Indoor & Outdoor Air Quality

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How Important is Indoor & Outdoor Air Quality?

Air quality is a primary factor in human health. Consider that while humans can endure several days without food or water, breathing toxic air can be fatal within seconds. Back in 1984, for example, in Bhopal, India, the Union Carbide plant located there experienced a major disaster due to a gas leak of methyl isocyanate (MIC) that immediately killed 2,259 people. This is considered one of the worst industrial disasters worldwide. This is an extreme example of how important indoor and outdoor air quality is to preserving human life and also human health.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Generally, residences do not have extremes in low air quality indices that industrial and commercial facility may have. Fortunately, indoor air quality can be measured and tested by professionals using air quality tracking devices and air quality monitors and meters. This equipment measures:
. Indoor temperature
. Carbon monoxide
. Carbon dioxide
. Formaldehyde
. Radon
. Humidity

These are part of components found in indoor air. In the state of Florida, indoor air quality should be compared to outdoor air quality due to higher levels of humidity that can produce mold and mildew indoors and out.

In industrial facilities with high levels of production or chemical emissions, indoor air quality testing and/or monitoring is required by state or federal compliance on an annual basis. These facilities submit indoor air quality test results to these agencies for compliance reviews.

There is a difference in testing protocols for indoor air quality for residences and industrial or commercial facilities. In residences, indoor air quality may be compromised due to faulty HVAC equipment, appliances, radon or formaldehyde. Poor indoor air quality in Florida residences may originate from variable sources not found in commercial and industrial facilities.

In industrial and commercial facilities, indoor air is based on the prevalence of regularly used equipment, fluids and additives. For example, in a pharmaceutical testing laboratory, indoor air is tested for several types of gases used in testing protocols for drug components.

In commercial facilities, such as office buildings, indoor air quality may be affected by stockpiling paper for printing devices. In this case, microorganisms in printing paper chemicals may be released into the air and cause skin or lung problems. In production facilities, indoor air can be compromised by emissions from certain regularly produced products.

Outdoor Air Quality

The issue of outdoor air quality has a broader realm of issues due to the fact that outdoor air is a conglomeration of emissions from numerous sources. The method used to test outdoor air quality is to first measure the actual outdoor property to determine where the property lines begin and end. This is done so that when outdoor air quality is tested, originating sources of contaminants are more easily detected.

In some cases, air quality testing professionals may require a modeling sample to gauge the type of emissions being released outdoors. These models tell IAQ professionals the distance the plumes of emissions can travel over a specific period of time. Outdoor air quality testing may be done for a variety of emissions.

Rely on Compliance Enforcement for Clean Air

In urban areas, carbon monoxide might be a major emission released into outdoor air. However, several types of dust, petrochemical, electric and gas from production facilities also reduce outdoor air quality. This is usually remediated through the use of air monitoring devices and detectors that use electronic indicators.  In Florida, the Florida Health Department enforces the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act (FCIAA) to ensure indoor and outdoor air quality remain in compliance and do not jeopardize residents’ health.

Green Roofs

Green roofs have actually been around since human beings started putting roofs on their dwellings. They are simply roofs that have traded in more traditional materials such as asphalt, tile, and metal for living plants. They are becoming more and more popular in the urban areas of the world. Besides being aesthetically pleasing, they are energy efficient and cool down the buildings where they are placed. A metropolitan area with a good number of green roofs can actually cool much of the city during the warmer months and lessen the urban heat island effect, where buildings and hardscaping absorb and hold on to heat. Green roofs clean the air, reduce the runoff of storm water and prolong the life of the roof itself. They create jobs, are somewhat fire retardant and reduce noise levels.

Green roofs support biodiversity, especially in cities. Visiting a green roof lowers stress and can improve the overall health of the visitors. They are excellent social and educational spaces, and some serve as community gardens whose food can be sold or given away.

There are two main types of green roof. The intensive green roof is a type of park, with paths, benches, trees, shrubs and flowers. Extensive green roofs tend to be covered with native plants that are often used as ground cover, such as grasses. Some green roofs are a combination of the two or are large enough to have an intensive area and an extensive area.

How They Work

skyscraper-1697170_640Green roofs takeadvantage of the fact that plants absorb pollutants and dust and filter unhealthy gasses while they breathe out oxygen and take in carbon dioxide. They cool off the area because of the natural evaporation cycle and by covering hard surfaces such as black tar or asphalt that become very hot during the summer. This reduces a building’s energy bill. The plants absorb rainwater and prevent wasteful stormwater run off.

The green roof prolongs the life of the roof by protecting its waterproof membrane. An exposed membrane can be damaged by the sun’s ultraviolet rays and extremes of temperature. The green roof retards fires because its burning heat load is lower than that of traditional roofs. The burning heat load is the heat that’s created when something burns. Plants also absorb sounds.

The plants on the green roof are natural host and food plants for many beneficial species, including butterflies. Birds may nest in the trees of extensive green roofs. Green roofs also provide migrating birds temporary food, shelter, and rest.

What is Grown on Them

A surprising number of plants can be grown on a green roof. An extensive green roof can even support trees, but the floor of the roof needs to be sturdy enough to hold the weight of at least a foot of soil as well as the weight of the trees and other plants.

Other types of plants grown on roof range from moss to ornamental grasses to fruits and vegetables.

States Best for Green Roofs

It appears that green roofs can be grown in every state in the United States. Famous green roofs are found in Chicago’s City Hall, the Zeckendorf Towers in Manhattan and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Even the Pentagon has a green roof