Are the buildings in which we live and work healthy?

February 2020

How many hours a day do we spend indoors? Our home, the office, the gym? More than we imagine, in fact, it is estimated that we spend between 80 and 90% of our time indoors.

This is why indoor environmental quality is a priority area in the Ministry of Health's Health and Environment Plan. The skin of buildings conditions the health of their occupants, in such a way that inadequate construction and use conditions can lead to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).

ESS refers to the set of adverse symptomatologies resulting from physical, chemical and/or biological risk factors present in the indoor environment of a building.

These are non-specific symptoms such as headaches, allergic reactions or environmental illnesses such as chronic fatigue, which are present in at least 20% of those who occupy the building. These problems are aggravated if we suffer from allergies, asthma or respiratory difficulties.

The indoor environment quality has a major impact on our health, comfort and productivity. The air we breathe is an invisible, but no less toxic threat to our bodies.

The health, comfort and well-being of people are basic requirements and a human right, so it is essential to ensure healthy and comfortable indoor air conditions.

What is the air we breathe like?

Indoor air is 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. A fact that can be shocking when we are used to seeing alarming news about the high environmental pollution in our cities.

However, this is logical since indoor air is composed of outdoor air, but all indoor pollutants are added. These are divided according to their nature into:

These pollutants can originate in nature itself, as is the case of radon, or be caused by human activity, such as the CO₂ we produce when we breathe.

In addition, many of the materials used in indoor spaces generate pollution. In addition, indoor air quality can be affected by poorly maintained ventilation and air re-circulation, heating or cooling systems.

What cannot be measured cannot be improved

As we can see, indoor air quality in a building is not constant. It is influenced by changes in the operations carried out in the building, the activity of its occupants or the weather outside, so it is very important to monitor it.

A basic check on the quality of an indoor environment should be the starting point, or at least a meaningful indicator, of the level of healthiness of a space. The key to this is to start measuring, analysing and evaluating.

Measuring air quality is neither simple nor immediate. The assessment of the behaviour of the building is highly variable depending on the use (air conditioning and ventilation habits, hygiene and cleaning products, possible renovation work and materials used, etc.). That is why continuous monitoring is more suitable for a preliminary diagnosis than spot measurements.

indoor air quality

Sensors and monitoring devices sensors and continuous sensors are interesting indicators of indoor air quality. The analysis of the evolution of the continuous values allows us to know in a more adjusted way the pattern of use, the occupancy profile and the degree of pollution of a space, something that is not achieved with a punctual measurement.

These monitoring systems, always combined with the professional assessment of the specialist technician, can be the starting point to begin to quantify indoor air quality. From this data, we can make a diagnosis and apply the necessary corrective measures to ensure healthy spaces and comfort and wellbeing for their occupants.

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