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Principle Investigator: Francis J. Offermann PE CIH
Indoor Environmental Engineering
Sponsors: TBD

The primary goal of this study is to obtain information on ventilation characteristics and indoor air quality (IAQ) in multi-family homes through a field study.

Concerns have been raised regarding whether households use windows, doors, exhaust fans, and other mechanical ventilation devices enough to remove indoor air pollutants and excess moisture. This is of special concern in lower socio-economic multi-family housing where in cold weather the tenants keep all windows closed and use little or heat, which results in excessive condensation of water vapor onto indoor surfaces with ensuing mold growth. Various building materials, heating and cooking appliances, and other products used in homes can emit substantial amounts of formaldehyde, other toxic air contaminants, combustion pollutants, and/or water vapor. Building practices and building standards for energy efficiency have led to more tightly-sealed homes that rely on occupants to open windows for ventilation. IEE is currently conducting a similar study of 108 new single family detached homes do for completion in December, 2007. However, there is very little information on current ventilation practices, IAQ, or indoor pollutant sources in multi-family homes.

Project Summary

We will study multi-family homes from three climatic regions, including a subset of homes with mechanical fresh-air ventilation systems. We will measure and record ventilation characteristics, including window opening and closing, indoor pollutant concentrations, residents’ ventilation practices, residents’ IAQ perceptions, and residents’ decision factors for ventilation and IAQ-related actions. Measurements of indoor and outdoor air quality and ventilation parameters will be made in the summer and winter. Indoor air levels of volatile organic compounds, aldehydes, PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, and airborne mold spores will be measured over one day. Home ventilation will be determined through tracer gas measurements, building leakage measurements, window use measurement, air flow measurements of fan systems, and occupant diaries.

This project has the following specific objectives:

1. Determine how residents use windows, doors, and mechanical ventilation devices, such as exhaust fans and central heating and air-conditioning systems.

2. Measure and characterize indoor air quality (IAQ), ventilation, and the potential sources of indoor pollutants.

3. Determine residents perceptions of, and satisfaction with, the IAQ in their homes.

4. Examine the relationships among home ventilation characteristics, measured and perceived IAQ, and house and household characteristics.

5. Identify the incentives and barriers that influence people’s use of windows, doors, and mechanical ventilation devices for adequate air exchange.

6. Identify the incentives and barriers related to people’s purchases and practices that improve IAQ, such as the use of low-emitting building materials and improved air filters.