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Green Buildings and Indoor Air Quality Research Paper

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The idea of “green buildings” has in many ways helped enhance indoor air quality.


The idea of “green buildings” has in many ways helped enhance indoor air quality (IAQ). “Green buildings” are made possible by designing and constructing buildings which have high quality of indoor air as one of their major strengths.

As such, the construction of these buildings also involve developing housing structures which make use of processes that are resource-efficient and environmentally friendly, right from the initial designing through laying of foundation, actual construction, operation, routine maintenance, to even deconstruction. Thus, the green building approach to building and construction expands as well as balances classical building designs with durability, effectiveness, economic efficiency, and comfort (Cullen and Gerrard 4).


The term “green building” is used to refer buildings that are designed, build, and managed with improved indoor and to a lesser extend outdoor air quality in mind (Dols, Persily and Nabinger p. 1). In other words, a green building is one which is designed, erected and operated in such a manner that it reduces the likelihood of infectious diseases, more so airborne diseases, spreading to or amongst their inhabitants.

This entails careful consideration of both the designs of structures and selection of resources utilized during construction, besides taking equally weighted measures that serve to improve the internal environments of “green buildings” during the process of routine maintenance (Zigenfus, Rochester Institute of Technology Environmental and Health and Safety Management 29).

What Constitutes a Green Building

For a building to qualify for certification as a green building, it must incorporate the following characteristics in its design (Croston 107):

  1. Superior lighting, with good utilization of natural lighting
  2. Lighting is sufficiently controlled to lessen waste and energy-resourceful lighting systems that convey maximum light for consumed energy
  3. Superior insulation and generally build to envelope, accumulating energy for cooling and heating
  4. Inactive ventilation for air exchange and cooling
  5. Water preservation utilities along with energy-efficient windows
  6. Utilization of building materials that is sustainably manufactured and does not discharge hazardous substances into the indoor air environment
  7. Greater relieve due to enhanced environmental control
  8. Renewable energy fabrication, for instance on the rooftop from solar panel
  9. Cool roofs that cut down air-conditioning requirements

The term ‘green’ in “green buildings” is used to denote the concern for the health and well-being of building users or occupants together with conservation of the larger environment (Grondzik, Kwok, Stein, and Reynolds 14). In addition, not only do green buildings utilize both energy as well as energy resources efficiently, they contribute significantly in efforts to conserve water by largely making use of recyclable materials (Cullen and Gerrard 26).

Green buildings greatly take into consideration the general health of their occupants (Howe 6). In comparison, majority of older building have been found to make their inhabitants suffer a condition called as “Sick building syndrome”, which is brought about by biological contaminants, for instance mold, chemical contaminants from interior as well as exterior sources, besides insufficient ventilation (Cullen and Gerrard 7).

Green Building and Indoor Air Quality

The definition of “superior indoor air quality” encompasses the integration of satisfactory ventilation, management of airborne contaminants, and preservation of relative humidity as well as optimal temperature in the buildings.

Green Buildings seek to solve indoor air quality problems. The IAQ problem may come about in inhabited building structures when the concentration of pollutants in the indoor air goes up to a level where the occupants of houses might suffer allergic attacks, illness, and even other discomforts.

Pollutants on indoor air may include bioaerosols, gases and dust and/or smoke particles. According to Doty and Turner (455), a satisfactory quality of indoor air is that air which has practically no or very tiny levels of contaminants which can be detrimental to human health at detrimental concentrations (455).

In the United States, a whooping 140 billion dollars is paid out annually in direct medical costs resulting from the problems of poor indoor air quality. Furthermore, as energy efficient buildings have added in their design “airtight envelopes”, the possible risk of indoor air quality problems is most likely to go up (Gottfried 146).

Pollutants, for instance noise, odor, temperature, lighting, quality, humidity, temperature, and material gassing from biological, chemical and particulate substance, influence the indoor environmental value of buildings (Cullen and Gerrard 148). Green buildings endeavor to solve indoor air quality problems by mainly providing adequate ventilation.

