Our Own Homes are Making us Sick: Energy Efficiency is Part of the Cure

We spend 90% of our time indoors so it is extremely important that our homes and buildings are seen as a critical public health issue. There is growing evidence to show that the efficiency and design of our buildings is an even bigger problem than initially thought.

Member states and European Parliament are currently discussing the EU’s climate and energy goals for 2030 and beyond, with the focus being directed towards the buildings we live and work in. This is becoming a key opportunity to enable us to not only significantly reduce our carbon footprint but also to improve the general health of all European citizens.

One in six Europeans live in homes that make them sick. This can be due to dampness, leaking roofs and inadequate thermal control

Poor indoor air quality is responsible for the loss of 2 million healthy life years in the European Union with Europeans living in unhealthy buildings being 1.5 times more likely to report poor health.

These air quality problems also occur in schools, where over 64 million students and 4.5 million teachers are affected by the air they breathe inside their schools. This can cause serious problems, such as the heightened risk or allergies and other conditions due to smaller airways being more vulnerable.

Additionally, in the workplace, indoor air quality, lighting, temperature, and noise are all proven to have a direct impact on the health and well-being of workers as well as their productivity rates. Poor indoor air quality provokes a 9% productivity loss. More concretely, carpeting and less ventilation, reduce typing speed and proofreading accuracy by 4%. To put it plainly: bad, inefficient office environments aren’t only bad for the climate, but also bad for the bottom line of the businesses.

Poor indoor air quality provokes a 9% productivity loss and can reduce the typing speed and proofreading accuracy of workers by 4%

The traditional model of thinking when it comes to measuring the efficiency of buildings has been to look at their energy consumption. Although this is a key metric when considering how efficient a building is, it has become apparent that there is more to look at, with reducing energy consumption to go hand in hand with the protection of the health of people who live and work in these buildings.

There is a current oversight when it comes to advocating the inhabitants of our buildings within the European Commission. The only approach to achieve better health outcomes from indoor environments is to put the health of our citizens and workforce front and center, and that’s a cause that all politicians and policymakers can get behind.

This article originally appeared on Euractiv 19/12/2017

Our own homes are making us sick: Energy efficiency is part of the cure

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