Eliminating Indoor VOCs
Indoor air quality is one of the holy grails of sustainable design. Creating good indoor air quality is not the same as protecting good indoor air quality and what separates the two is VOCS.
When a job is under construction, whether it be new construction or a remodel, the builders, architects, and engineers design systems that create good air flow, proper ventilation, and so forth. It can be simple elements like operable windows, central AC, or it can be more complex like solar powered skylights, curtain walls, louvers, and vents. This is one piece of the story.
The second piece of the story is the materials and methods used to construct the spaces. Are they preventing future moisture/mold problems? Are they insulating the mechanical systems in the home to prevent contamination issues down the line?
The third piece of the story is what happens once the space is complete and we are ready to furnish the space. All of the decor items you can think of contribute to indoor air quality (IAQ) and attention must be paid to each and every one. Carpets, paint, wallpaper, and furniture are main sources of pollution in interior settings. Indoor air pollution is usually referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are emitted from virtually everything that is manufactured. It is the “new car smell” we know and love about new products. How much a product off-gases depends on how the product was made and what it was made of.
More and more companies are paying attention to the growing demand for safer products that help protect IAQ. As a consumer, you can look for products that are either GreenGuard certified or have achieved another standard of environmental measurement.
As a design firm, we are hyper aware of what products we are using and bringing into our clients’ homes. In recent years we have noticed more and more companies disclose their manufacturing processes and offer “green” and “greener” solutions. As sustainable design gains more traction, we hope to see full transparency and ultimately, unhealthy products completely phased out.
In the meantime, consider each and every element you bring into your home. This can be the big stuff like carpeting and paint to the small things like candles and cleaning products. You would be surprised by how little the “fresh scent” is doing for your home!
—By Kate Gray Fudim
Editor’s Note: Kate Gray Fudim is an interior designer with Beth Haley Design. Kate has a master’s degree in Interior Architecture and Design with an emphasis in sustainable design. Beth Haley Design, an urban interior design firm, focuses on remodeling and revitalizing established homes, as well as creating stimulating, functional, sustainable spaces in new homes.. E-mail your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bethhaleydesign.com.