energy efficiency, and greatly expanded use of energy sources that have low fossil-C emissions.
Sustainable Buildings: The Low Energy Path to Good Indoor Air Quality
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.”
Target Resources and Emissions Budgets for Healthy and Sustainable Buildings – slideshow
Target Resources and Emissions Budgets for Healthy and Sustainable Buildings – slideshow
Sustainable buildings are more than an assortment of "green building" features. Building design and actual performance must be compared to benchmarks or targets for a truly sustainable environment in terms of resource consumption and pollution emission.
Click on the link below to view the slideshow. Presented at ASHRAE IAQ2007,  Baltimore, MD.
Lessons Learned from Product Testing, Source Evaluation, and Air Sampling from a Five-Building Sustainable Office Complex
Lessons Learned from Product Testing, Source Evaluation, and Air Sampling from a Five-Building Sustainable Office Complex
This paper discusses the variability in measured ventilation rates and concentrations of measured chemicals, the time course of emissions of some chemicals, and the relative contributions of the building materials versus the occupants and their activities.
Alevantis, L.E., H. Levin, R. Miller, J.M. Waldman and D. Mudarri, 2006.  Lessons Learned from Product Testing, Source Evaluation and Air Sampling from a Five-Building Sustainable Office Complex.  Healthy Buildings 2006, Lisbon, Portugal, June 4-8, 2006 A five-building, 140,000 m2 (1.5 million ft2) sustainable office building complex was constructed for the State of California in 2002-03. The majority of the interior finishing materials were tested for volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by their manufacturers prior to selection and installation. Building ventilation rates and indoor concentrations of chemicals were measured multiple times, from pre­occupancy to several months after occupancy. This paper discusses the variability in measured ventilation rates and concentrations of measured chemicals, the time course of emissions of some chemicals, and the relative contributions of the building materials versus the occupants and their activities.
National Programs to Assess IEQ Effects of Building Materials and Products
National Programs to Assess IEQ Effects of Building Materials and Products
Background: Building materials, interior furnishings, surface treatments, paints, coatings and consumer products have been shown to contribute to indoor contaminants. Currently, information on potential hazards of these chemicals prior to specification, purchase or use of these products is limited. Except for a few cases, regulations to limit or prevent exposures to product-related emissions do not exist in the US. There have been several recent circumstances where introduction of new materials/products have resulted in wide scale exposures followed by research examining potential harmful effects.
What’s a Green Material? Many Views, Questions, and Issues
What’s a Green Material? Many Views, Questions, and Issues
What does "green" mean? Who decides?
Green materials for green buildings. Download a copy of the slide presentation below.
Why Green Building rating systems are almost always wrong about IAQ
Why Green Building rating systems are almost always wrong about IAQ
Presentation by Hal Levin at ASHRAE Winter Meeting, Chicago, January 2012.
The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating system ensure neither energy efficient buildings nor good indoor environmental quality. A LEED building can  be rated as Platinum, the highest possible level, under the NC2009 rating system without doing anything at all about indoor environmental quality beyond what is required by building codes. An a significant fraction of LEED rated  buildings do worse on energy performance than their non-LEED-rated counterparts.
Calculating Buildings’ Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Calculating Buildings’ Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Increased concern about climate change has led many building designers throughout the world to focus on reducing energy use in buildings. It is often assumed that energy use is more or predictive of greenhouse gas GHG) emissions However, there are numerous time-dependent variations in building energy use and electric grid operation that result in important differences between the quantity of energy used and the related GHG emissions. These differences are not generally considered or even recognized by most designers or even regulators and others who are now striving to develop a carbon neutral economy. Efforts have begun to recognize the important factors that determine a building’s GHG emissions based on its energy use, but these efforts are still in the preliminary stages. This paper identifies some of the important factors that affect the estimation of GHG emissions based on energy use data from simulations during design or from actual energy meters or purchases. These differences are being considered in a new effort to develop a tool that will more accurately predict building GHG emissions based on design alternatives, thus allowing design professionals to improve the GHG emission performance of their buildings.
