Fenestration: Enhancing Indoor Air Quality in Environmental Justice Communities
At the recent Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) Fall Conference, attendees delved into the pivotal role the industry can play in mitigating indoor air pollutants in communities disproportionately affected by construction projects. Dr. Nicholas Clements, a researcher from the University of Colorado Boulder, delivered an illuminating presentation titled, “The Role of Indoor Air Quality in Environmental Justice Communities Impacted by Construction.”
A Closer Look at Environmental Justice Communities
Clements was part of a groundbreaking study in Denver, where small sensors were employed to monitor indoor air quality within 32 households. These households belonged to four communities recognized as environmental justice (EJ) communities—areas burdened by a legacy of discriminatory housing policies, including redlining, and further impacted by infrastructure projects such as highways. Residents of these communities have endured adverse health effects stemming from proximity to sources of air, water, soil, and noise pollution.
The Four Affected Communities
All four of these EJ communities are located in North Denver: Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, Cole, and Clayton. Clements shed light on the Colorado Home Energy Efficiency and Respiratory Health (CHEER) Study’s design, which scrutinized aerosols and gases affecting indoor air quality (IAQ).
Identifying Pollution Sources
Clements explained, “IAQ sources encompass indoor factors like molds, emissions from candles or wood burning, printers, cleaning activities, cooking-related emissions, and more. Outdoor pollution stems from traffic, industry, construction, and regional transportation.” The study incorporated focus groups, surveys, and participant interviews, with three distinct cohorts addressing various facets: environmental engineering, computer science, and social science.
Innovative Air Cleaning Solutions
The environmental engineering team devised a DIY air cleaner for home use, employing box fans and filters. Meanwhile, the computer science team harnessed participant data to develop user-friendly apps, including a trip planner. The social sciences team contextualized survey responses and conducted pre- and post-study focus groups and interviews.
Clements emphasized that participants from all four EJ communities were equally represented. “We conducted focus groups with them, discussing construction issues, health impacts, and community integration,” he explained.
Advanced Sensor Technology
The study utilized credit card-sized sensors with GPS location tracking capabilities to monitor particulate matter concentrations. DIY air cleaners were designed to be effective, cost-efficient, and user-friendly.
Improving Indoor Air Quality
Clements highlighted the study’s key finding: pollution levels decreased with increasing distance from construction sites. Furthermore, he underscored the vital role of ventilation in enhancing indoor air quality. “Mechanical ventilation, such as fans, and natural ventilation, like opening windows, are effective options,” he noted.
Source: FGIAonline.org with additional information added by Apazone