Indoor Air Quality management can effectively be dealt with through utilizing building materials with less volatile organic compounds as well as extensive utilization of natural light in lighting the buildings during day time (Mago and Michigan State University 5).

There are four principles for maintaining high-quality indoor air in green buildings (Frumkin, Coussens, and Institute of Medicine 30):

  • Mark or otherwise identify the source of pollutants if they are hard to eliminate
  • Ensure there is active ventilation control to get rid of pollutants
  • Describe performance specifications earlier and check the building at different stages of construction and operation with the intention of ensuring that it functions as designed
  • Always make sure that the building is kept clean throughout its entire operational life

The aim of Indoor environmental quality management is to promote thermal comfort, favorable lighting as well as adequate ventilation. Green buildings are vital in attaining a minimum indoor air quality performance standard as well as forbid smoking in the building.

If smoking is permitted, it is proposed that smoking lounges be supplied and that they are separated from the rest of the building by offering a one-pass ventilation system devoid of recirculation. Furthermore, these lounges should be unconstructively pressurized in relation to the adjacent space (Dols, Persily and Nabinger 2).

Green buildings are able to achieve effectiveness by adequately incorporating various indoor air quality features, such as ventilation, not making use building materials that release volatile organic compounds or formaldehyde, supplying a specific quantity of temperature controls and individual lighting along with offering daylight and external views inside the majority of the building.

Green building are also useful in the examination for carbon dioxide; utilization of less-emitting materials, paints, coatings plus finishes; enhanced ventilation effectiveness; management of indoor air quality during and after construction; in addition to permitting occupants to manage the systems in their individual workspace (Cullen and Gerrard 21)

Consequently, green building features aimed at improving good indoor air quality must be weighed with building features that are pointed toward generating a minimum negative influence on the universal environment. For example, enhanced outdoor air supply should be weighed with the energy needed to condition the air.

With consideration to indoor environment, this denotes utilizing maintenance practices and products, building material, and operating tactic that supply satisfactory indoor air quality to building residents (Persily and Nabinger 1).

Green buildings are better in terms of IAQ as they are, in essence, devised to promote sufficient ventilation of air into buildings in addition to filtration of this air to get rid of harmful substances. Thus, green buildings optimize air quality by means of ventilation and the utilization of products that produce low or zero volatile organic compounds (Howe 9).

Suitably conditioned air is supplied to the inhabited spaces of a building where the structure is built “green”. Air is supplied as a way for diluting bioeffluents generated by people occupying the building plus other contaminants found indoors. In essence, conditioned air is supplied to promote the comfort of the occupants.

Also, green buildings also supplies air to the building by mechanical means or through either window or open vents. This may involve a building’s flush-out period in which elevated ventilation rates are utilized to dilute high contaminant points that may be present as a result of new materials and construction tasks.

Green buildings conform to IAQ as the humidification aspects are pointed toward avoiding extreme indoor humidity intensities in order to reduce the possibility of microbial contamination, as well as provide occupants thermal comfort. If humidification is needed, the employment of steam-based systems is supported in preference to cold water spray systems, with the intention of reducing the possibility of microbial contamination kept in mind.

Green buildings also guarantee that thermal comfort tackles the performance of the ventilation system with regard to preserving the comfort of the building inhabitants. Thermal comfort is in dependent upon air speed, relative humidity, radiant temperature, air temperature, and additional occupant-related aspects (Dols, Persily and Nabinger 2).

Green buildings are also much better as compared to conventionally constructed buildings as far as IAQ is concerned since they place prominence on ecologically friendly building materials that tackle ‘up-stream’ resource utilization, for example less toxins employed in the manufacture of products.

Hence, this is vital to the main outcome of improving indoor air quality. Green building offer healthier spaces, a significant feature given the rising concerns regarding indoor air pollution.

