Special Issue "Indoor Air Quality and Health Outcomes in Energy-Efficient Buildings"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Health".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Hélène Niculita-Hirzel
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Unisanté, Université de Lausanne (UNIL), Lausanne, Switzerland
Interests: indoor air quality; air microbiology; bioexposome; Mycobiome; Mycotoxins; respiratory health; immune response

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Improving the energy efficiency of buildings is an important approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as energy consumed by buildings contributes 20–40% of emissions and total energy consumption around the world. End-use energy expenditures were identified, and over half of them were attributable to heating, ventilating, and cooling. The environmental impact of these energy expenditures has been well documented; greenhouse gases emitted during power production are associated with climate change impacts including rising sea level, extreme temperatures, and more frequent weather events. Emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) contribute to acid rain, which can damage sensitive ecosystems. More important, however, are the downstream human health effects related to these environmental impacts. Elevated temperatures and droughts will increase the likelihood of heat-related illness and mortality. Extreme weather effects also pose health and economic risks, especially in developing regions. Emissions from power plants also have several direct health effects: exposure to particulate matter, in particular SO2, increases the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and nitrogen oxides (NOx) cause airway inflammation and respiratory symptoms, especially in asthmatics.

Consequently, different approaches for designing energy-efficient buildings have been suggested over the previous decades. Most of them have the following aspects in common:

  • A tightly sealed thermal envelope,
  • Controlled ventilation,
  • High-efficiency heating and cooling systems, and
  • Energy-efficient doors, windows, appliances, and home electronics.

However, buildings managers are incentivized to reduce costs, which is often achieved by reducing ventilation rates. Unfortunately, similar incentives are not set for optimizing the health performance of buildings as the impact on occupant health is poorly understood.

The goal of this Special Issue is to regroup data on the indoor air quality and health outcomes in energy-efficient buildings in order to propose targeted preventive measures.

Studies and reviews reporting the following are welcome:

  • A correlation between characteristics of energy-efficient buildings—homes or offices—and pollutants detected in the aerosols;
  • The satisfaction and health of inhabitants/workers in energy-efficient buildings—homes or offices;
  • The modelling of exposure in energy-efficient buildings—homes or offices.

The keywords listed below provide an outline of some of the possible areas of interest.

Dr. Hélène Niculita-Hirzel
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Ambient air pollution
  • Green buildings
  • Health
  • Energy and environmental costs
  • Public Health
  • Ventilation
  • Bioaerosols and their toxins
  • Indoor particles matter (PM2.5, PM10)
  • Physical and chemical pollutants (e.g., radon, formaldehyde, VOCs, carbon monoxide (CO); Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2))
  • Emerging indoor pollutants

