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Indoor Health and Productivity

Indoor health & productivity and Passive House

 

We spend 90% of our lives indoors

Yes, people spend 90% of their lives indoors, which means their health and productivity depend largely on the conditions provided in that closed space. Naturally, the healthier the environment, the more productive people become, because they can focus all their energy on their tasks.

The most important factors that influence people’s health are noise, temperature and air quality.

 

Noise

Noise can be directly managed indoors but noise coming from outside is usually beyond our control. The sounds of traffic, maintenance and construction works, nearby gathering places where people meet to talk and listen to loud music, loud neighbors and pets can be extremely distracting and annoying.

1 in 3 people feel disturbed by daytime noise while 1 in 5 is disturbed by traffic noise during sleep. Research shows that noise is the second cause of ill health after air pollution.

Long term effects of noise on human health are sleep disruption, buzzing in the ear, stress related illness, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, hearing loss, kidney ailments, higher cholesterol, mental health and behavioral issues, heart problems, and even birth defects. Prolonged noise exposure increases 5 times the risk of ulcers.

Productivity suffers directly from noise exposure with difficulty concentrating, headaches, muffled hearing, and exhaustion, which lead to higher likelihood of accidents, anxiety and anger. The European Union registers annual losses of 40 billion euro due to excessive noise.

Superinsulation in Passive House walls, windows and doors provides excellent sound insulation, reducing to a great extent the sounds of noisy neighbors and any other noise from outside.

 

Temperature

Indoor temperature is not only a factor of comfort but also influences both productivity and health. Low indoor temperature is directly connected with fevers and colds, while high temperature diminishes productivity dramatically.

81% of workers find it difficult to concentrate if the office temperature is higher than the norm, and 62% state that when it is too hot, it takes them up to 25% longer than usual to complete a task.

Studies have shown that productivity is positively affected between 21°C and 25°C, where people feel comfortable and can focus on their work.

Passive house provides steady even temperatures on all surfaces, including the windows. This assures no indoor drafts, therefore no fevers and no cold.

 

Air quality

Indoor air quality is the most powerful factor affecting productivity because indoor air pollution has been found to be the number one cause of ill health.

Insufficient supply of fresh air increases the concentration of toxic substances so that pollutants are 5 to 10 times more indoors than outdoors. Poor indoor air quality can be compared to sitting in rush hour traffic and breathing in the toxic fumes of hundreds of cars.

Common toxic chemicals found in homes are 3 times more likely to cause cancer than outdoor pollutants, and in fact 6 out of 10 homes are hazardous to health.

In conventional buildings multiple devices like air-conditioners, dehumidifiers, heaters and air purifiers are used to maintain comfortable conditions.

Despite that, negative effects like drafts, humidity and molds, caused by the different temperatures in different areas and lack of constant flow of fresh air compromise comfort and productivity, and create health risks.

Statistics show that damp unhealthy homes contribute to 200% higher risk of asthma. 1/3 of Europeans are affected by asthma or allergies, 33% of children with one allergic parent develop allergies, while 70% of kids become allergic when both parents are allergic.

11 people die from asthma every day in USA alone. 44% of hospitalized for asthma are children, and asthma in children is mainly due to poor indoor air quality.

 

Asthma and air pollution

Asthma can be triggered from dust in the carpet. Mold on a shower curtain can cause asthma symptoms.

Pet dander, dust mites, wood smoke, gas heat, and other common pollutants can cause a major asthma attack particularly in children and the elderly.

Dust-mites can be a cause in 50% to 80% of asthma cases. They thrive in warm, high humidity environments like carpets, beds, chairs, covers and curtains.

Pollens from plants can be a cause in 30% of asthma cases while 20% are caused by molds, growing in homes that have high humidity, above 60%. These organisms produce spores that float in the air and the inhabitants inhale them. That can cause asthma attacks, mold allergies, or mold illness.

In fact all airborne particles smaller than 1 mm are inhaled and deposited in different areas of the human body.

Most pollens, plant spores, bacteria, dust mites as well as household odors deposit in the nose and throat. Fine road dust, mold spores, chemical vapors, bleach and smog deposit in the wind pipe and the large branches of the lung, while pet allergens, cigarette smoke, chemical vapors and vehicle exhaust deposit in the small branches of the lung and can enter the blood stream.

 

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)

There are other indoor air pollutants such as materials emitting volatile organic substances – formaldehyde, perchloroethylene (found in dry cleaned clothes), methylene chloride, benzene.

Some of these chemicals are so toxic that they are proven to cause cancer.

