If nothing else, people are adaptable. While something might be an annoyance at first, we often figure out a way to manage it and move on. Unfortunately, we all too often do this when it comes to our greatest life investment…our homes. Whether an existing or new home, we almost always are not comfortable in our home or at least portions of our home. One, several, or even the entire home may never be at desirable conditions, but we learn to cope with it by putting on layers of clothing or adding small electric heaters to cold spaces, or supplemental fans in hot ones. So we are not comfortable as we allow our conditioned air to easily escape our homes and our utility bills continue to be high. The simple question is…why?
As a native Californian, I often marvel at my home state’s progressive attitude towards environmental conservation. In 1988, we were the first state to adopt air quality standards, which the federal Clean Air Act would later be amended to resemble. More recently, landmark legislation such as A.B. 32, or California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, set the first statewide requirements for GHG emissions reductions in the country. Today, cities like San Francisco have plastic bag bans and zero-waste initiatives. However, our culture is one of sustainability partly out of necessity—in January 2014, Governor Brown declared California’s severe and sustained drought situation a state of emergency. Despite our already resource-constrained present, California’s population is anticipated to increase by 14% over the next fifteen years to 44 million people. The good news is, we’ve made some big strides recently in planning for the future demands of an ever-growing population.
Do you live in DC? Do you own, manage or reside in a multifamily building? If so, we would love to get your feedback!
The District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) has engaged Steven Winter Associates to gain feedback from multifamily owners, managers and residents about their energy and water usage. To start off, we’re conducting brief surveys (10-minutes max), and hope this effort will have positive outcomes for future multifamily projects in DC by raising awareness of green/energy efficiency initiatives.
Survey responses will inform the potential development of a voluntary energy and water conservation program tailored exclusively for the multifamily rental sector in the District. This program will include a customized toolkit to engage residents and building managers in improving energy and water efficiency. It will also encourage participation in a peer-to-peer energy and water reduction competition.
I love to cook. And like most cooks, I love to cook on my gas range. But I am also a building science researcher, and the researcher in me doesn’t understand how we allow gas ranges in homes. Building codes and energy efficiency programs have pushed the housing market towards all combustion appliances being sealed combustion and direct vent. Our furnaces, boilers, water heaters, and fireplaces are all going towards sealed combustion. Soon it is likely that building codes won’t even give you the option of using open combustion devices. This push for sealed combustion is an effort to drastically reduce the health hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning and other contaminants in our homes. As a researcher, this makes complete sense to me…but I, like many others, say “Don’t touch my gas range.”
When close to 90% of our lives are spent inside, you would expect extensive measures would be taken to ensure our buildings provide healthy environments in which to live and work. Unfortunately, more often than not, tested air quality inside buildings is much worse than outside.
Here are some common causes of these indoor pollutants:
- Pesticide use during regular pest control treatments
- Pollutants (asthma triggers) from cleaning products, smoking, pets, pests, fuel use, etc;
- Inadequate ventilation;
- Mold and moisture build up from water leaks and inadequate ventilation; and,
- Carbon monoxide from appliances, heaters or other equipment.
This problem is made worse by the way in which the pollutants utilize air movement pathways throughout the building. Anywhere air can move, moisture can move and pollutants can move. This presents an intersection of energy efficiency and healthy buildings; air sealing these leakage pathways in the buildings stops pollutants from traveling and saves heating energy.
Let’s revisit the common pollutants and strategies for intervention and mitigation. You’ll notice a common theme of “find the source, stop the source, seal the holes.”