Woman breathing fresh air through a window

How does air quality affect your wellness?

Studies show we spend, on average, around 90 % of our life indoors. In stores, offices, workplaces and homes.

That means we’re breathing in a lot of indoor air.

But what exactly are you breathing, do you know? You’ve probably felt some of the symptoms of poor air quality at some point: headaches, tiredness, skin and upper airway irritation. Or maybe that “blah” feeling you can’t quite explain.

Buildings, wellness and air quality are closely intertwined.

(Read more about the other six aspects of wellness)

Whether you’re at work or at home, some of the sources of air quality issues are:

  • Biological and non-biological contaminants, from outdoor and indoor sources
  • Off-gassing from building materials and furniture
  • Poor ventilation rates
  • Animal dander
  • Combustion gasses and cigarette smoke
  • Cleaning products
  • Bacteria and mold
  • Radioactive radon gas, sometimes naturally occurring in the ground
  • Other gunk that comes in on your shoes

How do we deal with these things and what strategies are available when we’re designing a new home?

Some are simple:

  • Upgrading ventilation rates to exceed code requirements
  • Adequate kitchen and bathroom exhaust systems
  • Operable windows
  • Eliminating or reducing contaminants at the source, for example standing-water humidifiers or water leaks
  • Avoiding the use of building materials (and furniture) that have hidden toxic chemicals or are prone to off-gassing.

Next level solutions:

  • Install furnace air filters with a high MERV rating (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value)
  • Test for radon gas and install a venting system to complete the required under-slab rough-in
  • Install an ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) system in the duct system to eliminate any live pathogens

Incorporating some or all of these strategies will help you breathe easier in your new home.

In most cases the optimal time to include these solutions is during the design stage because many are impossible to add later.

(Photo by Natalia Figueredoon Unsplash )