Materials emitting volatile organic substances are particle boards and plywood, vinyl flooring, synthetic carpet, paints and primers, glues and adhesives, synthetic insulation, wall boards, spackling for wall board, plastic products, cleaners, air fresheners, solvents, fire retardants.

 

Combustion air pollutants

Indoors there are also combustion air pollutants like particles and gases from fuel-burning devices like heating systems, water heaters, kitchen stoves and others, as well as cigarette smoke, and gases produced from humans and animals (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide).

Radon is naturally occurring radioactive gas formed in the soil. It enters into the living space of a home through cracks and openings in the foundations, flooring and walls. Radon is number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and number two cause of cancer overall.

 

Illnesses caused by indoor air pollution

The lack of constant flow of fresh air indoors causes the concentration of the pollutants in the air to increase and indoor air becomes toxic. This pollution causes lack of concentration, burning in the nose and throat, irritation to eyes, sneezing, runny eyes and nose, headaches, dizziness, skin rashes, muscle aches, chest tightness, fatigue and lethargy.

As a result 1 in 5 people have hay fever and that causes £7 billion loss in productivity every year in UK alone. Indoor air pollution causes health issues like syndromes (Environmental Illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Sick Building Syndrome), respiratory illnesses and allergies.

The annual financial loss caused by allergies in USA is $15 billion. Allergy complications are anaphylaxis, eczema, sinusitis, ear and lung infections, fungal complications of ears and lungs, and asthma.

1 in 12 people have asthma, which leads to 54% decrease in productivity and annual loss of $56 billion in USA.

Further health problems caused by indoor air pollution include hormone disruption, heart disease, neurological issues, brain damage and cancer. Lung cancer and COPD cost annually $193 billion in USA.

Complications of illnesses caused by indoor air pollution can cause death.

 

Advantages of Passive House

A Passive House has pristine interior air quality thanks to a constant supply of fresh filtered air and uninterrupted removal of old stale air, using mechanical ventilation with heat recovery.

Constant air change removes the risk of concentration of toxic pollutants in the indoor air. It also allows the building to breathe without compromising internal temperature and use 90% less energy than conventional heating and cooling.

This also keeps indoor humidity between 40% and 50% and eliminates condensation, dust-mites and mold which are known to cause asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

 

Air quality in Passive House

In a Passive House the incoming fresh air is constantly filtered, and the owner can select appropriate filter.

F7 air filter captures 99% of particles bigger than 0,005mm and is the minimum required for Passive House and the lowest acceptable grade for the food industry, laboratories, hospitals and data rooms.

F8 can capture microbes and tobacco smoke and is 97% effective for particles bigger than 0.001mm. It is suitable for operating theatres and rooms containing fine optics and electronics.

F9 filters 95% of particles bigger than 0.0005mm and is the highest grade providing the best air filtration quality.

 

Health and productivity in Passive House

This way Passive House filters out dust, pollen and other air pollutants associated with hay fever, allergies and asthma, and assures no cold spots on all interior surfaces, even windows, which means no condensation or mold.

Passive House has a dramatic effect on reducing allergens and associated respiratory complaints, and radically reduces the risk for asthma, allergies and sickness. All this contributes to better concentration and improved education levels, increased productivity, less sick-leaves as well as improved quality of relaxation and sleep.

Passive House performance depends not only on good design and build but also on quality devices and materials, users’ behavior and service maintenance. Any residential or commercial building can be Passive House.

 

Passive house and healthy life in Cyprus

In Cyprus asthma sufferers are affected by high humidity and dust in the atmosphere. Passive House relieves the symptoms of asthma and many respiratory conditions.

Passive house offices can boost the productivity of the workers. Children’s health could benefit greatly not only from a healthy home but also from a healthy school or a healthy kindergarten that can be Passive House.

The health of the elderly can be secured by a healthy retirement home in Cyprus.

Healthy living in Cyprus can only be advanced by a healthy house – with a healthy design and carefully selected healthy building materials.

Healthy architecture can benefit all buildings and the immense benefits of the healthy living conditions that Passive House offers cannot be calculated in financial terms.

 

Passive House is often described as “the house of the future”

Design yours today!









sources:
epa.gov, who.int, webmd.com, velux.com, allergycosmos.co.uk, metoffice.gov.uk, airqualitycanada.ca, issa.com, mayoclinic.com, medicalnewstoday.com, bizjournals.com, nih.gov, aafa.org, noisefree.org, crownpreservation.com, hear-the-world.com, lbl.gov, passiv.de