The past few years have made us all more aware of the importance of good air quality within our buildings, writes John O’Gorman, national sales and specification manager, Kingspan Technical Insulation Ireland. This is not simply about preventing the spread of infectious diseases, but also reducing the concentrations of indoor air pollutants such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
These compounds are emitted by a range of building materials and can have a serious impact on the health of occupants. Building services engineers can help to address this by specifying materials which are recognised as low emitters of VOCs under the Eurofins Indoor Air Comfort standard.
VOCs are described as ‘volatile’ as they have a fairly low boiling point. This causes their molecules to become more active at room temperature, allowing them to spread into the surrounding air.
The compounds are released by a number of materials found in a typical indoor environment, including everything from cleaning products to carpets and paints. They can also be released by some of the insulation materials used on pipe and ductwork.
VOCs have been linked with a variety of health issues. Depending on the length and concentration of exposure, these can vary from relatively minor issues - such as dizziness and shortness of breath – to serious impacts including damage to internal organs and the central nervous system. Studies have also shown an association between VOC exposure and asthma in young children.
While well designed ventilation can help to reduce VOC concentrations, the most effective approach is still to address these at source by using materials which are identified as low emitters. The Eurofins Indoor Air Comfort (IAC) programme helps specifiers to quickly and easily identify products which meet these requirements.
The Eurofins IAC has been created to harmonise the criteria within the various VOC emissions standards across Europe. Two levels of certification are available:
Standard Certification – Identifying that the product complies with minimum mandatory VOC emissions standards within European countries including France, Germany and Italy.
Gold Certification – This recognises the product is also compliant with many of the most demanding voluntary performance standards and can be recognised as being an outstanding material according to the VOC Indoor Air Quality emissions regulations.
To achieve a gold rating, products have to pass rigorous emissions testing and a process of continuous auditing. Recently certified products are subjected to emission testing and production site inspections every year to ensure low emissions. As a result, installers and specifiers can have confidence that the performance and quality of certified products will be maintained over time.
A growing number of construction products are now certified under the Eurofins IAC Gold programme, including Kingspan Kooltherm Pipe and Duct Insulation. Work is also under way to consider VOC emissions within the harmonised European Standards for the CE Marking of products.
As buildings are insulated to a higher level to meet the net zero targets, they will become more airtight. This means ensuring a good level of air quality will become increasingly important.
In addition to ensuring properties are well ventilated, specifiers should also consider how the use of building services insulation materials with low-VOC emissions can help to safeguard the health of occupants.
For more information:
Kingspan Insulation Ltd, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.T: +353 (0) 42 975 4219. E: email@example.com
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