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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(3), 314; doi:10.3390/ijerph14030314

Health and Wellbeing of Occupants in Highly Energy Efficient Buildings: A Field Study

1
Institute of Environmental Health, Center for Public Health, Medical University Vienna, Kinderspitalgasse 15, 1090 Vienna, Austria
2
Austrian Institute for Healthy and Ecological Building, Alserbachstraße 5, 1090 Vienna, Austria
3
Institute of Sociology, University of Vienna, Rooseveltplatz 2, 1090 Vienna, Austria
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Paul B. Tchounwou
Received: 30 December 2016 / Revised: 21 February 2017 / Accepted: 15 March 2017 / Published: 19 March 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Indoor Air Quality and Health 2016)
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Abstract

Passive houses and other highly energy-efficient buildings need mechanical ventilation. However, ventilation systems in such houses are regarded with a certain degree of skepticism by parts of the public due to alleged negative health effects. Within a quasi-experimental field study, we investigated if occupants of two types of buildings (mechanical vs. natural ventilation) experience different health, wellbeing and housing satisfaction outcomes and if associations with indoor air quality exist. We investigated 123 modern homes (test group: with mechanical ventilation; control group: naturally ventilated) built in the years 2010 to 2012 in the same geographic area and price range. Interviews of occupants based on standardized questionnaires and measurements of indoor air quality parameters were conducted twice (three months after moving in and one year later). In total, 575 interviews were performed (respondents’ mean age 37.9 ± 9 years in the test group, 37.7 ± 9 years in the control group). Occupants of the test group rated their overall health status and that of their children not significantly higher than occupants of the control group at both time points. Adult occupants of the test group reported dry eyes statistically significantly more frequently compared to the control group (19.4% vs. 12.5%). Inhabitants of energy-efficient, mechanically ventilated homes rated the quality of indoor air and climate significantly higher. Self-reported health improved more frequently in the mechanically ventilated new homes (p = 0.005). Almost no other significant differences between housing types and measuring time points were observed concerning health and wellbeing or housing satisfaction. Associations between vegetative symptoms (dizziness, nausea, headaches) and formaldehyde concentrations as well as between CO2 levels and perceived stale air were observed. However, both associations were independent of the type of ventilation. In summary, occupants of the mechanically ventilated homes rated their health status slightly higher and their health improved significantly more frequently than in occupants of the control group. As humidity in homes with mechanical ventilation was lower, it seems plausible that the inhabitants reported dry eyes more frequently. View Full-Text
Keywords: energy efficient buildings; housing; indoor air quality; mechanical ventilation; natural ventilation; self-reported health; perception energy efficient buildings; housing; indoor air quality; mechanical ventilation; natural ventilation; self-reported health; perception
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MDPI and ACS Style

Wallner, P.; Tappler, P.; Munoz, U.; Damberger, B.; Wanka, A.; Kundi, M.; Hutter, H.-P. Health and Wellbeing of Occupants in Highly Energy Efficient Buildings: A Field Study. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 314.

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