Building tight – ventilating right? How are new air tightness standards affecting indoor air quality in dwellings?

Howieson, S. G. and Sharpe, T. and Farren, P. (2014) Building tight – ventilating right? How are new air tightness standards affecting indoor air quality in dwellings? Building Services Engineering Research and Technology, 35 (5). pp. 475-487. ISSN 0143-6244

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Abstract

Building more air-tight dwellings is having a deleterious impact on indoor air quality. In a range of recently completed dwellings CO2 concentrations were measured in occupied bedrooms at unacceptable concentrations (occupied mean peak of 2317ppm and a time weighted average of 1834ppm, range 480-4800ppm). Such high levels confirm that air-tight dwellings with only trickle ventilators as the 'planned' ventilation strategy do not meet the standards demanded by the Building Regulations. Reducing ventilation rates to improve energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions, without providing a planned and effective ventilation strategy is likely to result in a more toxic and hazardous indoor environment, with concurrent and significant negative long-term and insidious impacts on public health. Furthermore, the methodology underpinning the current regulations cannot be considered as creditable. While the complexity around numerical modeling often leads to conclusions based upon simplistic and unrealistic assumptions around all doors in a dwelling being open and trickle ventilators being unobstructed, this paper demonstrates that in 'real life' situations, this is not the case and could lead to significant risks of under ventilation. This is particularly the case when standards and guidance are based upon theoretically modeled scenarios that are not representative of real-life operation. The consequences of this are important in terms of the likely negative impacts on occupant health.