The 3rd skin of humans


An average european person stays more than 90 % of his lifetime indoors. Isn´t it obvious that we have to look for health quality standards for the applied building materials and chemicals?

Pic. 1: Average duration of stay of a typical european, Jantunen et. al; Expolis Study

Indoor air quality is mainly due to the use and users of the building but also to the building materials. CE-Certified building materials do not mean there is no pollution or poison in them. It only means that the pollution is officially declared!

Today the main and most problematic indoor pollutions are:

  • VOC – volatile organic compounds
  • Plasticisers
  • Formaldehyd HOCH

Chemistry lab building site

The chemical cocktail in building materials is manifold. Today we know several ten thousand building products and building chemicals. Today on a typical building site we can find about 300 up to 500 different building products. Depending to the quality and ingredients these products determine the indoor air quality, especially at the beginning of the use of the building. Some of them pollute for more than years or decades. The typical “smell of the new” is a reliable footprint of the used building chemicals. Studies show, two to four weeks after the end of the works the concentration of typical indoor air pollutants exceed guidance levels more than 300 up to 1000 %. Thanks to quality standards in call for tenders and product selection the indoor air pollution can be significant reduced. The experience shows that more than 90 % of the pollution could be avoided. The indoor air quality is not only better measurable but also better “sniffable”. Comparative measurements show that applied quality standards lead to better indoor air quality.

Pic. 2: Comparative Measurement – usual TVOC in newly built or renovated buildings. Due to applied quality standards in material selection indoor air quality can be reasonable improved.


Pic. 3: Formaldehyde (HOCH) as indoor air pollutant. Due to quality standards the concentration could be significant reduced.


Instruments for quality assurance

With the “Ökoleitfaden Bau” a guide to quality-assured implementation for sustainability in public buildings was published by the Umweltverband Vorarlberg in 2001. In 2006 the “Servicepaket Nachhaltig:Bauen” as a cooperation of Umweltverband Vorarlberg, Energy Institute Vorarlberg and Spektrum GmbH was established (more information in this post). This service package offers a counselling and support for clients throughout the entire process from planning to implementation and utilisation phase. As one result of this work an internet base database was generated. With this instrument ecological texts for calls for tenders can be automatically generated. Furthermore today there are about 1,500 construction products already listed that meet all quality requirements. About the “Baubook”, I´ll report more in my next post on this blog.

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