Why starting with IEQ rather than with Sustainability?

After writing a report on the indoor air quality (IAQ) of a primary school in Papendrecht, I was reminded of the importance of the quality of the indoor environment. In the Western countries people spend 80% of the time indoors. What we, engineers and architects, design or calculate for the build environment will have an effect on all those people who will make use of the building, now and in the future, once a year or five times a week.

The assessment of the IAQ of the school in October 2014 was done after reviewing the literature, which stated that more than half of the primary schools in The Netherlands have a ‘bad’ IAQ. Poor IAQ can result in health issues and an increased chance to get: dry cough, rhinitis, nasal patency and asthma (Simoni et al., 2010; Bluyssen, 2009). Leading causes of school absenteeism (Lyons, 2010) associated with decreased student’s performance (Annesi et al., 2013). According to ‘Programma van eisen Frisse Scholen’ bad indoor quality is when more than 5% of the in-use time the CO2 level is above 1200 ppm. Class A is earned when the CO2 level remains under the 800 ppm and is considered as healthy.

Measurements in the school (CO2 levels are measured in 4 classrooms over a period of 2 days) show that also this primary school does not comply with the standards of Frisse Scholen. The building was rather new, so this was not expected. Teachers were also aware of the importance of the IAQ and had most of the time the windows and doors open, but that was not enough to keep the air in the classroom fresh. Imagine the winter situation when windows are closed, it will only get worse. The building is not properly engineered.

What has this to do with sustainability? When designing buildings, be aware that sustainable solutions can have an effect on a lot of different aspects, such as the indoor environmental quality. Not that sustainable goals will exclude healthy buildings, but it can be snowed under. Set the right priority and make sustainable buildings without losing important aspects as IAQ (and lots of others) in the design process.


               AgentschapNL. (2012). Programma van Eisen Frisse Scholen NL Energie en Klimaat. Utrecht: Agentschap NL.
               Annesi, I., Baiz, N., Banerjee, S., Rudnai, P., & Rive, S. (2013). Indoor Air Quality and Sources in Schools and Related Health Effects. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, 16:8, 520-525. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2013.853609
               Bluyssen, P. M. (2009). The Indoor Environment Handbook: How to make buildings healthy and comfortable. UK and USA: Earthscan.
Simoni, M., Anessi-Maesano, I., Sigsgaard, T., Norback, D., Wieslander, G., Nystad, W., . . . Viegi, G. (2010). School air quality related to dry cough, rhinitis and nasal patency in children. European respiratory journal, 35:4, 742-749. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00016309

Stefan H

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