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Indoor air for your health in sustainable buildings

– Time for radical collaborations across the value chain

In 2021, the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our lives across the world. We are forced to spend an increasing amount of time indoors – 90 percent even before the pandemic.

The buildings affect our health now more than ever.

People are more aware of the health and wellness safety of the buildings, and the measurements of healthy working and living environment are expected to be more common in the post COVID world [1].

One of the critical factors that determine a healthy building is the indoor air quality (IAQ). The IAQ is known to affect our health, comfort and well-being directly. It can be affected by particulate matter (PM), gases (e.g., such as volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, radon), microbial contaminates (e.g., mold, bacteria), and of course viruses (e.g., SARS‑CoV‑2).

Common indoor sources may include smoke, building materials, household products, combustion appliances, excess moisture, pets, and sources from outdoor. They are associated with short- and long-term health risks, from throat, nose, and eye irritations, dizziness, fatigue, and headaches to respiratory, heart diseases, and cancer.

In European Union (EU) alone, a search using the keyword “indoor air quality” on the Scopus literature database leads to a total of 7287 publications between 2000 and 2020.

The pandemic has highlighted the great importance of IAQ in all built environments, e.g., offices, houses, schools, hospitals, and public transport, just to name a few. The 2020 Buildings Global Status Report has specially emphasized the health crisis on top of a housing crisis [2].

The COVID-19 has severe impact on the global construction industry, but this slowdown offers a moment for governments and relevant stakeholders to reset and re-align commitments in sustainability.

Under the Sustainable Recovery Plan, the stimulus programs for sustainable building and construction are essential for an economic recovery as they improve public health, create jobs, boost economy, and activate local value chains.

Finance institutions and property companies are aware of the great potential and investment opportunities available in sustainable buildings. In 2019, of the 1,005 real estate companies, developers, real estate investment trusts (REITs), and funds represented more than $4.1 trillion in assets under management, 90 percent align their projects with sustainable building rating standards. The sustainable buildings are estimated to be one of the biggest global investment opportunities, reaching 24.7 trillion by 2030 [2].

Globally, there are over 600 sustainability certifications for products and buildings. Among the most significant ten systems being used today, the measurement features of buildings that impact human health and well-being vary from 11-83% [3].

IAQ plays an important role in the ’health’ aspect of the building, which enhances the user comfort of indoor climate, sources control of indoor air pollutions and effective ventilation.

The COVID-19 recovery plans are the unique opportunities for radical collaboration between different stakeholders across the IAQ value chain, align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This is the right timing for us to work together and ensure healthy living environment now and in the future!

Liuliu Du-Ikonen, Ph.D



[1] Awada, Mohamad, et al. Ten questions concerning occupant health in buildings during normal operations and extreme events including the COVID-19 pandemic. Building and Environment. 2021.

[2] Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, International Energy Agency and the United Nations Environment Program. Global status report for buildings and construction: Towards a zero-emissions, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector. 2020.

[3] Jensen, K. G, et al. Guide to sustainable building certifications. 2018.

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