New guide offers good advice on how to "make homes healthier for people and planet"

guide to healthier buildings
via World Green Building Council

The World Green Building Council has some tips about ventilation, insulation and lighting.

As part of the World Climate Summit at COP24, the World Green Building Council has issued a Healthier Homes, Healthier Planet guide. It is really a big infographic with some good general advice and lots of links.

The guide takes a combination of the latest research into air quality, thermal and acoustic comfort and lighting and translates it into simple, low-cost and practical strategies to make the home environment healthier for both people and planet. The world’s buildings have a direct impact both on the environment and on personal health and wellbeing, as well as having huge financial implications to owners and occupiers.

Thermal pageWorld Green Building Council/via

The information is pretty basic, with three main points being that homes need good ventilation, lots of insulation for thermal and acoustic comfort, and to maximize the use of daylight "to lower carbon emissions, reduce energy costs and unlock health benefits."

It consciously avoids backing any one standard or concept, and is sometimes contradictory, as in its ventilation section:

Ventilate your home to clear away the hidden indoor toxins. Increase air flow and freshness simply by opening windows or, if outdoor air is polluted, use efficient mechanical ventilation or hybrid strategies, powered by renewable energy sources.

In the written portion, they note that 92 percent of us live in areas where the outside air is not safe to breathe. And even if outdoor air isn't polluted, a well-sealed and insulated house still needs mechanical ventilation to deal with moisture. The report notes that a third of Canadian buildings have signs of dampness or mould, and that in the USA particulate pollution causes 5 million lost workdays each year. A properly designed mechanical ventilation strategy is needed in every home.

Then there is this recommendation, in lighting:

Renovating or buying a new home? Install roof windows and skylights to deliver twice the amount of daylight as similar-sized façade windows and three times as much as dormer windows.

I usually recommend that one not use skylights where windows are an option; they are more likely to leak, and it is harder to control the amount of solar gain. But then I noticed that one of the sponsors of this guide is Velux, the world's largest manufacturer of skylights.

They also say that "making more use of daylight in our homes through windows and skylights cuts down on artificial lighting, saving energy....Lighting is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions from dwellings across the world." Their footnote points to a Velux document and quotes studies from 2005 through 2012, before the LED revolution.

I suspect that this is no longer true, and that the heat loss and heat gain through windows now exceeds the energy consumed by LED bulbs, and would have thought that the latest best advice was to have windows big enough to frame views and provide enough natural light to satisfy our biological circadian needs, and no more. But hey, another sponsor of this document is Saint Gobain, the world's largest producer of glass.

Perhaps my biggest reservation is based on the fact that so many of the air quality issues come from pollution caused by transportation, but there is no discussion about urban form, about density, about building size. All of these should be part of any discussion about better places for people.

Generally, outside of what I think is a bias towards glassy products, this guide is a great introduction to the essentials of ventilation, insulation and good lighting. Download it here from the World Green Building Council.

New guide offers good advice on how to "make homes healthier for people and planet"
The World Green Building Council has some tips about ventilation, insulation and lighting.

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