Low Polluting MaterialsWith advances in technology, there are now many more construction materials available to us today than there were 100 years ago. Man has developed ways to produce new materials, which are able to perform many different tasks that historically would have been a challenge.
We have also seen our overall building standards improve dramatically in more recent years, as the building regulations demand ever improved standards of thermal performance and air-tightness. We are now working to very high standards of thermal performance through the implementation of standards such as PassivHaus, where an air-tightness of ≤ 0.6 air changes/hour is required. Buildings are therefore becoming much more sealed.
Whilst these two factors on their own are reasons for celebration of mans achievement. When considered together require a degree of caution. Many of the complex new materials comprise of components that have high levels of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) / chemicals. These can off-gas into the atmosphere over time, which will be breathed in by occupants. Research has suggested that the inhaled gasses from such materials can lead to health problems such as asthma, fatigue, headaches etc. With multiple potentially harmful products being used in buildings, there can be something of a cocktail effect, where it becomes difficult to isolate one product over another as a pollutant. In the past, highly draughty buildings would have ventilated these pollutants more quickly. However with super levels of air-tightness, it is becoming more challenging to remove these pollutants, and therefore more important to consider product / material specification.
At Fox Ecological Architects, we place low pollutant material specification as high on our priority list as we do minimising the use of energy. It's that important to us! We therefore strive to specify the least harmfully pollutant materials in our buildings, thereby providing healthy and comfortable internal environments for all occupants.