Simon Bennett, international sales manager for Saint-Gobain ADFORS, talks with ABC+D Magazine about the importance of indoor air quality in creating a comfortable and healthy habitat and how wall coverings can play a part in creating healthy buildings…
The population typically spends up to 90% of its time indoors or in vehicles, yet it is outdoor pollution and emissions that are considered critical when thinking of air quality.
However, it is the indoor air quality of the buildings that people spend most of their daily lives in that can have one of the largest impacts on health and wellbeing.
The quality of indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than the worst outdoor air, and yet the amount of toxins in the air people breathe can have one of the most significant impacts on health and wellbeing.
It is widely held that indoor environments, which have a constant supply of fresh, clean air and where the fabric of the building and interior finishes are breathable, help building users to feel more alert and productive.
With this in mind, specifiers and designers should be considering healthier products when planning internal layouts and designs. In particular, the wall coverings they are specifying, as these cover such a large expanse of a building and can have one of the greatest impacts on indoor air quality.
Government legislation and demand from the private sector to develop buildings that use more sustainable materials and deliver improved whole-life costings has led to a shift in the way buildings are thought of over their lifespan and not just at the initial handover.
However, much of the emphasis has been placed on the sourcing and recyclability of materials and how they perform in terms of durability. To specify a truly healthy product, designers should also consider the day-to-day, real time impact a wall covering will have on the building users’ health and wellbeing, creating added value for the building owner.
The Environmental Audit Committee believes that air pollution is nearing a public health crisis, causing nearly as many deaths as smoking. There are an estimated 29,000 deaths annually in the UK from air pollution, which further emphasises why building materials that emit fewer toxins are so critical.
The rise in VOCs within building materials and its links to asthma are well known and yet many products are still specified without taking this into consideration.
Take an office environment for example – employers are continually driving a health and wellbeing message to their workforce but this should also extend to the building they are working in. By using wall coverings that are breathable and help to reduce the number of VOCs in the air, building owners can create a healthier and more efficient working environment.
While the initial cost of healthier and environmentally friendly wall coverings can be more due to the time and technology required to manufacture them, the long-term benefits are significant. Education, healthcare and commercial facilities that have successfully improved indoor air quality through the reduction of harmful toxins have reported improvements in building users’ wellbeing, health and comfort, offering a strong added value proposition.
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