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green home diagram

Do ‘green’ buildings have better air quality?

The Research

Thousands of residential buildings around the world are “green” certified, primarily because they’re designed to reduce energy cost and consumption. But to date, we know little about healthy air quality in eco-conscious structures. Researchers from Rutgers University and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University measured and compared particulate matter levels in two green developments. They evaluated how ventilation, occupant behavior, and building design impact indoor air.

The Results

Researchers focused on two structures: “Building E” is an Energy Star affordable housing development with natural ventilation through windows, kitchen and bathroom vents, and at least one window air conditioner in the majority of apartments; “Building L” is a luxury, LEED Platinum development with a central, filtered air conditioning system and kitchen and bathroom vents. At 56 micrograms per cubic meter, the median particulate matter level was over 50 percent higher in Building E than in Building L, where the median reading was 37 micrograms per cubic meter.

The Takeaway

Living in a “green” building doesn’t guarantee fresh, healthy air, as those certifications don’t necessarily indicate how well-ventilated a building is. Open windows and indoor habits, such as smoking and cooking, contribute to indoor particulate pollution, which may require an extra layer of ventilation to maintain clean air.