In the fight for better indoor air quality, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) represent a substantial portion of common pollutants found within the built environment, and here, we’re offering our best tips to help reduce them.
A Quick Recap
VOCs come in a variety of forms and can be found in products commonly used to create and maintain buildings. Furniture, carpet, cleaning products, many of these products have VOCs that, once inside of a space, get released into the air through a process known as ‘off-gassing.’ Sometimes they’re odorless, sometimes they’re not. The main issue with them is the health problems they cause.
According to the EPA website, some commonly reported symptoms related to VOCs in general are eye, nose, or throat irritation, headaches, lightheadedness or respiratory issues.
Tips to Reduce VOCs in Buildings
The tips listed here deal with keeping VOCs from making it into the house in the first place. This boils down to being aware of the materials being used in a project, and how much of an impact certain design elements can make in mitigating indoor air pollution.
Used throughout the home, and often one of the most potent contributors of VOCs, is paint. This is because many paints use VOCs as a solvent to help the paint mix better, help it adhere to walls better or help it to keep dirt and moisture out.
However, it’s getting easier and easier to find low- to no-VOC paint on the market. You can check out this article we have that talks about some of these alternative paint solutions that offer comparable performance and color to many modern VOC-laden paints.
Reused, Refurbished, Reclaimed
Reused and repurposed have garnered incredible popularity in recent times for their extra character and sustainability factor. However, there’s another hidden benefit most might not know about.
The most off-gassing for a new product occurs within a year or two of it being introduced into a space. By using materials in a project like recycled carpet or used furniture in a project, the risk off-gassing is either greatly reduced or eliminated entirely. So, in adding a splash of eco-conscious style, designers can also help keep the air safe, healthy and free of VOCs.
While cleaners themselves are a significant contributor to pollution in the home, many might not realize that these products routinely off-gas even while not in use. That’s why its integral to ensure that cleaning products and any other products containing VOCs have proper storage to prevent them from entering a space.
Going into the next project with this in mind could make a huge difference in keeping harmful chemicals separate from areas where people are expected to be.
Reduction and Elimination
In situations where VOCs simply can’t be avoided, or they’re already in a home, reduction and elimination tactics take center stage. Here, integrators can provide immense help, being able to offer a variety of connected, healthy home solutions that will help cut down on pollution levels indoors.
By increasing the amount of airflow in a space, VOCs have no opportunity to accumulate. It’s as the saying goes: “the best solution is dilution.” The simplest strategy will always be open windows and a box fan, but having proper ventilation systems installed (ceiling fans, fume hoods, HVAC, etc.) will ensure that clean air can make it into the home even during colder winter months where open windows are less desired.
When ventilation simply isn’t enough, air cleaning devices provide a substantial service in mitigating VOCs. A cleaner that uses activated carbon or another type of sorbent material will provide the best results, as the gaseous VOCs won’t be caught by traditional HEPA fabric filters. Deploying one of these in a client’s space and coupling it with a smart VOC monitor will provide a one-two punch of monitoring and mitigation.
And be wary of electric ionization purifiers. Efficacy varies on these specific devices, and in some cases, they can generate even more pollutants in a space.
Chemicals are far less likely to off-gas at lower temperatures and humidity than they are at higher levels. By providing an effective climate control solution in a space, temperature and humidity can be kept as low as possible/comfortable to significantly reduce off-gas rates on products.
It’s also worth noting that these solutions need not only apply to homes in particular, offices, hospitality spaces, healthcare environments and more can all benefit from this types of practices.