High Performing Multi-family Homes Focused on IAQ

July 28, 2021


On the Indoor Air Quality & You podcast, we’ve already discussed the role of energy recovery ventilation (ERV) in high performing, single-family homes, as well as the benefits of increased ventilation. In fact, in the wake of the pandemic, air quality is more critical than it’s ever been.

With that in mind, multi-family homes offer even more challenges. They have unique design considerations, including those around air quality, and air quality is a preeminent safety issue as residents carry concerns about contaminants and the spread of disease.

Because of multiple inhabitants and the nature of shared spaces, the construction of these projects is evolving to focus more on high performance and strategies to help builders provide healthy and high-performing homes for residents.

To learn more, host Tyler Kern welcomed Gayathri Vijayakumar, Principal Mechanical Engineer at Steven Winter Associates, and Nick Agopian, VP of Sales and Marketing for RenewAire, to this episode of the show.

Overall, the most important concept in creating high performing, multi-family homes begins with a shared goal to do more than the bare minimum that construction codes require.

Vijayakumar explained the Indoor airPLUS program, which was established by the EPA and is thematically similar to ENERGY STAR . “The program is prescriptive and [offers] a checklist of all the things for higher performance. First, the building must have ENERGY STAR standards, then layer on the indoor air quality elements,” Vijayakumar said.

ENERGY STAR standards relate to requirements for energy efficiency, insulation, air sealing and lighting efficiency for both single and multi-family homes, while Indoor airPLUS turns its attention to the layering of low-emitting materials, balanced ventilation requirements, radon levels, pest management and combustion appliance use regulations on top of those standards.

These standards are more critical than ever, as Agopian noted that air quality is more on consumer radars since the pandemic. “We breathe in 31 pounds of air a day. Because of the pandemic, the quality of that air is concerning. Builders and developers are motivated to build healthier homes, because they can get more dollars per square foot.”

What makes multi-family builds tricky, though, is the variety of air. “It’s not just air from the outside. It’s from neighbors and shared spaces,” Vijayakumar explained.

One of the best ways to improve indoor air quality in multi-family homes is through energy recovery ventilation. For optimal quality, ERVs replace stale air and replenish it with fresh outside air, and they do it all while lowering energy costs and boosting energy efficiency.

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