Climate change on Indoor Environments

Rajiv Sahay, Ph.D., CIAQP, FIAS
Director, Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory
4911-C Creekside Dr., Clearwater, FL 33760

Indoor environment and air quality issues may be adversely impacted due to climate change. The variance in climate conditions over an extended period of time which is not consistent with the existing distribution of weather patterns can be referred as “Climate Change”. These changes are the result of artificial or natural actions, including manmade activities. These changes can be influential to building environments. Many existing buildings were designed to operate under conditions that were prevalent during that particular period and are inadequate for proper functioning under changing climatic conditions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Science SnowpicMicroreviewto summarize the current state of scientific understanding of the effects of climate change on indoor air and public health, and to offer priorities for action. The report of IOM concludes that climate change influences indoor environmental quality, warranting attention and action. Indoor Air Quality; dampness, moisture and flooding; infectious agents and pests; thermal stress and building ventilation, weatherization, and energy use are identified as major types of climate-induced indoor environmental problems.

The committee prioritizes consideration of health effects into research, policy, programs, and regulatory agendas that address climate change and buildings; make prevention of adverse exposures a primary goal in designing and implementing strategies to address health effects; and collection of data to be used in making better-informed decisions in future priority issues. Also, some specific recommendations are made by the committee to provide healthy living and productivity by the occupants through adopting, revising or initiating new building codes in design and operation to meet the challenges posed by climate change.

It is not necessarily guaranteed that an altered climate change will introduce new risks for building occupants, but it may make existing indoor environmental problems more widespread and more severe, thus increasing the urgency with which prevention and interventions must be pursued.

A-biological, biological, chemical and environmental contaminants of buildings provide some vital clues on building structure, operation and maintenance issues elicited due to climate change. Extreme weather patterns like drought, extreme heat, snow and ice, flooding, hurricane, snowstorm, wildfire, volcanoes, earthquake, etc. can cause situations that directly or indirectly influence the indoor environment. A number of tests, from Do-It-Yourself screen tests to detailed environmental diagnostic evaluations are available to help collect and identify indoor environmental contaminants resulting from climatic changes.

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