Hearing the words “air pollution” usually brings to mind images of cars and factories spewing contaminants, but few people think about the quality of indoor air. Most of our exposure to environmental pollutants occurs from breathing indoor air, which contains up to 100 times more pollutants than outdoor air. What produces these pollutants? Mold caused by excessive moisture, Carbon Dioxide fumes from gas combustion appliances, paints, cooking fumes, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) from building materials and furnishings, flame retardant dust from carpets and upholstery, radon from the soil under the building and particles shed by pets are common sources. Contaminants such as these are associated with asthma, headaches, allergies and cancer which can be significant enough for a structure to be labeled with sick building syndrome. Aside from avoiding products and chemicals that can cause irritation, how can indoor air quality be improved?
Passive House, or Passivhaus as it is known in Europe, is both a building energy performance standard and a set of design and construction principles used to achieve the standard. Buildings that meet the standard are ultra-low energy buildings that use 80 to 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than conventional equivalent buildings, while providing superior air quality and comfort. As of 2014, there are approximately 30,000 Passive House buildings in the world.