Indoor Environment Quality can mean success or failure when constructing cost-effective buildings. Indoor Environment Quality is one of eight categories within the NZ Green Building Council’s Green Star rating tool. Within Indoor Environment Quality there are a number of credits, all of which focus on creating healthy indoor environments, in turn ensuring the wellbeing of tenancy occupants. Key issues that are targeted by these credits include ventilation and air conditioning systems, as well as heat, interior air pollutants, windows and lighting. Comfort factors are also a major component in Indoor Environment Quality as other Green Star categories may compromise this, such as by reducing energy but without increasing occupant access to fresh air. Comfort factors include: reduced noise levels, minimisation of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), individual climate control, and external views.
Since people spend such a large amount of their time indoors it is vital to consider Indoor Environment Quality when creating healthy buildings. Sick Building Syndrome is primarily caused by poor indoor environment quality and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, costs billions of dollars in lost productivity each year. This productivity is lost through lower work quality, as well as through sickness and employee absence. Research has confirmed that health problems caused due to Sick Building Syndrome have become one of the most prominent issues in terms of building activities. These health problems include: asthma, cancer, impaired vision, hearing, intelligence, learning, and impacts on the cardiovascular system.
Indoor Environment Quality encourages people to come up with innovation solutions for improving energy efficiency such as with air purification, lighting, air conditioning, and building materials. It is important that the improvement of indoor environment quality is continued throughout the life of the building, this can be done with ongoing monitoring and audits to access the effectiveness of selected programs. Solutions that are implemented should be practical and changes to work flow should be minimised. By embracing Indoor Environment Quality not only will you enhance the value of building assets but operational costs will be reduced through reduced energy consumption and higher worker productivity.
Existing buildings, as well as new buildings, are able to improve their indoor environment quality; the addition of indoor plants is a great example of how this can be done at a low cost and with minimal change. Remember when it comes to indoor environment quality decisions should be based around promoting health and wellbeing for the occupants. This can be done by designing spaces around basic human needs, such as connecting people with nature by providing windows or indoor plants, or through noise reduction by using sound-absorbing materials or again with indoor plants.
The Green Star Indoor Environment Category targets indoor environment quality, encouraging people to improve occupant wellbeing through the provisions of not only comfortable but also healthy workspaces.
Please refer to our Why Use Plants page to learn how plants contribute to Indoor Environment Quality.