Warsaw 19 August 2013
Who better understands the impact of CO₂ mitigation than the SOLIDEA Groups EVE® team? During the many technical due diligence and conditional surveys to date the EVE® team has recorded thousands of insulation, air tightness, and other building defects. But did you know ongoing insulation of buildings in Central and Eastern Europe designed to mitigate CO₂ emission actually puts lives at risk?
The Hazards of Radon
After cigarette smoking and radon exposure together, cigarette smoking and thereafter radon alone are the number one cause of lung cancer in the European Union. As more people stop smoking [and stop smoking near others] lung cancer cases clearly decrease as a result of smoking habits. However cases of lung cancer as a result of building sickness and radon exposure are increasing at an alarming rate.
Exposure to the effects of Radon are reduced by better building methods, methods that prevent radon entering occupied space. In older buildings the risks can only be reduced by ensuring proper room ventilation where we work, eat and sleep.
Central and Eastern Europe’s post war apartments, schools and places of work are simply constructed, they are designed and built without adequate means of room ventilation and as there are no requirements to dissipate radon gas in the local building codes few people understand or realize the risks of prolonged exposure to radon.
Luckily for the long term occupants of much of Central and Eastern Europe’s old building stock [and new] they are poorly maintained where heat insulation and air tightness is inadequate unplanned air circulation maintains the minimum of indoor air quality the risk from radon exposure is reduced simply because the walls and roof are defective.
Mandatory Insulation Schemes
The demand for CO₂ mitigation in Central Europe has created mandatory schemes to insulate existing buildings to reduce heat loss. Building insulation projects in most cases means simply applying insulation and an external render to the building facade. Heat loss is reduced CO₂ is mitigated but this not the end of the story.
Insulation and rendering over an existing facade creates a new tighter insulation barrier which reduces heat loss but it also inhibits air-permeability, less air is circulated ventilation is reduced radon exposure is increased. Failure to monitor and design an appropriate upgrade of the ventilation system for installation works increases the impact of radon on the building occupier.
Since banks, lenders, designers, suppliers and contractors profit from these works [and the occupants often have no say in the issue] it is the duty of all of these parties to ensure that projects for mitigating CO₂ do not compromise the health and well being of the building occupier. An improved ventilation regime is required and after works are completed “before and after” indoor air quality data is a necessity to prove that works truly added value for the building user.
“Most mandatory insulation schemes in Central and Eastern Europe are poorly planned compromising the indoor air quality, they risk the well being even the lives of the building occupier”.
Test for radon
Independent advisers are required to take radon tests before design and as part of the design works. The radon test should be repeated and as a control before construction can commence. The findings of the radon tests has a significant impact on the design of the insulation project, it is the initial risk study necessary to safe guard the health and welfare of the building occupiers. As radon levels can vary even over a short time period and as radon can be dispersed through adequate ventilation air permeability tests too should be carried out in the design due diligence period.
Radon test can be carried out instantly with new hand held devices however the effects of radon gas are not equal. A series or a multiple of three day test must be carried out in parallel to any instant site survey to obtain reliable field data.
Any designs for new insulation works cannot compromise the indoor air quality. Most older buildings in Central and Eastern Europe already offer poor indoor air quality, insulation of the building and making good to fenestration can make the indoor air quality marginally worse. At least the low cost materials such as styrenes used as insulation tend to emit VOC’s which are also detrimental to building user health and well being, so a new ventilation regime must be designed and introduced during insulation works.
Test for air permeability are testimony to successful insulation works, the “Blower Door Test” is an appropriate device for calculating air permeability before and after insulation works. The blower door test can be carried out at random to quantify the level of air permeability. Hand held CO₂ detection equipment can also provide valuable data for indoor air quality and indicate still areas.
Simply by comparing original data with after the project handover data any project team can demonstrate improvement to indoor air quality and the data required to provide peace of mind.
What is Radon Gas?
Radon gas has no color and no odor, it occurs naturally under the ground a product from the decomposition of Uranium a process that will occur for thousands of years to come. Uranium is a common substance in small amounts almost everywhere, the more the local Uranium intensity the higher the risk and concentration of radon gas. Where local building technique does not accommodate the dissipation of radon gas it finds its way through soil or gravel to accumulate in our homes and places of work. Radon gas most readily accumulates in basements, attics and other voids where ventilation is least adequate. Where ventilation is compromised increased concentration of radon gas is most likely.
Radon in Poland and Ukraine
Occurrence of radon risk in homes and places of work varies in the Central European region few independent nationwide studies have been undertaken and no reliable studies are completed.
Although Uranium and radon intensity is most likely highest nearest the Sudeten [and location of Uranium mining] and the Carpathian mountains in the South West and South East of Poland and in the South East of Ukraine. Elsewhere levels of radon in both countries vary extensively.
Where can you find help?
EVE® team in Poland are dedicated to energy value engineering and the mitigation of CO₂ we can provide expert services for technical due diligence, we have thermographic imaging equipment for handover as well as having the capability for testing for radon, CO₂ and other indoor quality issues.
EVE® provide advice on proper ventilation design for the safety of building occupants hands on and through participation at design workshops EVE® offer peace of mind for project investors, and lenders for their developers, designers and contractors.
Peace of mind
The developers and financiers of CO₂ reduction programs which insulate buildings risk future recourse as insulation of buildings is often mandatory. Building owners and operators, their financiers, developers and constructors require test certification and they should seek professional opinion before any insulation project can commence or be handed over.
Radon induced lung cancer, leukemia and other terminal illness is prevalent among all ages [including young children] in Poland and Ukraine, better project organization and placing building user health and welfare before profit is as we are sure at the top of each insulation projects agenda.