Microbial Ecology Exemplifies Building Ecology
Microbial Ecology Exemplifies Building Ecology
Recent advances in molecular methods have dramatically improved knowledge of the microbial communities and their diversity in indoor environments. We have retrieved over 150 references with results of indoor microbial investigations and environmental factors. Representative papers are summarized here. The results show that buildings are complex, ecosystem-like, and that collaboration between microbial ecologists and indoor environment scientists is an important emerging trend that will help us understand building ecology.
Hal Levin and Richard Corsi INTRODUCTION Over three decades of molecular-phylogenetic studies, researchers have compiled an increasingly robust map of evolutionary diversification showing that the main diversity of life is microbial, distributed among three primary relatedness groups or domains: Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya. The application of molecular-phylogenetic methods to study natural microbial ecosystems without the traditional requirement for cultivation has resulted in the discovery of many unexpected evolutionary lineages; members of some of these lineages are only distantly related to known organisms but are sufficiently abundant that they are likely to have impact on the chemistry of the biosphere. (Pace, 1997) Recent advances in molecular methods have dramatically improved knowledge of the microbial communities and their diversity in indoor environments. Molecular methods are useful to identify bacteria (and other microbes) in water damaged homes and other buildings and to characterize seasonal variations in community compositions of microbial species. These recent advances suggest great potential for rapidly advancing knowledge related to microbial communities in buildings. Such advances should be driven by microbiologists working with building scientists. (Corsi, 2012)
The Big Indoor Air Emission Threat – Secondary Emissions
The Big Indoor Air Emission Threat – Secondary Emissions
Substantial progress has been made understanding volatile organic chemical (VOC) emissions from indoor sources including building materials, furnishing, and some cleaning and maintenance products. During the past two decades, emissions from building materials and other sources have declined significantly in many developed countries. Researchers have begun to understand the potentially larger health threat posed by secondary emission, the chemicals formed by the interactions between oxidants in indoor air and chemicals on surfaces, and by hydrolysis. Many of the by-products of these interactions are more irritating, odorous, or toxic and may pose a far greater health hazard than the chemicals from which they are formed. Building materials, cleaning products, and many consumer products contain chemicals that react with oxidants to form formaldehyde and other, higher molecular weight aldehydes, acidic aerosols, and fine or ultrafine particles. Researchers have identified some of the most important indoor sources that combine with ozone (O3) at common indoor concentrations to form these secondary products. The fundamental processes and critical building material and cleaning products have been identified along with recommendations for minimizing occupant exposure to hazardous chemicals resulting from indoor air chemistry and secondary emissions. Exposure to harmful secondary emissions can be reduced to improve indoor air quality
Indoor Climate and Climate Change
Indoor Climate and Climate Change
The connections between climate change and indoor climate are strong but not generally recognized. Climate change impacts local and regional atmospheric conditions including air quality and thermal conditions. Building climate control must respond to local climate and air quality to protect human health and support buildings’ functional uses.
Good indoor climate protects humans against local air pollution and the severe consequences of climate change. Technologies to control indoor climate requiring fossil fuel energy increase pollutant emissions including greenhouse gases; thus, indoor climate control impacts indoor and ambient air quality as well as global climate. Protecting humans and other living systems from the impacts of climate change involves adaptation and mitigation of the local and regional effects. Understanding and considering impacts of indoor climate control on regional air quality and global climate can reduce the negative impacts of building technology on building occupants as well as the entire global environment.
Natural Ventilation: A Sustainable Solution to Infection Control in Healthcare Settings?
Natural Ventilation: A Sustainable Solution to Infection Control in Healthcare Settings?
Describes some of the key issues in the use of natural ventilation to control infection in healthcare settings.
