By Ariana Nieves,
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)
On October 13th, 2022, the Biden Administration invited an exclusive group of specialists, leaders, and activists to the White House for its first-ever Summit on Indoor Air Quality. The event opened the conversation of advancing efforts to improve indoor air quality to expand the benefits nationwide and prevent the spreading of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
This year there has been a heavy focus on the role of healthy buildings and their impact because of the Administration’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that launched in March. Indoor Air Quality has become a significant focus because of the pandemic and the severe effect air quality can have on the population. The White House also launched the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge as part of the preparedness plan that aims to strengthen the importance of improving air quality and encourage schools, companies, and organizations to take action.
Here are the top 5 takeaways from the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Summit:
1. IAQ is Essential for Healthy Communities
Ventilation is a core part of what makes a building healthy. IAQ immediately and directly affects the occupants within it. That is why there are now certifications, such as the WELL Building Standard, to monitor and inspire more buildings to focus on indoor air quality.
Without access to quality air, the entire community suffers. We have seen this firsthand with the pandemic and how easily it spread around the country. Improved IAQ strategies could have helped prevent the spread and decreased the severity of the virus’s impact. More than ever, enhanced IAQ practices are needed to create healthier communities nationwide.
2. IAQ Effects 90% of Our Life
With the age of technology and cultural shifts, there is no doubt that humans spend more time indoors than ever before. Researchers found that we spend approximately 90% of our lives inside a building. That is well over half our entire life span being affected by the spaces we occupy.
That statistic alone reveals how much buildings play an active role in our lifestyles and health. Clean indoor air quality is integral in maintaining the public’s health, and increasing healthy buildings is one of the many strategies we can employ to create a better future.
3. IAQ is Worse than Outdoor Air Quality
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air pollutants are two to five times higher than outdoor levels. Indoor air is riddled with contaminants such as pet dander, mold, radon, pesticides, combustion byproducts, and more. The air we breathe in buildings is far from clean and is in definite need of purification.
4. Healthy Schools Result in Healthy Child Development
There is a heavy emphasis on healthy school buildings in the IAQ discussion because the buildings could affect children’s learning and development. Structures considerably affect health, and that involvement could disrupt children’s learning capabilities.
Researchers found that academic performance is affected by building and health performance. If the insufficient IAQ of the building compromises a student’s health, that will directly interfere with their academic abilities. For our future generations, it is imperative to create healthier buildings with improved IAQ to ensure their success.
5. Healthy Buildings Provide Co-benefits
The health strategies outlined to improve IAQ also align with many industry goals for organizations. Healthy buildings advance productivity, increase retention rates, boost employment, and decrease absenteeism.
Additionally, it helps alleviate risks while protecting an organization’s team and assets. Healthy buildings are an investment in the well-being of its occupants and the organization’s success, creating better and healthier work and living environments across the nation.
The Next Steps
The Administration showcased its commitment to this movement by ensuring their continued support. White House speakers noted that they would continue to promote and advance Indoor Air Quality. Some of the significant efforts mentioned were:
- The Department of Energy’s Efficient and Healthy Schools Campaign
- A website dedicated to Indoor Air Quality
- The EPA will be developing new resources and technical assistance to encourage indoor air quality management
The first-ever White House Summit was a success, demonstrating to the sustainability community that the federal government is taking healthy buildings seriously.
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