ASID Icon - Winter 2012 - (Page 37)
Annette K. Stelmack, Allied ASID, LEED AP BD+C
In the Air
HEALTH AND WELL-BEING IS CLOSELY LINKED TO AIR QUALITY/
THE AIR WE breathe in our built environments
has been a concern of design professionals for more than three decades. With the energy crisis of the 1970s, higher performing buildings strived for tighter construction to conserve energy, at the same time minimizing outside air inﬁltration to cut costs. As a result, emissions from indoor sources were not diluted or carried out of the building, and the lack of fresh air led to an increase of indoor pollutant levels. Further, as interior finishes and furnishings release gases or chemical particles into the environment, a process known as off-gassing or out-gassing occurs. These volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions are the fundamental root to positively or negatively affecting the indoor air quality (IAQ) of our buildings. Exposure to VOCs and other types of toxins and heavy metals can cause a vast array of health problems ranging from headaches and nasal or skin irritation, to allergies and asthma. Some research even points to more severe conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome or even cancer. Prolonged exposure to toxins can cause a condition known as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), which is directly related to poor IAQ and often affects otherwise healthy individuals.
Unfortunately, as structures become more energy efficient (i.e., “tighter”), IAQ often declines signiﬁcantly. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board ranked indoor air pollution as one of the top ﬁve risks to public health in the United States (Wigle, 2003). The best way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate the sources of pollutants in a project. As designers, this is where we can really make a difference. Materials that commonly contain a high percentage of toxins include carpet, fabrics, paints, plastics, wood products, adhesives and solvents. We should educate our clients on the effects of off-gassing and push for sustainable, nontoxic products on every project. Proper ventilation is another key factor to maintain good IAQ. Finally, incorporating integrated design practices will help ensure that all project team members are on the same page with regard to making healthy air a priority.
designers understand what to look for when specifying materials. Online tools such as Pharos Project, Perkins+Will Precautionary List and International Living Building Institute’s Red List dive deep into the ingredients of building materials and detail the corresponding health risks of speciﬁc chemicals. The EPA website provides information on chemicals to avoid and current regulatory information regarding chemical restrictions and bans for homes, large buildings and schools. Another helpful resource is the REGREEN Residential Remodeling Guidelines, a set of sustainability best practices that emphasizes green product selection, team integration and whole-systems thinking. ASID has also developed a new interiorsfocused REGREEN Implementation Workshop that addresses the industry-speciﬁc challenges of renovating a client space. The full-day course trains designers to identify, evaluate and implement strategies that contribute to healthy IAQ.
Everyone—especially those with chemical sensitivities—is deeply affected by their indoor environments. A holistic approach is extremely important to ensure healthy IAQ. Every decision in every project either supports or compromises the health of the occupants. Sustainable, healthy design and construction is by nature an interdisciplinary journey celebrating the collective wisdom of all team members and the project’s success. And in the end, the best affirmation is when the project supports your client’s health by identifying specific tactics that enhance the indoor environmental quality. i
Annette K. Stelmack, Allied ASID, LEED AP BD+C, is principal of Inspiritllc in Colorado. She is a USGBC LEED Faculty member and a REGREEN instructor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jessica Thomas contributed to the research and writing of this article.
Understanding the ingredients used in the manufacturing of interior FF&E and their potential health risks can be a cumbersome task. However, there are a number of resources that can help
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ASID Icon - Winter 2012
Data and Design: A Winning Combination
The Two Voices of Interior Design
Design for Life
Resource Guide & Advertisers Index
ASID Icon - Winter 2012