Economics of IAQ: A Tough Sell or Is It?
Historically, private industry and many public agencies do not recognize the full economic value of providing good indoor air quality (IAQ). While they may acknowledge some benefits associated with green or sustainable buildings, especially energy, waste and water conservation, they often undervalue or ignore significant financial and health benefits associated with good indoor air quality.
This article provides a brief overview of this important issue. A comprehensive discussion of this topic, with compelling supportive data, may be accessed from the Premium Content section of this site.
Results of hundreds of studies and reports have demonstrated a significant and causal correlation between improving the indoor environment and gains in productivity and health. Many of these findings may be found in a comprehensive online database entitled Indoor Health & Productivity Project, which contains over 900 papers from more than 100 journals and conferences.
Buildings today, however, are frequently designed and built without a clear understanding of how the indoor environment impacts worker productivity and health, and as a result often create an environment that is inhibits productivity rather than enhances it.
The indoor environmental factors that most influence occupant health and welfare are thermal conditions, lighting and concentrations of indoor pollutants. Energy professionals are in a strong position to affect thermal conditions and lighting, while they are often less knowledgeable about indoor pollutants. As a result, to achieve energy efficiency goals, very often ventilation rates are reduced to the detriment the quality of the indoor air and the building occupants breathing that air, thus supporting the misconception that providing good indoor air quality and energy conservation are competing goals.
Compounding the misconception is the energy required to operate the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system is about one-half of a building's energy cost. Since energy efficiency can reduce operating costs, and because the burning of fossil fuels is a major source of greenhouse gases, energy conservation has become a matter of public policy. There are some indications, however, that IAQ is gaining ground in the public policy arena as evidenced by the increasing number of proposed IAQ-related state legislation in the past several years.
Perhaps one of the strongest arguments for improving IAQ is building tenants and office workers believe indoor environmental quality (IAQ, lighting, comfort) are among the most important components of job satisfaction. Further, some tenants are willing to pay more in rent to obtain benefits from intelligent buildings, including enhance building controls, ventilation and IAQ. Insurance companies also are embracing the concept that helping employees stay healthy and productive is good for business.
Click on links here or on the LEED Certification, LEED-CI Overview, Building Green Workplaces and Building Green Homes tabs above for a brief history of green, sustainable building in the US; an overview of the US Green Building Council's LEED™ initiative and GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified® Products; an overivew of LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI); and case studies and tips on how to design and build green, sustainable buildings and homes.