Self interest in saving energy dollars helped propel the Energy Star label, and the same self interest may work for the EPA’s new Indoor airPLUS label, a comprehensive indoor air quality standard, specification, and brand that promises comfort and better health. Introduced at end of 2011, the program already lists more than 1,000 homes constructed and branded to the standard.
According to the EPA, most of us spend 90% or more of our time indoors, where the air is usually worse than it is outside. Sources of indoor air pollution include the obvious, tobacco, cooking and heating combustion by-products, and the more subtle pollutants in furniture made of certain press woods, defects in central heating and cooling systems, and environmental poisons such as radon and common pesticides. To mitigate the effects, or avoid these pollutants entirely, the Indoor airPLUS construction standards and specifications address common moisture infiltration issues that contribute to bacterial growth, radon mitigation strategies, pest management without pesticides, mechanical ventilation quality improvements and air cleaning, combustion venting, and interior finish specifications that reduce air chemical content, especially emissions from volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
To earn the Indoor airPLUS label, a builder must first obtain Energy Star certification, and then add up to 30 home design and construction features that protect qualified homes from moisture and mold spores, pests, combustion gases, and other airborne pollutants. Before the home officially earns the Indoor airPLUS label, it is inspected by an independent third party, the same rater providing Energy Star certification inspections, to ensure compliance with EPA’s guidelines and specifications .
As with Energy Star, the EPA provides a marketing program to boast the benefits of improved indoor air quality with consumers. The program also provides some practical advantages to those builders seeking Energy Star and LEED certifications. Energy Star v.3 includes a new section called Moisture Control that is virtually identical with the requirements of Indoor airPlus, and LEED for Homes rating system offers Indoor airPLUS as an alternative pathway it its indoor environmental quality section.
For a quick introduction to Indoor airPLUS, the EPA offers several webinars and videos geared to homeowners, builders and raters on their YouTube Chanel at http://www.youtube.com/USEPAgov.