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Tips to improve your IEQ

By JOHN NORTON

Green is not just a paint color but a proven way to improve the quality of our lives and those of our families. In these challenging economic times, there are numerous no-cost and low-cost techniques, materials and products we can use to reduce energy/water use and improve our Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ). The payback period for these improvements is rapid.

The average person spends a surprising 90 percent of their time indoors where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that levels of pollutants may run two to five times — and occasionally more than 100 times — higher than outdoor levels. Inhalation of these pollutants goes unnoticed as we have become accustomed to them. They can cause adverse health reactions to those with asthma and allergies and contribute to millions of days absent from school or work. Improving IEQ can decrease sick days by 20 percent and improve productivity by 16 percent, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute.

There are several ways to improve IEQ:

Well-designed buildings and homes can reduce lighting energy use by 50 percent to 80 percent. Daylit spaces increase productivity and reduce illness. Do we really need the blinds closed and the lights on during the day? It also provides us with a connection between indoor spaces and the outdoors.

Air is a community natural resource and Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) contains 40 different compounds that are known to cause cancer, serious ailments and structural damage to our interiors. This includes “secondhand smoke,” so internalizing our negative externalities and smoking outdoors away from others has many positive benefits.

Formaldehyde is a gas emitted from numerous indoor sources (off-gassing). Paints particleboard, plywood, glues, adhesives and most carpets release formaldehyde gas and volatile organic compounds (VOC) into the air. Short-term effects include eye, nose, throat and skin irritation, nausea and headache. There are a number of no and low-VOC paints, cleaning agents and compounds available in home improvement stores. Those with newborns and infants as well as asthma and allergy sufferers should strongly consider this.

Natural ventilation and daylighting are a great no-cost start. Get your kids involved. We give our 4-year-old son a quarter every time he finds a light on with nobody in the room. A Green Audit is a low-cost way (rapid payback) to take that first Green Step and live a longer and healthier life.

John Norton of U.S. Green Building Partners is a longtime La Jolla resident who is temporarily residing in Arizona.