Healthy Buildings

Alan and Patrick attended the ASBP conference on Healthy Buildings and the Role of Products, at UCL in London.  The Alliance for Sustainable Building Products is a not for profit organisation, committed to high performance, healthy and low carbon products and environments, and the event follows growing concerns about buildings adversely affecting our health.  With a wide range of speakers and many different takes on the subject of health in buildings, it proved to be a useful overview of the varying standards, industry experience, and advice on specifying products.

Healthy Buildings Standards

A key theme of the afternoon was the various and sometimes conflicting methods and standards that can be used to assess indoor health.  From air quality and measuring VOCs (volatile organic compounds), to building user surveys, the metrics allow for varied approaches.

Country specific VOC and formaldehyde level guidance:

A number of countries on the mainland have developed guidance on acceptable VOC and CO2 levels though none has gone as far as legislating within building regulations yet.

  • Austria’s Guideline for the evaluation of indoor air suggests that average VOC concentrations are between 250 and 500 µg/m3.  It is strongly increased at levels over 3,000µg/m3Germany’s Indoor Air
  • Commission of the Umwelt-Bundesamt gives similar figures – above 3,000µg/m3 becomes hygienically conspicuous
  • World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on formaldehyde levels suggests a concentration of 0.06mg/m3 gives no concerns and a maximum of 0.1mg/m3 for exposures up to 30 minutes.

What is currently lacking is wider knowledge of average figures for buildings, and how to reduce these to achieve the recommended levels.

Next Step

Eco Design Consultants are keen to assist in any retrofit or new building project where you need assistance with improving the thermal comfort as well as the internal environment.  We can provide designs, construction information, and energy modelling using the Passivhaus Planning Package (PHPP) to assist in delivering a comfortable and healthy,  low energy home.

Building performance standards:

Multi Comfort Buildings, Saint Gobain

Taking the Passivhaus standard further, Tom Cox described the additional visual, acoustic and thermal comfort requirements they aspire to.  A number of key benefits for different building types, from improved concentration levels in schools to reduced absenteeism in offices were highlighted.  For houses, not being disturbed by your neighbours could be a considerable selling point.  With the Passivhaus comfort levels, which mean all surfaces are warm to the touch, the multi comfort standard represents a defined route to ensuring an enjoyable home, office or school.  It is early days for the standard, but more can be found out here:

The Sentinel Haus.

This build system has a traffic light procedure to highlight whether certain products can be used, or are not recommended.  The key concept is that a level of indoor air quality is achieved within 28 days of completion, backed up by independent testing.  Volker Gutzeit from Sentinel Haus estimates that the uplift in cost would be between 0.5 to 5% of the total construction price, and as more large-scale developments are commissioned this could be reduced further.  More information can be found here:

Building performance standards:

User Occupation Surveys

User occupation surveys, such as the usable buildings trust’s BUS (Building User Survey) can give insight into how a building may be failing to meet the users’ needs.  Dr Craig Robertson of AHMM gave a great presentation on the potentially dry subject of user satisfaction surveys undertaken in the Architects own office.  The Architecture company is based near Old Street station and has recently renovated and extended their own offices.  With this came the opportunity to gauge the success of the project, by surveying the users both before and after the works.  The findings showed that the temperature targets were generally not met during summer or winter, but that the satisfaction was better than before the works.  What is encouraging is that the solution for improving the space is based on the user, and not on expensive plant equipment and that the findings will be fed back into other projects the architects are undertaking.

By |2020-07-24T15:17:51+00:00February 14th, 2016|Concepts, Design, Interiors|

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