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Focus on improving indoor air quality in Europe

Over the next four years, researchers at UiA will look at how the use of wood affects indoor climate and health in workplaces, public buildings, and private homes. The findings may lead to changes in the building regulations in Norway and Europe.

The image shows a meeting room with people sitting around a table.
UiA will examine how wood materials affect indoor climate and health in the workplace. Credit: Colourbox.com

This is clear after the European Commission recently granted just over NOK 80 million to the joint European research project Knowledge for improving indoor AIR quality and HEALTH - K-HEALTHinAIR. The money has been allocated through Horizon Europe, the EU framework programme that funds scientific research.

6 million to UiA

The University of Agder’s share in the project amounts to nearly NOK 6 million, and the researchers at the Bioenergy and Thermal Energy research group at the Faculty of Engineering and Science in Grimstad are responsible for the Norwegian contribution, where the work is led by Professor Henrik Kofoed Nielsen.

Bilde av professor Henrik Kofoed Nilsen

Professor Henrik Kofoed Nilsen.

“We know that indoor air quality is of great importance for well-being, health and productivity - not least here in Norway, where most of us are indoors for up to 90 per cent of the day due to the climatic conditions. However, we don’t know enough about what exactly it is that affects our health, and what the exact effects are. This is what we now want to explore”, says Kofoed Nielsen.

Focus on chemical and biological pollution

The main aim of the research is to collect measurement data to assess how indoor air quality affects people’s health. This is done by monitoring air quality and measuring the amount of chemical and biological pollutants in indoor locations such as offices, canteens and hotel rooms in a number of EU countries. Pilot tests will also be carried out using newly developed room sensors and portable sensors.

The data collected will then be used to identify pollutants, how they affect the indoor climate, and how they affect the health of the people who use the premises.

Norwegian focus on wood and pollution

UiA’s contribution to the project is to look at the use of wood for indoor surfaces and buildings. Wood emits both biological and chemical substances to its surroundings, and exchanges moisture and heat.

“More specifically, we will look at whether wooden surfaces are good for health and well-being. We believe so, and we know that wood is generally good in this respect, not least when it comes to the feel, smell and also building engineering physics. But we don't know enough – yet”, says Kofoed Nielsen.

The research at UiA includes pilot tests in canteens and student accommodation in Southern Norway, among other things. The university will also establish a separate simulation lab for the project, to examine the chemical and biological emissions from various wooden surfaces. Pilot tests will also be carried out using newly developed room sensors as well as portable sensors.

Basis for new science-based regulations

The findings from the research will be published on an open access platform that will give architects, structural engineers, public authorities and healthcare professionals easy access to the knowledge that the project generates. They will also form the basis for new legislations, regulations and both national and supranational standards for indoor air quality in, for example, public buildings and in existing workplaces.

In addition, it is a stated aim that the project will deliver innovative equipment and tools to monitor and measure indoor air quality for identifying health risks and suggesting suitable solutions to mitigate them.

International participants

The partners in the research project come from eight countries in Europe. They are:

At UiA, in addition to Henrik Kofoed Nielsen, Associate Professor Tore Sandnes Vehus, Assistant Professor Preben Aanensen and PhD Research Fellow Javad Darvishi, all from the Department of Engineering Sciences, are participating. Two more PhD research fellows will also be involved in the research project.

 

 

What is air quality?

  • Good or bad air quality is a measure of the level of air pollution, that is gases and particles that have an adverse effect on health and the environment.
  • When working to improve air quality, a distinction is often made between outdoor and indoor air quality. Emissions from industry and combustion were the dominant outdoor sources for many generations. Road traffic and other transport emissions also have an impact on outdoor air pollution.
  • Indoor sources often have a different composition of gases that affect health and the environment overall. For example, wood can emit organic acids such as acetic acid and formic acid. PVC in electrical wiring can emit hydrochloric acid. Copiers and printers can produce ozone (O3). And humans exhale both carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia (NH3) – all chemical and biological substances that affect health and the environment.

Source: NILU