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Good indoor air quality - a human right for our children

Part 2 Dissertation 2004
Barry Hillen
Queen's University Belfast UK
“We shape our buildings, then our buildings shape us.” - Winston Churchill

The aim of my dissertation is to explore recent evidence correlating infant mortality and morbidity with the exposure to toxins found in poor indoor air quality.

In the last decade a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that air within homes can be more seriously polluted than outdoor air in the largest and most industrialised cities. Whilst pollution levels from individual sources may not pose a significant health risk independently, most homes have more than one source that contributes to indoor air pollution, thus posing a serious risk from the cumulative effects of these sources.

Since the industrial revolution changes in work patterns and habits has resulted in the majority of the world's population shifting from rural to urban areas spending at least 90% of each day indoors, with 75% in their home. Young children are most susceptible to indoor air quality as they are likely to spend a greater percentage of time in the home.

Today few architects may have an appreciation that many of their designs are contributing to the health problems of buildings occupants. A house is therefore not simply a benign structure in which we live, it is a complex active enclosure where the occupants become an integral part of that system. It is therefore imperative that architects are aware of the health of their home designs, focusing predominantly on health as a design element. A healthy home is one which does not compromise the health of its occupants. Environmental management is the process aimed at keeping harmful substances away from humans or down to levels that will not cause harm.

Given the size and complexity of environmental and health issues, examining the impact of buildings on children’s health is essential to ensure human and economic development.

Children are particularly vulnerable to environmental hazards. They cannot be considered as little adults since their physiology, respiratory rate, metabolism, diet and behaviour are different compared to adults. Furthermore it is important to focus on children, because children’s health is a basic human right.

Barry Hillen

The author had a child who was a cot death victim and he was concerned to see whether there may be an explanation in indoor pollution for this problem. Despite this emotional connection with the subject the analysis is careful, objective and scientific.This is a mature piece of work which investigates a vitally important aspect of sustainable building which is largely overlooked at the moment. I was surprised to find that the student had uncovered much material which I was unaware of. Having been a dissertations prize judge before I would certainly feel it was worth reading.

Tom Woolley

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