ABSTRACT Natural ventilation can address ventilation needs while avoiding many of the economic and environmental costs of mechanical ventilation. Concepts of natural ventilation are well-known and can be used as the basis for design and operation of healthcare facilities with special appeal in resource-poor contexts. However, natural ventilation for infection control in healthcare facilities requires rather high outdoor air change rates due to the greater dilution needs as the airflow direction is less controlled. Challenges are presented and discussed that must be addressed when relying on natural ventilation to control airborne infectious disease transmission with special reference to health care facilities. This paper highlight these issues and provide an overview to inform those who wish to rely on natural ventilation to control airborne infectious disease transmission, especially in healthcare facilities. Much remains to be done to improve the performance of buildings relying on natural ventilation to protect occupants' health.
Indoor Environmental Quality Research Roadmap 2012–2030: Energy-Related Priorities
Indoor Environmental Quality Research Roadmap 2012–2030: Energy-Related Priorities
Indoor Environmental Quality: Research Roadmap 2012–2030: Energy-Related Priorities is the final report for the Indoor Environmental Quality Research Roadmap project 500-02-026, work authorization number MR-026 conducted by University of California at Riverside. The information from this project contributes to PIER’s Energy-Related Environmental Research Program.
Prepared by Hal Levin and Thomas J. Phillips, 2013 Abstract This report is an update and expansion of the 2002 report, Energy –Related Indoor Environmental Quality Research: A Priority Agenda. It serves two purposes: (1) to summarize lessons learned since 2002, when the first indoor environmental quality research roadmap was completed, and (2) to identify indoor environmental quality research needs specifically related to the State’s policy to achieve net zero energy in new building construction and retrofitting of more existing buildings during the next two decades. The report describes future scenarios and emerging trends affecting energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality, as well as indoor environmental quality linkages to energy efficiency. Consultation with experts assisted in the identification of future scenarios, as well as the identification and prioritization of research needs for residential and commercial buildings. Major research needs are identified under seven topics: Sources; Ventilation; Operation and Maintenance; Thermal Conditioning; Air Cleaning; Tools, Methods and Sensors; and Cross-cutting. Several high-priority research needs were identified, including the short-term need to increase our understanding of human behavior, and sources of moisture and of indoor pollutants such as particles. High-priority needs over the long-term include (1) life-cycle assessments of both indoor environmental quality and energy, and (2) increased data on exposure and health effects. To help meet these needs, research and development on indoor environmental quality and energy efficiency should be integrated with state agency and utility programs for building energy efficiency.
MIxS-BE: a MIxS extension defining a minimum information standard for sequence data from the built environment
MIxS-BE: a MIxS extension defining a minimum information standard for sequence data from the built environment
Authors: Elizabeth M Glass, Yekaterina Dribinsky, Pelin Yilmaz, Hal Levin, Robert Van Pelt, Doug Wendel, Andreas Wilke, Jonathan A Eisen, Sue Huse, Anna Shipanova, Mitch Sogin, Jason Stajich, Rob Knight, Folker Meyer and Lynn M Schriml. The composition of indoor microbial communities has the potential to profoundly affect human health. A number of factors within a building or room can alter the microbial abundance and diversity, such as occupancy, temperature and humidity, which in turn impacts indoor air quality. Researchers Hospodsky et al. (2012); Kembel et al. (2012) and Dunn et al. (2013) are exploring the intersection of microbial ecology, building materials and architectural design to understand microbial diversity and abundance within a building. Metadata (data describing data) provides an essential complement to experimental data, helping to answer questions about its source, mode of collection and reliability.
What Counts as Green? And Why
What Counts as Green? And Why
"Sustainability" has been variously defined, as was clearly illustrated at the recenl United Nations Earlh Summit in Johannesburg. When discussed in the context of the impacts of buildings on the environment, its meaning is ambiguous and often distorted. Buildings are not eilher "sustainable" or not.