Americans spend most of their time indoors where they can be exposed to pollutants and mold. Indoor air often contains much higher concentrations of pollutants than outdoor air. Indoor air pollution costs Americans tens of billions of dollars each year in health care costs, sick days, and decreased productivity.

There’s a common myth that energy efficient buildings do not promote good indoor air quality, but homes and buildings built to current industry standards are both energy efficient and have good indoor air quality. By following the requirements of the Illinois Energy Conservation Code, you can build tight and ventilate right.

The problem

Building occupants who are exposed to poor indoor air quality often experience short-term health effects, such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, mental fatigue, dizziness, and nausea. Long-term health effects include respiratory disease, heart disease, and cancer.

Long-term effects are especially severe for people with asthma or allergies. In many cases, asthma is associated with indoor air pollution. Given that 1 in 13 children are diagnosed with asthma, ensuring good indoor air quality is a major health priority.

The solution

Energy conservation code requirements ensure that homes and buildings are both energy efficient and have good air quality to prevent health problems. Here are a few residential code requirements, based on the 2018 IECC, that will improve air quality.

R402.1 Building Thermal Envelope. The Code specifies insulation requirements for the ceiling, wall, fenestration, floor, basement wall, slab-edge and crawl space components of the building envelope. Walls must also meet vapor retarder requirements.

R402.4 Air Leakage. The Code has extensive mandatory requirements to control air leakage in buildings and residences. This includes a continuous air barrier and sealing of breaks and joints; an infiltration rate of no more than 0.3 cfm per square foot for windows, skylights, and sliding doors; and testing to verify that the home has an air leakage rate not exceeding 4 air changes per hour.

R403.3 Ducts. Ducts and pipes must also be insulated and sealed. The code specifies leakage rates and requires mandatory duct testing. Insulating and sealing duct work minimizes heat loss and prevents unconditioned air from infiltrating negatively pressurized ducts and conditioned air from leaking at unwanted locations.

R403.6 Mechanical ventilation. Whole house mechanical ventilation is required. Mandatory requirements state that “outdoor air intakes and exhausts shall have automatic or gravity dampers that close when the ventilation system is not operating.”

Learn more about indoor air quality and the energy code by reading our Indoor Air Quality Smart Tip.