14527895_mBRUSSELS: Representatives of some of Europe’s most influential associations and institutes have warned the European Commission of the potential conflict between energy efficiency and indoor air quality.

Experts from REHVA, the Federation of European Heating, Ventilating and Air-conditioning Associations, have prepared a position paper on indoor air quality and climate addressing policy makers and authorities.

The paper points out the potential conflicts between energy efficiency, occupancy and indoor air quality and climate.

“During the last decade, energy efficiency of buildings has gained a lot of attention due to ambitious energy efficiency targets,” says REHVA. “However, building energy use related legislation has been developed without paying much attention to indoor air quality. The binding goals for energy savings have not been complemented with binding requirements of indoor air quality.”

REHVA also points to a statement in the the recast Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD) that indoor air quality cannot be compromised. The Association stresses that this needs further regulatory actions to be realised.

Negative health effects

REHVA maintains that it strongly supports the target of nearly zero energy buildings by 2020 but says “proper requirements for indoor air quality shall be set to ensure that energy efficiency initiatives do not jeopardize indoor air quality and, thus, the health of building inhabitants.”

With 2013 dubbed by the EU as the European Year of Air, the position paper highlights what it says are the negative health effects caused by various pollutants including asthma, allergy and heart disease and many other minor health problems. It also maintains that poor indoor air quality also has a negative impact on productivity, performance at work and learning at schools. It refers to the 2009 European-wide EnVIE report on the health impact of poor indoor air quality which reported that around 2,000,000 disability life years are lost annually in EU-27 countries as a result.

The recent HealthVent project to develop ventilation guidelines to protect people against health problems caused by poor indoor air quality, while ensuring that energy is utilised efficiently, revealed the lack of indoor air quality and ventilation regulations in Europe.

“National regulations do not exist or are not harmonised and, in many cases, are not properly formulated,” says REHVA.

Actions

The Association calls on the European Commission “to follow the recommendation of the EnVIE report to develop a Green Paper on indoor air quality to launch the policy debate and assess the different policy options to fully tackle indoor pollution, and include the indoor air quality issues in the directives related to air quality.”

In addition it says the Commission should develop health-based ventilation guidelines and mandate regular inspection and maintenance of all ventilation systems; integrate indoor air quality into the EU Climate Action agenda, EPBD and Eco-Design and energy labelling directives; take measures to implement the particular provisions on indoor air quality set out in the 7th Environment Action Programme.

REHVA members are drawn from across Europe and include such influential bodies as the UK’s CIBSE, the German engineers association VDI, the French air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration  engineers association AICVF and Italy’s association of air conditioning heating and refrigeration AICARR.