Occupant's health and energy use in an office building: A sensor-enabled life cycle assessment


Hahn Menacho Á.J., Marvuglia A., Benetto E.


Building and Environment, vol. 236, art. no. 110274, 2023


Indoor air quality (IAQ) has an important impact on human health and productivity. For this reason, its integration into the life cycle assessment (LCA) framework contributes to sustainably manage the operation of a building and improve the living and working conditions in homes and offices. In this study, the damages on human health caused by IAQ are quantified starting from the air pollutants’ concentrations recorded by dedicated sensors placed in an office building located in Luxembourg. Data on concentrations of total volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and radon are combined with estimated occupancy and intake fractions to calculate the total human health impact expressed in Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). The impacts of indoor air quality on human health prove to be relevant, representing one tenth of the score obtained in a conventional LCA on the operational phase of the building. It can be highlighted that radon, a substance usually overlooked in IAQ studies, had the highest impact, contributing to 46% of the impact caused by exposure to indoor pollutants. The heating loads and the influence of different air exchange rates are analyzed starting from a simplified energy model of the building fed with real energy use data. LCA has proven a useful tool to analyze this trade-off in the operation of the building, where it is found that doubling the ventilation rate would reduce the impact of indoor pollutants on human health by 34% while resulting in less than 1% increase in the total energy demand over the studied period.



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