These takes account of the cautious choice of materials that will be utilized in the building founded on chemical features, the elimination or seclusion of potentially detrimental pollutant-generating tasks, and appropriately designing, building and sustaining building systems and elements to avoid the extreme buildup of pollutants and microbial contamination (Dols, Persily and Nabinger 2).

In the green buildings, pollutant-generating tasks are taken into consideration during the designing stage the building in order to improve IAQ. An effort is made to establish the spaces incorporating various activities such as food preparation, so that emissions have a low impact on engaged parts of the building.

Ventilation systems for these spaces are devised and managed to thwart emissions from being conveyed to other areas of the building. This is done by supplying effective exhaust systems and not permitting recirculation of the air into the ventilation system from these spaces (Dols, Persily and Nabinger 3).

In addition, green buildings improve IAQ by designing microbial control ventilation systems to avoid accumulation of high levels of moisture. This entails preventing moisture from building up in duct liners, the avoidance of condensation within ducts, and the supply of positive drainage of cooling coil drip pans to thwart the incidence of standing water within the system.

Another contribution to IAQ by green buildings is air cleaning and filtration where particle filtration and gaseous contaminants are filtered out. The design stages of construction, even those connected to indoor air quality are confirmed by testing and assessment to design requirements. These take in the testing, regulating, and matching of the ventilation system airflows. These procedures are pointed toward the direct assessment of a range of indoor environmental constraints (Dols, Persily and Nabinger 3).

Furthermore, green buildings are better in terms of IAQ as a result of cautiously selecting the materials that are utilized in the building. Materials that practically emit zero or insignificant levels of organic compounds of volatile nature are for both general construction and interior finishing (Howe 8).

This is because volatile organic compounds could be hazardous to the health of humans. Moreover, green buildings lessen the quantity waste produced during their construction as well as demolition, thus bringing about significant savings in economic costs (Cullen and Gerrard 11).


Indoor air quality is a significant feature in green buildings. It is quite simple and inexpensive to devise a healthy building as well as preserve it through effective operation and maintenance than it is to evaluate, correct, and recompense for human suffering in an environment that has depreciated. Green building practices can considerably lessen or even eradicate many negative environmental effects as well as help enhance hospitability of inhabited buildings.

Economically speaking, “green” building design improve building marketability, lessen operating costs, augment staff productivity as well as diminish potential liability ensuing from indoor air quality problems. In a nutshell, green buildings improve IAQ by enhancing ventilation, decreasing exposure to toxic chemicals throughout building processes, provide for inhabitants general comfort by controlling heating. Lastly, green buildings can be designed to offer picturesque views of their surroundings.

Works Cited

Cottrell, Michelle. Guide to the LEED Green Associate. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2010.

Croston, Glenn. Starting Green: An Ecopreneur’s Toolkit for Starting a Green Business-From Business Plan to Profits. Los Angeles: Entrepreneur Press, 2009.

Cullen, Howe J. and Michael Gerard. The Law of Green Buildings: Regulatory and Legal Issues in Design, Construction, Operations and Financing, Chicago, ILL: American Bar Association, 2010.

Dols, W, Stuart, Andrew, K Persily and Steven, J Nabinger. Indoor Air Quality in Green Buildings: A Review and a Case Study. (n.d). Web.

Doty, Steve and Wayner C, Turner. Energy Management Handbook. 7th ed. Lilburn: The Fairmont Press, 2009.

Frumkin, Howard, Christine, Coussens and Institute of Medicine (U.S.), and Roundtable Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine. Green Health Care Institutions; Health, Environment and Economics. Washington, DC: National Academic Press, 2007.

Grondzik, Walter T, Alison, G Kwok, Benjamin Stein, and John S, Reynold. Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2009.

Howe, Cullen J. Overview of Green Buildings. 2010. Web. <>

Mago, Shilpi and Michigan State University. Impact of LEED-NC Projects on Constructors and Construction Management Practices. Michigan, IL: ProQuest, 2007.

Zigenfus, Richard, E., Rochester Institute of Technology, and Health and Safety Management. Element Analysis of the Green Building Process. Newyork: ProQuest, 2008.

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