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Article
Fungal Contaminants in Energy Efficient Dwellings: Impact of Ventilation Type and Level of Urbanization
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(14), 4936; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17144936 - 08 Jul 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 955
Abstract
The presence of growing fungi in the indoor environment has been associated with the development of respiratory problems such as asthma or allergic rhinitis, as well as the worsening of respiratory pathologies. Their proliferation indoors could be a result of water leakage or [...] Read more.
The presence of growing fungi in the indoor environment has been associated with the development of respiratory problems such as asthma or allergic rhinitis, as well as the worsening of respiratory pathologies. Their proliferation indoors could be a result of water leakage or inadequate ventilation. Although the factors promoting mould growth have been widely investigated in traditional dwellings, little work has been done in energy efficient dwellings. Here, the effectiveness of ventilation type, i.e., natural or mechanical, in influencing mould development was estimated in 44 recent and 105 retrofitted energy efficient dwellings. Fungi growing on surfaces were investigated in the dwellings situated in rural, peri-urban, and urban regions of Switzerland. The presence of these fungi was also investigated in bedroom settled dust. Information on building characteristics and owners’ lifestyle were collected. Significant associations were found with the level of urbanisation, the location of mouldy area in dwellings, and the diversity of fungal taxa. Dwellings in peri-urban zones showed the most frequent fungal contamination in the owners’ bedroom and the highest diversity of fungal genera among dwellings. While the urbanisation level or the ventilation type favoured no specific genus, we found marked disparities in the diversity of fungi growing on surfaces in naturally ventilated versus mechanically ventilated dwellings. Aspergillus, in particular, was a frequent surface contaminant in bedrooms with natural ventilation, but not in those mechanically ventilated. We observed a strong association between fungal growth on surfaces and the number of fungal particles counted in the settled dust of owners’ bedrooms. These results demonstrate the importance of ventilation systems in energy efficient dwellings in controlling fungal proliferation in living areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Indoor Air Quality and Health Outcomes in Energy-Efficient Buildings)
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Article
Potential Savings in DHW Facilities through the Use of Solar Thermal Energy in the Hospitals of Extremadura (Spain)
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(8), 2658; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17082658 - 13 Apr 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 843
Abstract
Hospitals need to prepare large amounts of domestic hot water (DHW) to develop their healthcare activity. The aim of this work was to analyse potential savings that can be achieved by installing solar thermal energy for production of domestic hot water in the [...] Read more.
Hospitals need to prepare large amounts of domestic hot water (DHW) to develop their healthcare activity. The aim of this work was to analyse potential savings that can be achieved by installing solar thermal energy for production of domestic hot water in the hospitals of Extremadura (Spain). For this purpose, 25 hospitals between 533 and 87,118 m2 and between 15 and 529 beds were studied, three solar factor scenarios were simulated (0.70, 0.75 and 0.80) and the necessary investment and corresponding economic and environmental savings were calculated. Better economic results and energy ratios for 70% of solar contribution were obtained. These results show an average payback of 4.74 years (SD = 0.26) reaching 4.29 kWh/€ per year (SD = 0.20). Undertaking an investment of 674,423 €, 2,895,416 kWh/year of thermal energy could be generated with which to save both 145,933 € and 638 tons of CO2 per year. It was statistically demonstrated the priority of carrying out an installation with a solar factor of 70%, investing preferably in hospitals in Cáceres over those in Badajoz, especially in the public sector with more than 300 beds. These findings will provide hospital managers with useful information to make decisions on future investments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Indoor Air Quality and Health Outcomes in Energy-Efficient Buildings)
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Article
The Role of Green Building Materials in Reducing Environmental and Human Health Impacts
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(7), 2589; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17072589 - 10 Apr 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1485
Abstract
Conventional building materials (CBMs) made from non-renewable resources are the main source of indoor air contaminants, whose impact can extend from indoors to outdoors. Given their sustainable development (SD) prospect, green building materials (GBMs) with non-toxic, natural, and organic compounds have the potential [...] Read more.
Conventional building materials (CBMs) made from non-renewable resources are the main source of indoor air contaminants, whose impact can extend from indoors to outdoors. Given their sustainable development (SD) prospect, green building materials (GBMs) with non-toxic, natural, and organic compounds have the potential to reduce their overall impacts on environmental and human health. In this regard, biocomposites as GBMs are environmentally friendly, safe, and recyclable materials and their replacement of CBMs reduces environmental impacts and human health concerns. This study aims to develop a model of fully hybrid bio-based biocomposite as non-structural GBMs and compare it with fully petroleum-based composite in terms of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions and human health impacts. Using a small chamber test (American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)-D5116) for VOC investigation and SimaPro software modeling with the ReCiPe method for evaluating human health impacts. Life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology is used, and the results indicate that switching the fully hybrid bio-based biocomposite with the fully petroleum-based composite could reduce more than 50% impacts on human health in terms of indoor and outdoor. Our results indicate that the usage of biocomposite as GBMs can be an environmentally friendly solution for reducing the total indoor and outdoor impacts on human health. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Indoor Air Quality and Health Outcomes in Energy-Efficient Buildings)
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Article
Investigating the Crucial Aspects of Developing a Healthy Dormitory based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—A Case Study of Shenzhen
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(5), 1565; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17051565 - 28 Feb 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1509
Abstract
In recent years, with the development of green building and the increase of health awareness, the concept of healthy building has been proposed. Recently, studies have been made on developing healthy residential buildings; however, few attentions have been paid to the development of [...] Read more.
In recent years, with the development of green building and the increase of health awareness, the concept of healthy building has been proposed. Recently, studies have been made on developing healthy residential buildings; however, few attentions have been paid to the development of healthy dormitories. To bridge this research gap, this paper aims to investigate the crucial aspects of developing a healthy dormitory. Based on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, three influencing aspects which include 17 measurement indicators are identified. Questionnaire surveys are subsequently conducted to collect students’ perceptions on the identified indicators. After a structural equation modeling (SEM) analysis, the relationships between the three influencing aspects are analyzed. The research findings show that building performance, bodily sensation, and humanistic environment must be taken into account in the development of a healthy dormitory. In addition, it is revealed that building performance has a significant impact on bodily sensation, while bodily sensation has a significant impact on humanistic environment. However, building performance is found having little impact on humanistic environment. The findings of this study could provide useful information for the construction of healthy dormitories. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Indoor Air Quality and Health Outcomes in Energy-Efficient Buildings)
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Article
Characterization of Indoor Air Quality on a College Campus: A Pilot Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(15), 2721; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph16152721 - 30 Jul 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1360
Abstract
Recent construction trends on college campuses have demonstrated a shift to designing buildings with features focused on sustainability. However, few studies have investigated indoor air quality in institutions of higher education, particularly in sustainably designed buildings. The objective of this study was to [...] Read more.
Recent construction trends on college campuses have demonstrated a shift to designing buildings with features focused on sustainability. However, few studies have investigated indoor air quality in institutions of higher education, particularly in sustainably designed buildings. The objective of this study was to evaluate the association of building and occupancy on indoor air quality within and between higher education buildings. We measured particulate matter, formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxides in LEED certified, retrofitted, and conventional building types on a college campus. Three size fractions of particulate matter were measured in each building. We conducted multi-zonal, 48-h measurements when the buildings were occupied and unoccupied. Outdoor particulate matter was significantly higher (PM2.5 = 4.76, PM4 = 17.1, and PM100 = 21.6 µg/m3) than in classrooms (PM2.5 = 1.7, PM4 = 4.2, and PM100 = 6.7 µg/m3) and common areas (PM2.5 = 1.3, PM4 = 4.2, and PM100 = 4.8 µg/m3; all p < 0.001). Additionally, concentrations of carbon dioxide and particulate matter were significantly higher (p < 0.05) during occupied sampling. The results suggest that occupancy status and building zone are major predictors of indoor air quality in campus buildings, which can, in turn, increase the concentration of contaminants, potentially impacting occupant health and performance. More research is warranted to reveal building features and human behaviors contributing to indoor exposures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Indoor Air Quality and Health Outcomes in Energy-Efficient Buildings)
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