ICR2011 highlights: indoor air-quality issues in passive buildings

Polish specialists recommend mechanical ventilation for passive buildings
Passive buildings are constructed with a view to minimizing energy losses to the environment; therefore they tend to be equipped with 100% sealed windows, doors and walls. This may lead to a sick-building-syndrome problem (SBS) as the natural airflow may not be sufficient to eliminate possible contaminants from the air. The most hazardous air pollutants are anthropogenic (resulting from people’s activity such as gas combustion, smoking, vacuuming, cooking, remodelling, etc.), microbiological (dust, fungi, etc.) or from building materials (chemicals, dust), and ventilation is also required to remove high carbon-dioxide and water-vapour levels or even carbon monoxide.

SBS is claimed to have been noticed very often in passive buildings according to Müller and Skrzyniowska from Cracow University of Technology, (Faculty of Technological Engineering, Institute of Thermal Engineering and Air-Protection, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Department) in a paper presented at the IIR Congress in Prague in 2011.
The disorder involves a combination of affections such as impressions of stiff air, irritated mucous membranes, headaches and dizziness, excessive fatigue, nausea, skin rashes, concentration problems and even in some cases, fainting. Müller and Skrzyniowska claim that passive buildings should not rely solely on natural ventilation –– incidentally one of the most common types of ventilation systems in many places, including Poland –– but rather on mechanical ventilation, the only system that they claim can ensure sufficient air-renewal rates and may be easily controlled and equipped with heat recovery devices or filters and can effectively use natural sources of heat and cold.

Countrary to the commonplace opinion in Poland, they claim that ensuring proper ventilation rates does not generate excessive heating costs, and that in an average Polish 5-person house, adequate mechanical ventilation would only amount to  190€ per year.

(1) Indoor Air Quality Problems in Passive Buildings, Müller et al.