Today, people spend 80-90% of their time indoors. Be it our home, office, or shopping center, the fact is that indoor air quality directly affects our well-being and well-being. How does this manifest itself? The following illustration shows the main problems caused by poor air quality:
Take a moment and read this article to the end and make sure that the indoor climate of your home or office is healthy and of high quality, even if you are in a newly built building, which should seem to take into account your welfare standards.
What exactly does lousy room air mean?
Let us first clarify what the factors that affect the indoor climate of our home are. They are mainly divided into three:
- physical (temperature, humidity, and air velocity)
- chemical (volatile organic compounds (VOC) and CO2)2)
- biological (viruses, microorganisms, fungal spores)
These factors are all interlinked: when one is out of balance, it immediately affects the share of another. For example, if the humidity in the room is too high, biological factors will develop, as a result of which fungal fungi will fly in the room, and so on.
We highlight the two main factors affecting our well-being, most common in old and new houses. These include humidity and harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). (volatile organic compound).
How does the humidity level affect me?
The humidity level in the room can be measured with a hygrometer and should be between 40 and 60%. In a room with too low a humidity, the air is noticeably dry, and in a room with too high a hygrometer reading, it is too humid. In both cases, the situation is out of balance, and it will affect your well-being and health.
If the humidity in the room is too dry, you can experience it as follows:
- when you wake up in the morning, your nose is blocked
- eyes dry
- the skin dries and flakes and itches
- your ability to work is low, and you often feel tired
- you experience respiratory irritation and get sick often
- wooden furniture, parquet, and musical instruments crack
- dust is easily generated, and the surfaces are full of static electricity
In a room with dry air, virus particles survive longer, so low levels of humidity can be a reason why people often have respiratory illnesses.
However, if the humidity in the room is too humid, the following symptoms occur:
- a musty odor in the premises
- mold on walls
- allergy symptoms
- condensate on windows
- acute respiratory diseases (asthma, bronchitis)
How does VOC affect me?
In addition to humidity, our health is also affected by a phenomenon called VOC, or volatile organic compounds, which result from the use of synthetic and artificial building materials in our interiors.
This phenomenon was observed as early as 1973 when NASA discovered volatile organic compounds in their enclosed space shuttle space during its Skylab II mission. When they were studied, it was realized that these compounds could pose a severe risk to human health.
Volatile organic compounds are also emitted by home cosmetics, cleaning products, and office equipment. Among building materials, VOCs and synthetic paints emit the most VOC. Such compounds are added to the paints mainly in order to be able to wash the painted wall. While volatile organic compounds are high in our homes, they are carcinogenic as a result of long-term inhalation.
Humidity and VOC are two factors that are not measured in new buildings.
The keyword today is “energy-efficient building”, which aims to build the most energy-efficient house possible. In this way, today’s buildings are built very airtightly, and synthetic building materials, which release anthropogenic compounds, are widely used.
Each new house is built with specific indoor climate standards that construction companies follow: ventilation and room temperature, but these standards do not include humidity and emissions of harmful organic compounds.
What would be the solution?
Regardless of the quality of your indoor climate, there are three solutions that will significantly change the air quality of your living and office spaces, and this, in turn, will make you feel better and healthier:
- Houseplants in your living space
- Clay plaster as an interior finish for your wall
- High-quality ventilation system
These three solutions help to create an indoor climate that is closest to nature, natural and natural to us, and with a minimal ecological footprint. How does this manifest itself?
Houseplants were the first choice that NASA decided to test to address organic pollution from artificial materials. In 1984, NASA published the first study to demonstrate the ability of plants to reduce VOC levels in confined and airtight spaces.
NASA built a hermetic and heat-insulated one-man house called “biohome” made of synthetic materials to conduct this study. This house was fully functional and contained everything necessary for life. Before using the plants, the VOC level of the built house was measured, which was very high and harmful to human life. Numerous plants were then added to the house, and the level of organic compounds was measured again, and the result was significantly better – most of the organic compounds had disappeared from the air. Read more about this study here.
Clay plaster is a 100% natural interior finishing material that is gaining popularity today, with observed and scientifically proven properties that significantly improve the quality of the indoor climate. Clay works very similarly to plants in your office and living space – clay plaster can clean the air, neutralizing bad smells in the room and removing harmful pollutants. In addition, clay plaster is also an excellent regulator of humidity, absorbing moisture and returning it in dry weather. Tests have shown that a 1.5 cm thick layer of clay plaster can absorb about a cupful of water (300 g) per square meter from moist room air in two days without reducing the strength of the clay surface. Other plasters (lime, cement, gypsum) can absorb only 50-75 g of water per square meter under the same conditions. As a result, the clay can keep the room humidity between 40 and 60%. This is stable and long-lasting, without requiring additional energy or daily maintenance.
A good air exchange or ventilation system is necessary to circulate in the room, and excess moisture, toxic substances, and compounds can leave the room. Due to the inadequate ventilation system, mold and rot occur in the houses, making the house uninhabitable. It also doesn’t work well if your home or office is so-called over-ventilated. Determine what your home’s ventilation system is today and, if necessary, contact specialists in this field.
Maybe someone is wondering why we don’t offer a humidifier as a solution, which could be a good solution for rooms with dry air? We do not recommend this solution for several reasons. Firstly, this solution is not sustainable. With this, we only treat the consequence, not the cause, and produce more artificial materials, which will be expensive to utilize for the next generation. Secondly, such a solution requires electricity and costly maintenance, and often the story makes noise. Plants and clay plaster are fully compostable materials that are natural at the same time and do more valuable work than a humidifier alone could ever do. The humidifier makes the room more humid but does not reduce the concentration of the pollutant, but, on the contrary, increases it (as the humidity increases, the VOC emission from artificial materials also increases). In addition, it has been confirmed that most humidifiers sold in stores do not maintain the desired level of humidity. Read more about it here.
Book: “Building with earth” – Gernot Minke