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Green Housing Boasts Clean Indoor Air

10 julio, 2014

1404305565797Green architecture aims to lower the energy consumption of buildings and promote sustainable building materials, saving operating costs and natural resources in the process. But this green movement also may mean better health for the people living inside the buildings. Researchers found that public housing built to green standards had lower levels of airborne pollutants than conventional dwellings (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2014, DOI:10.1021/es501489u).

La Arquitectura Verde tiene como objetivo reducir el consumo energético de los edificios y la promoción de los materiales de construcción sostenible, el ahorro de costos de operación y los recursos naturales en el proceso. Pero este movimiento verde también puede significar una mejor salud para las personas que viven dentro de los edificios. Los investigadores encontraron que la vivienda pública construida con los estándares verdes tenían niveles más bajos de contaminantes en el aire que viviendas convencionales ( Environ Sci. Technol… 2014, DOI:10.1021/es501489u ).

In the past architects made buildings energy efficient by tightening them up, limiting the transfer of air from the inside to the outside and vice versa. “There’s an energy cost of moving more air in an apartment,” says Gary Adamkiewicz of the Harvard School of Public Health, who led the new study. However, one consequence of reducing air flow is that pollutants generated in the home, such as cigarette smoke and cooking by-products, tend to linger in the air. Poor indoor air quality is linked to a variety of health conditions, particularly among people living in low-income housing. Adamkiewicz points out that asthma rates are significantly higher among people living in public housing compared to the general population.

En el pasado  los arquitectos hicieron edificios de eficiencia energética ajustándolos en altura, lo que limita la transferencia de aire desde el interior hacia el exterior y viceversa. “Hay un mayor coste energético de mover aire en un apartamento,” dice Gary Adamkiewicz de la Escuela de Salud Pública de Harvard , quien dirigió el estudio. Sin embargo, una de las consecuencias de la reducción del flujo de aire es que los contaminantes generados en el hogar, tales como el humo del cigarrillo y la cocción de los productos, tienden a permanecer en el aire. La mala calidad del aire está relacionada con una variedad de condiciones de salud, sobre todo entre las personas que viven en viviendas de bajos ingresos. Adamkiewicz señala que las tasas de asma son significativamente más altas entre las personas que viven en viviendas públicas en comparación con la población general.

Green building designs try to get around this problem by implementing ventilation systems that circulate air efficiently. “But there hasn’t been data to demonstrate tangible improvements in air quality,” Adamkiewicz says. Luckily for his team, recent changes to low-income housing in Boston offered an ideal natural experiment where they could test the effects of green housing on air quality and health outcomes.

Los diseños de construcción verde tratan de solucionar este problema mediante la implementación de sistemas de ventilación que circulan el aire de manera eficiente. “Pero no ha habido datos que pueda demostrar las mejoras tangibles en la calidad del aire”, dice Adamkiewicz. Por suerte para su equipo, los cambios recientes a la vivienda  social en Boston ofrecieron un experimento ideal donde pudieron probar los efectos de vivienda verde sobre los resultados en cuanto a salud y calidad de aire.

In 2011, the Boston Housing Authority began redeveloping large public housing developments in the South Boston neighborhood. Today, there is a mix of the original buildings, dating back to the 1940s, and newer ones certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program. These certified green buildings have features such as advanced ventilation systems that protect against heat loss, electric stoves instead of gas ones, and a smoke-free policy.

En 2011, la Autoridad de la Vivienda de Boston comenzó a volver a desarrollar grandes proyectos de vivienda pública en el barrio del Sur de Boston. Hoy en día, hay una mezcla de los edificios originales, que datan de la década de 1940, y los más recientes certificados por Liderazgo del Green Building Council de EE.UU. en el programa (LEED) Energía y Diseño Ambiental. Estos edificios ecológicos certificados tienen características tales como los sistemas de ventilación avanzados que protegen contra la pérdida de calor, estufas eléctricas en lugar de las de gas, y una política de no fumar.

The researchers identified 13 families living in conventional buildings and 18 families who had recently moved from conventional housing into green housing. The team asked the inhabitants about their health and then sampled the indoor air of the participants’ homes for seven days. Those living in green buildings reported less fatigue and fewer symptoms related to poor respiratory health. Plus, the researchers found significantly lower levels of air pollutants in green versus conventional homes: 57% less particulate matter measuring less than 2.5 μm in diameter, 65% less nitric dioxide, and 93% lower levels of nicotine. But levels of formaldehyde and carbon dioxide did not differ between the two types of housing.

Los investigadores identificaron 13 familias que vivian en los edificios convencionales y 18 familias que se habían mudado recientemente de una vivienda convencional de vivienda verde. El equipo preguntó a los residentes sobre su salud y luego tomó muestras del aire interior de los hogares de los participantes durante siete días. Los que vivian en los edificios verdes reportaron menos fatiga y menos síntomas relacionados con la mala salud respiratoria. Además, los investigadores encontraron niveles significativamente más bajos de contaminantes atmosféricos en las viviendas verdes frente a las casas convencionales: 57% menos de partículas de menos de 2,5 m de diámetro, un 65% menos de dióxido nítrico, y los niveles de 93% más bajos de nicotina. Pero los niveles de formaldehído y dióxido de carbono no fue diferente entre los dos tipos de vivienda.

Patrick N. Breysse, a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins University, calls the study important because it shows that green housing clearly contributes to reductions in indoor air pollutants and to associated improvements in residents’ health. He adds that the results suggest the need for larger studies that can look at, for example, whether green housing can improve the health of people with asthma.

Patrick N. Breysse, investigador de la salud pública en la Universidad Johns Hopkins, cita el importante estudio porque muestra que la vivienda verde claramente contribuye a la reducción de contaminantes del aire interior y a las mejoras asociadas en materia de salud de los residentes. Y añade que los resultados sugieren la necesidad de realizar estudios más grandes que pueden mirar, por ejemplo, si la vivienda verde puede mejorar la salud de las personas con asma.

Brendan Owens of the U.S. Green Building Council says the study provides helpful feedback for his organization, suggesting ways to improve their standards. In particular, the similarity in formaldehyde levels between the green and conventional housing is an area Owens wants to see improved. “A lower threshold of formaldehyde in products may be in order,” he says.

Brendan Owens del Green Building Council de EE.UU. dice que el estudio proporciona información útil para su organización, lo que sugiere formas de mejorar sus estándares. En particular, la similitud en los niveles de formaldehído entre la vivienda verde y la convencional es un área de Owens quiere ver mejorada. “Un umbral más bajo de formaldehído en los productos puede estar en orden”, dice.

Fuente: Chemical & Engineering News

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